The Kitt Peak Experience… Like no other
Planning your visit to Kitt Peak National Observatory
Hours of Operation
Kitt Peak is open daily from 9am to 4pm. The visitor center closes at 4 p.m. Grounds close promptly at 4.
The Kitt Peak Visitor Center is CLOSED: New Years Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day only.
Kitt Peak is at an elevation of 6,875 feet above sea level. Mountain temps vary considerably from the desert floor by 15 to 20 degrees and it is often windy, so please dress warmly. For your comfort, the visitor center is heated and cooled during the summer.
Those visiting at night for the Nightly Observing Program please be advised that the conditions especially in the winter require you to wear hats and gloves. Please feel free to bring a blanket as most of the program occurs outdoors in a non-heated observatory.
The Drive up
The drive up the mountain is all on paved roads at a constant grade with guardrails in most places. The 12 mile drive takes you through some of the nicest scenery the Sonoran desert has to offer. There are plenty of pullouts to take photos if you so wish. Please follow the speed limit and watch for road hazards such as rocks, cattle, or wildlife. The road is maintained by the State of Arizona and is on tribal lands. Any other activities outside of driving and taking photos must be approved by the Tribal Administration Office in Sells and may require a permit 520-383-2028.
Allow 90-minutes of driving time from downtown Tucson.
NON US CITIZENS
State route 86 has a Border Patrol checkpoint. If you are visiting from outside the US please bring your passports to expedite the process. The checkpoint is eastbound so you will need your papers when you head back.
The picnic area is open from 10am to 4Pm and is located about 1 mile from the summit. The area needs to be reserved for large groups by calling 520-318-8600. Facilities include a ramada, restrooms, picnic tables and water. There are also picnic tables found on the summit for the general public to use. No open fires of any kind are allowed. The area is closed from time to time for maintenance and high fire danger. When planning your visit always call ahead to see if the facility is open. There are no cooking facilities found at the picnic area
There is ample parking for cars and RV’s and busses.
The Kitt Peak Visitor Center offers three guided tours each day. Each tour lasts approximately one hour. The tours begin in the Visitor Center.
A self-guided walking tour map is available in the Visitor Center.
There are no services found on Kitt Peak. The closest gas can be obtained at the Coyote Store 16 miles from the summit on state route 86. A pay phone, public restroom, and number of water fountains are located on the summit.
Food & Refreshment
Snacks and beverages may be purchased at the Visitor Center. There are no food services found on the mountain. Feel free to pack a lunch since there are plenty of picnic tables on the summit and a picnic grounds 2 miles away.
The visitor center gift shop houses a wide selection of Tohono O’Odham baskets and crafts at excellent prices. We also have a large assortment of Astronomical items, books, images and souvenirs.
Dogs are allowed as long as they are leashed. Please pick up after your pet. Only service animals are permitted in the buildings.
Persons with cardiac, respiratory, or other altitude related concerns should take proper precautions. A First Aid station is available at the Visitor Center.
The visitor center staff will do its best to provide reasonable accessibility to all requesting it. However, many of the telescopes are not accessible by wheel chair. Those wishing to drive to the different telescopes may do so by requesting a special permit which can be provided by visitor center staff. An accessible restroom can be found in the visitor center. The visitor center has two wheel chairs for public use.
While the visitor center is accessible, the 20" observatory above it has limited accessibility. There is an elevator into the facility, however, some mobility is needed to be able to transfer from the wheelchair onto another chair or sometimes to be able to step on a small ladder to look through an eyepiece. The telescope moves around throughout the evening and eye pieces are changed out more than once.
The use of cell phones on the mountain top is prohibited. Cell phones interfere with the two radio telescopes found on Kitt Peak
Due to the continuing drought in Arizona, all smoking on the mountain has been banned. You are allowed to smoke in your vehicles. Please extinguish your smoking material in your ashtray.
Firearms are not allowed on federal facilities.
Places to Stay close to Kitt Peak
Bed and Breakfasts near Kitt Peak
Casa Tierra Adobe B&B Inn Dave Malmquist
520-578-3058, Toll Free: 866-254-0006
11155 West Calle Pima, Tucson AZ 85743
Cat Mt. Lodge
2720 S. Kinney Rd., Tucson, AZ 85713
Crickethead Inn Michael Lord
9480 West Picture Rocks Road, Tucson, AZ 85743
Milagras Guesthouse Rich & Patsy
11185 W. Calle Pima, Tucson, AZ 85743
Paca de Paja B&B Caroline Coalter Wilson (Closest to Kitt Peak)
520-822-2065 Toll-Free: 1-888-326-4588
16242 Pinacate, Tucson, AZ 85736
Choose a location on the west side of town from this list of Tucson hotels. Kitt Peak is 1hr and 15 min from downtown.
Gilbert Ray Campground
West of Kinney Road in Tucson Mountain Park
Visitor Center: 111:35:53.4 W 31:57:35.8 N
Elevation: 6768ft = 2062m, error 30ft
Area Visitor Information
- Southern Arizona Attractions Alliance
- Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau
- Tucson Association of Museums