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Plan Your Visit


Kitt Peak is now open all week

Learn how to find us, how to prepare for a safe and comfortable visit, and understand our environment.

The Kitt Peak Visitor Center is your first stop on any visit and your springboard to informative daytime tours, nighttime stargazing and telescope viewing programs, fascinating exhibits, a terrific gift shop, and beautiful panoramic mountain top views!

Weather on Kitt Peak

Weather varies with the seasons and temperatures are typically 15 to 20 degrees F (7-10 degrees C) cooler than in Tucson and often windy. Dress appropriately and bring layers of clothing. From late fall through mid-spring, hats, gloves, warm socks and insulated jackets are strongly advised. Bringing a blanket is also recommended in cooler months. It is better to bring a few extra clothes or blankets you end up not using than to be uncomfortable during your night program.

A phone hotline is updated every day by 5:45 am MST during weather related events. Please call +1-520-318-8010 to check whether it is safe to drive to the summit.

See the phases of the Moon on this page.

Directions

Kitt Peak is located at the end of route 386 on the Tohono O’odham Nation, 54 miles west of Tucson. Coming from Tucson, take route 86 (Ajo Way) west to the junction of 386. Make a left turn at the sign and follow the road to the top of the mountain. Please see the Google map for additional information and directions to Kitt Peak Visitor Center.

The public parking area for both day and evening activities is near the Visitor Center. RVs may not be parked overnight on observatory grounds.

KPNO, Tucson, AZ 85634, USA
Tucson, AZ 85719, USA
Tel: +1 520 318 8726
kpvc@noirlab.edu

Accessibility, Elevation, & Health

Kitt Peak is just shy of 7,000 feet (2096 meters) above sea level at the summit. Please consider any personal health issues that could arise from the altitude or walking at this elevation, such as: decreased lung capacity, cardiac issues, or other issues with altitude. If you have health concerns, please consult your doctor before visiting us.

Our programs typically involve walking, standing, and climbing stairs. Working service animals are welcome.

The walk to the Visitor Center from the parking lot is about 45 meters (50 feet).

The Daytime tour to the McMath-Pierce Solar telescope at 10 am is the only tour that does not have stairs. A guest can pick up a driving permit at the gift shop and follow the walking tour to first the optical tunnel and then into the main building. Both can be accessed by a walker.

The second tour to the KPNO 2.1-meter Telescope at 11:30 am and the third tour to the Nicholas U. Mayall 4-meter Telescope at 1:30 pm require walking up almost two flights of stairs. The former requires 1/4 mile walking somewhat uphill and the latter 1/2 mile walking uphill.

The Nightly Observing Program views the sunset, which is about 275 meters (300 yards) uphill from the visitor Center. Transport to the sunset viewing area can be arranged. The Visitor Center 0.5-meter Telescope has a short flight of stairs or a slow elevator to the telescope. Reaching the telescope eyepiece, though, may be difficult for guests restricted to wheelchairs.

Please let us know 24 hours in advance at kpvc@noirlab.edu or phone +1 520 318 8726 if you require mobility assistance. The Visitor Center’s ability to provide special accommodations is severely limited. This is particularly true for evening programs. We cannot provide sign language interpreters for nighttime programs. These programs run under extremely dark conditions.

If You Are Not a US Citizen

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

Gas, Lodging, Camping

There are no gas stations, full-service restaurants, or hotels on Kitt Peak. Be sure to have a full tank of gas in your vehicle. There is no overnight camping near the peak, and no overnight parking on Observatory property.

Food

There are snacks and drinks for sale in the Visitor Center during regular hours of operation. Meals ("box lunch" sandwich, chips, cookies and drink) are available as an add-on for daytime tours, and included for evening tours. Overnight programs include hot dinner, "night lunch" and breakfast.

Fire Danger

Fire is an enormous danger to life and property on this mountain. 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 they can take appropriate action. Follow all directions issued to you by Kitt Peak Staff in the event of a fire.

Cell Phones

Cell phone use is prohibited for calls and data transfers. Please place cell phones in “Airplane mode” or turn them off completely while visiting the observatory. Kitt Peak is home to two large, highly sensitive radio telescopes that are performing scientific research 24 hours a day, and the cellular signal can disrupt this research. Limited Wi-Fi is available.

