Visiting Lick Observatory

Lick Observatory is located in the Coast Range of Central California, on the 4213-foot (1284-meter) summit of Mount Hamilton. The observatory is 55 miles (89 kilometers) southeast of San Francisco and 13 miles (21 kilometers) east of San Jose. The instruments at the observatory include the 36-inch refractor, the 120-inch Shane reflector, and the historic 36-inch Crossley reflector. The 36-inch refractor, presently the second largest of its type in the world, was the world's largest telescope when it was completed in 1888. This instrument, as well as the 120-inch, can be seen by visitors to the observatory.

Lick Observatory, which has been operated by the University of California since 1888, is an astronomical research facility serving astronomers from campuses throughout the State. The observatory headquarters is located on the Santa Cruz campus of the University.


Main Building and Visitors Center

Located in the Main Building, the Lick Observatory Visitor Center includes the 36-inch refractor, photographic displays, an exhibit room, a gift shop, and the Laurentine Hamilton Memorial. Items for sale in the gift shop include books, posters, photographs, and other astronomically related materials. The phone number is 408-274-5061. The e-mail address is The Main Building is wheelchair accessible by means of a ramp on the east side of the building.

Talks are given by observatory guides, every 30 minutes on the hour and half-hour, in the dome of the 36-inch refractor. The history of the observatory is discussed, as well as current research, and visitors have the opportunity to ask questions. 

Hours : Thursday through Sunday from 12 pm - 5 pm year-round

There is no charge for entering either the observatory grounds or the buildings. Furthermore, no fee is charged for the talks given by the observatory guides. Lick Observatory welcomes your support, however, and donations are appreciated. A donation box is located in the Main Building, near the entrance.

Food concessions, picnic areas, and gasoline are not available at the observatory.

Public observing through the 36-inch refractor and the 40-inch reflector, located in the Main Building, is presently available through the Summer Visitor Program.

Directions to the observatory can be found here.

Volunteering for the Summer Visitor Program

Each year many HVAG members volunteer their time to assist Lick Observatory with its annual Summer Visitor Program. There are several volunteer opportunities available. If you are interested in volunteering please contact us via:                                                        

Expand Your Knowlage

Learn more about Lick Observatory buy clicking on the links below

Since 1894, visitors to Lick Observatory have been able to buy a small, well illustrated publication describing the history, equipment, and work of the Observatory. 

This publication, currently in its 16th edition, forms a chronicle of the first century of Lick Observatory's existence. The first edition is presented here, reprinted electronically, to illustrate the early history of the Observatory. This edition, out of print for many decades, is quite difficult to locate in it original hardcopy form.