Lick Observatory

The picturesque Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton (4209 feet) is an astronomical observatory managed by the University of California. Lick was the world’s first mountain-top facility that was ‘occupied permanently’. Lick is an active research facility and continues to be a preferred destination for astronomers and astrophysicists.

Discovering new worlds

The pioneering Lick Observatory was built in 1889 thanks to a generous bequest from James Lick, who was incidentally buried on Mount Hamilton. The site has made significant contributions to science including the discovery of several of Jupiter’s moons and other planetary systems.

A little town with a great legacy

The observatory has two main telescopes, the Great Lick Refractor in the main dome as well as the 120-inch Reflector at the Shane Dome. Sadly, you can only look at them and not through them.  To make up for that, though, you can enjoy panoramic views of Silicon Valley and the surrounding mountain ranges. From June to September, the magical Summer Series attracts several determined visitors who come for the concerts as well as the telescope viewings by night.

Admittedly, the winding road can take you by surprise but navigating the 365 turns all way up to the mountain top is truly worth the experience.

Handy Tips:

  • Free talks are given every hour from 12:30 pm to 4:30 pm.
  • We recommend that you carry a picnic to the observatory. There are no restaurants at the top. Soda vending machines, yes.
  • And yes, there is a gift shop where you can pick up souvenirs.

Photos by Jim Watkins Photography