Tourist & Professional Photography

Visitors are welcome to photograph objects of interest while on the mountain. The Tohono O’odham people regard the surrounding terrains to be of significant cultural importance and request that visitors refrain from photographing those areas. When in doubt, please ask for assistance.

Watch for Animals & Rocks

Please be on the alert for roaming wildlife and livestock both while driving and during your visit. You might encounter mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, bears, deer, skunks, spiders, and snakes. Do not feed, pet, or otherwise approach or disturb any wildlife as these animals may be dangerous. Report any wildlife sightings to mountain personnel.

Cattle and horses range freely around the lower portions of Arizona State Route 386 and 86 and may cross the road in front of you. Rocks sometimes fall from cliff faces and can be big enough to damage your car. Please be alert at all times and drive at or slower than posted speed limits.

Age Restrictions

Due to the nature and location of our night-time programs, they are strongly not recommended for children under the age of 8 years. Parents or guardians are fully responsible for the conduct of accompanying minors. Disruptive youth (or adults) may be asked to remove themselves from the program without receiving a refund.

Driving and Arrival Time

We need all guests on the mountain and checked in at the Visitor Center before sunset, so please do not arrive later than your check-in time. Keep in mind that we are at least a 90-minute drive from downtown Tucson. Allow plenty of drive time. Upon your arrival, park in the parking lot near the Visitor Center. NOTE: If you arrive after 4:00 pm MST and you see the gate located near the beginning of the Observatory road (AZ State Route 386) is closed only in the right lane, please carefully drive around it and proceed up the mountain.

Pets

We discourage bringing pets. Service animals are welcome. Should animals be traveling with visitors, the following rules are to be observed:

  1. Pets are not allowed in any building on the mountain.
  2. Pets must be kept on leashes while on the grounds.
  3. Owners must clean up after their animals.

Additional Summit safety

Please read and observe the rest of the recommendations in our Summits Safety Document.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Q: Do I need to buy a ticket to just visit the Visitor Center?
    A: No. The visitor center is open seven days a week from 9 am to 4 pm. There is free parking right outside the Visitor center.

  2. Q: Can I walk around the grounds without a tour?
    A: No, due to active construction areas at the observatory, visitors need to be part of a guided tour. Click here to view our guided tours.

  3. Q: Are the tours disabled accessible?
    A: Yes in parts. The Visitor Center is a short walk from the parking lot. Our nightly programs are accessible for disabled people. Visitors needing a wheelchair or other assistive device (walker, etc..) are responsible for bringing their own. Guests who use portable oxygen should also bring their own. Please note that some parts of the Daytime tours are not wheelchair accessible. Guests should wear comfortable walking shoes, and be able to walk the distances between the telescopes and climb stairs. For example the Nicholas U. Mayall 4-meter Telescope Guided Tour tour is a 1/2 mile hike uphill.
    More information is in the Accessibility section here.

  4. Q: If I book the one tour do I have enough time to join the next tour?
    A: Yes.

  5. Q: Can I bring a coach or RV to the summit?
    A: Yes. Buses and RV can drive to the summit and park in the parking lot.

  6. Q: Is there food for purchase on site?
    A: No, unfortunately not. We only have some snacks and beverages for sale.

  7. Q: Can I bring a picnic?
    A: Yes, you are most welcome to bring a picnic and eat at our outdoor terrace.

  8. Q: Can I buy things I see in the gift shop?
    A: Yes, our shop sells high-quality Kitt Peak-inspired gifts and merchandise. T-shirts, posters, stickers, home decor, and more, designed and sold by independent artists around the Tohono O'odham Nation. We do not offer an online shop.

  9. Q: We can’t attend the event. Can we reschedule?
    A: That depends on whether you requested a cancellation of these tickets 24 hours in advance or not. For all activities you may cancel at any time up to 24 hours prior to the tour date without any penalty, except the ticket system fee. If less than 24 hours notice is provided, tickets are non-refundable and cannot be rescheduled.
    If the event has not happened yet please email your new date to kpvc@noirlab.edu
    More information at: https://kpno.noirlab.edu/plan-your-visit/
  10. Q: Am I allowed to fly my drone over Kitt Peak?
    A: No, you are not allowed to fly any kind of drone near Kitt Peak National Observatory without written permission.