Planning Your Visit With Us

Take a few moments to learn how to find us, how to prepare for a safe and comfortable visit, and understand our environment.

 


We operate in a unique, sometimes rugged environment of southern Arizona. Here is important information to plan your visit with us.

Tohono O'odham Nation

Kitt Peak National Observatory is privileged to be permitted to occupy the top 300 feet of one of the most important mountains in the cultural heritage of the Tohono O'odham Nation. It is extremely important that all NOAO employees, visiting observers and dignitaries, tenants, and visitors respect this cultural heritage at all times.

All day, evening, and special programs are free to members of the Tohono O'odham Nation except the Overnight Telescope Program (OTOP).

Directions, Coordinates, Maps

The Google Map display above shows how to get to Kitt Peak Visitor Center. This is a dynamic map display adjustable through the standard Google Map controls. As you can see, the observatory is located 56 miles west-southwest of Tucson.

Accessibility, Elevation & Health

Kitt Peak is just shy of 7,000 feet (2,133 meters) above sea level at the summit. When coming to Kitt Peak you should be aware of any potential health issues that could arise from the altitude or walking at this elevation. Helpful information for those with special challenges can be found here.

If you have special physical challenges or limitations, please contact us as far in advance of your visit as possible to discuss what accommodations are possible. The Visitor Center operates on a very limited budget generated only by gift shop and program ticket sales. Our ability to provide special or costly accommodations is severely limited. Requested accommodations that impact the scientific operating environment, particularly at night, are not possible.

Weather & Temps

Weather varies with the seasons and is typically cooler at elevation. Dress appropriately and bring layers of clothing.

Non-Citizens

Although the Visitor Center is open to all, the US Government requires passports for visitors from other countries when driving through the Border Control check point on Arizona State Route 86. Please be sure you bring your passport with you in order to avoid difficulties.

Parking (Overnight, etc.)

The public parking area is near the front of the Visitor Center for both day and evening programs. Parking is provided for vehicles coming to both day and evening programs. Overnight parking near dormitories is available only for those preregistered guests in the Overnight Telescope Observing Program. Participants in other evening or day programs are not permitted to park overnight on Observatory property. RVs may not park overnight.

Photography (Tourist & Professional)

Photography is welcome on Kitt Peak. Note restrictions stated within.

Services (Gas, Lodging, Food, Camping)

Services on and near Kitt Peak are minimal. You should plan ahead before traveling to this location. There is no gas station and the nearest gas station is 16 to 38 miles away depending upon time of day. Make certain you have adequate gas in your car for a round trip. Lodging is only provided for preregistered guests in the Overnight Telescope Observing Program. There are no nearby campgrounds and overnight parking is not allowed on Observatory property.

Meals are not provided for guests visiting the mountain except for preregistered participants in certain evening programs. Snacks can be purchased at the Visitor Center during operating hours. If you will be visiting during the lunch period then you should plan on bringing food and non-alcoholic drinks with you. Patio tables are provided for your convenience.

Pets & Service Animals

Pets and service animals are permitted with certain restrictions. If you are traveling with a pet you should carefully consider if it is appropriate to visit the Observatory. Never leave any pet in a car in Arizona, even with windows cracked, for any length of time any time of the year. It is illegal in this state. Pets may accompany you while walking about, but must be on a secure leash and under your direct control at all times. You must clean up after it. Keep it away from wildlife. Some wildlife can be lethal to your pet. You are legally and financially responsible for any damages or injuries your pet causes. Pets are not permitted in any buildings. If you have a service animal, you may bring it along on your visit but be prepared to offer proof of its status as a service animal.

Smoking and Fire Hazards

Fire is an enormous danger to life and property on this mountain. A key restriction for all visitors is the ban on smoking. Consequently, as fire danger is always high in the southwest, all smoking is prohibited while on Kitt Peak, both indoors and outdoors. Please report any indications of smoke or fire to any personnel you see so we can take the appropriate actions. Follow all directions issued to you in the event of fire danger. In extreme situations, evacuation or sheltering in place may be ordered for visitors and staff alike.

Weapons

Weapons are expressly forbidden on Kitt Peak at all times. The Observatory is a Federal research facility. Visitors may not bring or display weapons at any time while on Kitt Peak. The mountain is a weapon-free zone.

Cell Phones

Cell phone use is prohibited for calls and data transfers. Place cell phones in airplane mode or turn them off. No cell phone use is permitted on the mountaintop since the observatory is home to two large, highly sensitive radio telescopes. No Wi-Fi is available. The radio telescopes are performing scientific research 24 hours a day. Cell phones can disrupt their research. Cell phone batteries can drain quickly as coverage is often poor on the mountain so it is to your advantage to adhere to this rule.

Wildlife & Livestock

Please be on the alert for roaming wildlife and livestock on the mountain or while driving up and down. Mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, and bears have been recently sighted here. Wild animals can be dangerous. Do not feed, pet, or otherwise approach or disturb any wildlife. Report wildlife spottings to personnel or to the Visitor Center. Avoid snakes as they will attempt to defend themselves and most are venomous. Cattle and horses range freely around the lower portions of Rte. 386 and Rte. 86. They can sometimes suddenly appear on the road in front of you. Be alert at all times and drive at or slower than posted speed limits. Drive slowly and enjoy the amazing views!


become a fan on facebook

See what others say about
Kitt Peak National Observatory
on TripAdvisor.