Traveling to the CHARA Array at Mount Wilson Observatory


Transportation to Mount Wilson:

There is no public transportation to Mount Wilson, but Uber has brought visitors here. It is recommended that visitors arrange for a rental car during their stay or make arrangements to be picked up by staff.

Transportation from LAX to Pasadena:

Some visitors may stop in Pasadena during their stay. If traveling to Pasadena, the following modes of transportation are available from LAX:

  • Uber and Lyft can be requested from one of the six “Ride Service” pickup signs (A through F) located curbside on the upper departures level (~ $50).
  • Taxis (~ $100) and shared-ride vans like SuperShuttle (~ $30) can be taken from the lower arrival level at LAX.
  • Public Transportation: The LAX FyAway Bus goes from LAX to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles ($9.75).  Passengers leaving LAX may board buses on the Lower Arrival Level in front of each terminal under the green "FlyAway Buses and Long Distance Vans" sign. The Metro Gold Line train can then be taken from Union Station to Pasadena ($1.75). Bus tickets may be purchased with Visa, MasterCard, or American Express credit or debit cards only, before or after riding the bus at the Union Station terminal. Metro Tap cards can be purchased at machines in the Gold Line train terminal.

The Observatory is an additional 25 miles from Pasadena, so visitors will need a rental car.

Driving Directions to Mount Wilson:

From the 210 freeway, follow the Angeles Crest Highway (California State Highway 2) north out of La Canada-Flintridge. Follow Route 2 past the Angeles Forest Highway turnoff. Continue on Route 2 and turn right onto Mount Wilson Red Box Road. This is about 15 miles from the 210 Freeway. Drive about 5 miles on Red Box Road to Mount Wilson Circle. You will arrive at a small intersection near a number of transmitter towers. Follow the “Observatory” sign on the one way road to the far right around the towers until you reach the Forest Service gate, which is the entrance to Skyline Park and the Observatory.  Please see instructions below for getting access into the gate after business hours.

Remember to turn on your headlights when driving on CA Route 2, beginning at La Cañada and when driving back down the mountain from the Observatory; drivers not using their headlights may be stopped and fined.

Map of the route to Mount Wilson

Map of the observatory grounds (CHARA office building is #5 on the map, located next to the 100 inch dome)


Arrival After Hours:

The Observatory gates are open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily except for when the weather is poor. If you are planning to arrive when the gate will not be open, be sure that you know the gate code to the Observatory grounds a couple of days before your trip. Call Larry Webster (626-796-3730) during business hours, as the code cannot be sent by email for security reasons.  For help after business hours, call the Array Operator in the Control Room (626-796-8468).  For last minute-arrangements, there is a pay phone just outside the Observatory gate (the charge is fifty cents), although there is no guarantee that anyone will be available to receive your call or that the pay phone will be operational.

Alternate Route via Sunland Directions:

Use this route only if the main portion of the Angles Crest Highway (California Route 2) is closed. From Pasadena, take the I-210 west to Sunland Blvd. Turn right on Sunland Blvd to Oro Vista and turn left. Oro Vista Ave turns right and becomes Big Tujunga Canyon Road. Stay on this road for 12.9 miles. At Angeles Forest Highway turn right for 3.8 miles. On Angeles Crest Highway (California Route 2) turn left and continue on for 4.6 miles. Turn right on Mt. Wilson/Red Box Road and continue approximately 5 miles to Mt. Wilson Circle.


Mountain Access and Travel Policy:

(1) For CHARA personnel or observers using the CHARA facilities, the CHARA Site Manager has authority to determine if road/weather conditions are safe to travel to or from the Observatory.

(2) Drive under the posted speed limit on the road as conditions may change instantly and unpredictably. Never drive into a significant mudflow or rock slide. Sharp rocks flatten tires and mud has little or no traction. Also do not stop and clear rocks out of the road; small slides are often a portent of a much larger, more dangerous slide. If anything more than the most minor debris is encountered on the road, turn around and go back.

(3) All vehicles traveling to the observatory are required to be in good operating condition, and drivers are urged to keep at least half a tank of gas in your car before heading up the Angeles Crest. Your tire condition must be such that you have at least 1/8 inch of remaining tread on each tire and there is a serviceable spare tire and jack in your trunk.

(4) Understand that even in clear weather, one could become trapped between two large impassable rock slides. With the unstable mountain slopes, slides can occur at any time, not just during active rainfalls. With this in mind, all vehicles routinely traveling the roads should carry onboard enough provisions for an overnight stay on the highway without hope of rescue. For residents and commuting staff, a “survival kit” must be included in the vehicle containing items such as: sub-freezing clothing; gloves; a blanket; water; food; toilet paper; flashlight with good batteries; and a fully charged cell phone. For those with enough trunk space, a small flat shovel may also be handy.

(5) Understand that by coming up to the Observatory there is always the possibility of becoming stranded there for an unscheduled extended stay. There have been instances when the skies have gone from clear blue to a cloudburst or snow storm in less than 30 minutes. Attempting to leave under such circumstances could have dire effects. A sudden storm could potentially close all access to and from the Observatory for an extended period. Be sure you have extra food provisions for this, and the advance mental fortitude to “wait it out,” if necessary, before committing yourself to an observing run.

(6) Access to the Observatory is governed by the regulations and restrictions set by Caltrans, the Forest Service, Los Angeles County, and the CHP. It is essential that their regulations and verbal instructions given by their officers and representatives be followed and that no attempt is made to circumvent them in any way.