Plan Your Visit
We’re aware that many people are eager to come visit Kitt Peak by car, bicycles or even on foot. The public Arizona State Route 386 up to Kitt Peak National Observatory is still closed by ADOT while it makes necessary repairs to the road and guard rails after damage from the Contreras Fire. For this reason, all public programs and tours, including online workshops, at KPNO are suspended due to the effects of the Contreras Fire on the site.
Use the menu to explore our currently available options.
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.
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
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.
If you have special physical challenges or limitations, please contact us as far in advance of your visit as possible. 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. For specific accessibility information regarding daytime and evening programs, please refer to those pages.
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, Food, Camping
There are no gas stations, restaurants, or hotels on Kitt Peak. Be sure to have a full tank of gas in your car and bring your lunch if you believe you will get hungry. There are snacks and drinks for sale in the Visitor Center during regular hours of operation. Meals for evening and overnight guests are provided as part of the program. There is no overnight camping near the peak, and no overnight parking on Observatory property.
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 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.
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.
Additional Summit safety
Please read and observe the rest of the recommendations in our Summits Safety Document.