Palomar Observatory
Wikimedia Commons / Coneslayer


Join Sky & Telescope Associate Editor JR Johnson-Roehr for an observing tour of the great observatories of the American West!

Our journey will take us from the desert of the Southwest to coastal California. You'll visit the historic Lowell Observatory, where Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto, and enjoy an exclusive observing session with the 60-inch telescope at Mount Wilson Observatory. You'll spend a day at Caltech's Palomar Observatory, home of the 200-inch Hale Telescope, and an evening observing with the famous 36-inch refractor at Lick Observatory. Along the way you’ll stop at significant (and breathtaking) sites of scientific significance: Barringer Crater, JPL, and the California Science Center, just to name a few.

Our travel partner for this observing adventure is Collette Travel. Together, we’ll explore the historical architecture of astronomy, learn about current astronomical research, and take in the wonders of the night sky.

Below, you will find:

Preliminary Itinerary for a 14-day, 13-night tour of The Great Observatories of the American West

Pricing & Terms

Reservation & Payment Information

The Great Observatories of the American West

Date (Preliminary) Itinerary at a Glance Accommodation Meals
Wednesday, October 3rd Scottsdale, Arizona Courtyard by Marriott Scottsdale
Thursday, October 4th Scottsdale – Meteor Crater – Flagstaff Hilton Garden Inn Flagstaff B/D
Friday, October 5th Flagstaff – Grand Canyon Holiday Inn Express, Grand Canyon B/D
Saturday, October 6th Grand Canyon – Las Vegas Paris Hotel, Las Vegas B
Sunday, October 7th Las Vegas – Pasadena Hilton Hotel, Pasadena B/D
Monday, October 8th Pasadena – Mount Wilson – Pasadena Hilton Hotel, Pasadena B
Tuesday, October 9th Pasadena – Los Angeles – Pasadena Hilton Hotel, Pasadena B
Wednesday, October 10th Pasadena – Los Angeles – Pasadena Hilton Hotel, Pasadena B
Thursday, October 11th Pasadena – Palomar Mountain – Pasadena Hilton Hotel, Pasadena B/D
Friday, October 12th Pasadena – San Simeon – Monterey Hotel Pacific, Monterey B
Saturday, October 13th Monterey Hotel Pacific, Monterey B
Sunday, October 14th Monterey – Lick Observatory – San Fran. Holiday Inn Fisherman's Wharf B/L
Monday, October 15th San Francisco Holiday Inn Fisherman's Wharf B
Tuesday, October 16th San Francisco

Day 1, October 3: Arrival – Scottsdale, Arizona

Your tour begins in Scottsdale, set in the heart of the Sonoran Desert.

Day 2, October 4: Scottsdale – Meteor Crater – Flagstaff

Barringer Crater aerial view
Meteor Crater
NASA Earth Observatory

Board the coach in the morning to travel to Meteor Crater National Landmark. The route will take us through the rugged landscape of Tonto National Forest on our way to Barringer Crater. Casual lunch and snacks are available at the monument. Then it’s a quick drive to Flagstaff, where we will enjoy an evening program at Lowell Observatory.

Day 3, October 5: Flagstaff – Grand Canyon

Sit back and enjoy the short drive from Flagstaff to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Watch as the diverse terrain reveals itself at every turn. No photo can fully capture its beauty. You will have plenty of time to take in the breathtaking views from several different vantage points. Your afternoon is free. In the evening, we will gather for a stargazing session, weather permitting.

Day 4, October 6: Grand Canyon – Las Vegas, Nevada

Take some time to gaze at the vast Grand Canyon in the morning light before traveling to Nevada. Welcome to exciting Las Vegas! Behold the famous Vegas Strip and take in its four miles of neon-lit resorts and bustling activity. Go out for a night on the town, or attend an evening astronomy lecture given by a faculty member from the UNLV Department of Physics & Astronomy.

Day 5, October 7: Las Vegas – Pasadena, California

Embark on an amazing journey across the thinly populated desert en route to Los Angeles. Your drive begins along the fringes of the unusual Mojave National Preserve and continues through the mountainous San Bernardino Valley to the Los Angeles area . . . your first stop in the fabulous state of California.

Day 6, October 8: Pasadena – Mount Wilson – Pasadena

Mount Wilson Observatory
Wikimedia Commons / Heven729

This morning we’ll take a guided tour of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Your afternoon is free to explore independently. Perhaps you’ll visit the Gamble House, stop at the Norton Simon Museum, or relax at the Huntington Gardens. Or you may wish to rest, as we have scheduled an evening observing session with the historic 60-inch telescope at Mount Wilson, weather permitting.

Day 7, October 9: Pasadena – Los Angeles – Pasadena

Today we’ll visit one of the premier science institutions in the Los Angeles area, the California Science Center in Exposition Park. At the science Center, you’ll have an opportunity to visit the space shuttle Endeavour in its new home and catch an IMAX movie. Weather permitting, we’ll head back up to Mount Wilson in the afternoon for a second observing session.

Day 8, October 10: Pasadena – Los Angeles – Pasadena

Griffith Observatory
S. N. Johnson-Roehr

We’ll start slowly today to give you a chance to sleep off that late night observing! In the afternoon, we’ll head up to Griffith Observatory, one of the first public institutions in the United States dedicated to astronomy. At the observatory, you’ll take a self-guided tour before attending a planetarium show. Don’t forget to take in the fantastic view of the city!

Day 9, October 11: Pasadena – Palomar Observatory – Pasadena

Today we head south to tour Palomar Observatory. Owned and operated by Caltech, the observatory is home to the famous 200-inch Hale Telescope — for decades the largest telescope in operation. On the return trip, we’ll stop for a special dinner.

Day 10, October 12: Pasadena – San Simeon – Monterey

Discover dramatic California scenery as you head up the Big Sur coastline. This afternoon, arrive in San Simeon and visit Hearst Castle, built by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Hearst’s interest in astronomy is well-documented (he even visited Lowell Observatory in 1907). Phoebe Hearst, William’s mother, provided the funds for the first graduate fellowship at Lick Observatory. She also supported William S. Holden’s 1893 eclipse expedition to Chile. Tour the estate which Hearst simply called “the ranch” and explore some of its 165 rooms and 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools and walkways. Can you imagine Albert Einstein holding forth at the dining table? Or astronomer Edwin Hubble relaxing in the library with his wife? Later today, arrive in Monterey, famous for its breathtaking setting.

Day 11, October 13: Monterey

Sleep in this morning! The day is yours to enjoy Monterey. Maybe you’ll visit the lively Cannery Row, filled with unique shops and restaurants. Or perhaps you’ll spend the day at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a world leader in ocean science and conservation. In the evening, attend a lecture given by one of the Sky & Telescope editors.

Day 12, October 14: Monterey – Lick Observatory – San Francisco

Lick Observatory
Wikimedia Commons / myyorgda 

In the afternoon, we journey to Lick Observatory, the first mountain-top observatory built in the United States. In San Jose, we’ll transfer to small shuttle buses to make our way to the observatory on top of Mount Hamilton. Once at the summit, we’ll visit the 3-meter Shane Reflecting Telescope and learn about the ongoing research at the observatory. Then, weather permitting, we’ll observe through the 36-inch Great Lick Refractor. Later, arrive in San Francisco, one of the most fascinating cities in the world.

Day 13, October 15: San Francisco

After breakfast the choice is yours. You may choose to take an hour-long cruise on San Francisco Bay featuring an in-depth narration on its history and landmarks including Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. Or, perhaps you would prefer to join a local guide for a sightseeing tour of the city — hear stories of the city’s past and present as you drive past its famous landmarks including the Twin Peaks, Seal Rocks and the Golden Gate Bridge. Your afternoon is at leisure to explore the shops at either Fisherman’s Wharf or Union Square. In the evening, we’ll gather for farewell cocktails.

Day 14, October 16: Tour Ends

Pricing & Terms

Pricing (per person) Double Single
Observatories of the American West $5,899 $7,899

Reservation & Payment Information

For more information and to book your trip, please call 1 (800) 581-8942 and refer to
booking #877620.