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Image Credit Dave Jurasevich - Barnard's Loop in Orion


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. There are limousines and shared-ride vans that can take passengers from LAX to Pasadena. Alternatively, one can take the LA FlyAway Bus from LAX to downtown LA. The Metro Gold Line train can then be taken from downtown LA to Pasadena. Note the LA FlyAway Bus, does not accept cash.Tickets may be purchased at the bus with Visa, MasterCard, or American Express credit or debit cards only. The Observatory is an additional 25 miles from Pasadena, and 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 more 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.

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.

A map of the route to Mount Wilson can be found here: Map of Route to Mount Wilson

A map of the observatory grounds is provided in this guide: selfguide.pdf

Alternate Route via Sunland Directions : This route is only valid 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.

Resources via Sunland Travel Route: There are many restaurants and stores in Sunland. These include a Ralphs Supermarket right off the freeway a Sizzler and Panda restaurant, a Yum Yum Donuts and a 31 Flavors Ice Cream, plus a Starbucks nearly on the corner of Oro Vista and Sunland Blvd. There are also plenty of gas stations. A driving map is available here Mt Wilson Map via Sunland If the map shows driving on the freeway, select Options, make sure Avoid Freeways is selected and hit Get Directions to see the Big Tujunga route through the mountains.

Arrival after hours: The Observatory gates are open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily except for when there is poor weather. 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) or Theo during business hours for the code, as the code cannot be sent by email for security reasons. 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.


(1) For CHARA personnel or observers using the CHARA facilities, the CHARA Site Manager will have overriding authority to determine if road/weather conditions are safe to travel to or from the Observatory. The CHARA site manager also has the authority to order an evacuation of CHARA personnel well ahead of any winter storm or inclement weather.

(2) Drive well under the posted speed limit on the road as conditions may change instantly and unpredictably. Never drive onto 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 fill their gas tanks before heading up the Angeles Crest. At the very least, you must have a minimum of 1/2 tank of fuel before starting up. 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. For transient visitors utilizing rental cars, consult with Mountain staff, as appropriate, to determine if you should be escorted up the mountain by an Observatory vehicle.

(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 an outright cloudburst or snow storm in less than 30 minutes on Mount Wilson. Attempting to leave under such circumstances could have dire effects. A sudden freak storm like this could potentially close all access to and from the Observatory for as much as a 2- or 3-week 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 all verbal instructions given you by their officers and representatives be followed scrupulously and that no attempt is made to circumvent them in any way.


Reservations are needed for staying at the Cadman Cottage or the Kapteyn Cottage. Please contact Larry Webster ( for availability. Reservations should be made at least two weeks prior to arrival. Please do not contact Larry regarding the Monastery (See below).

Cadman Cottage: The Cadman Cottage is a 3 bedroom, 2 bath, and full kitchen house with wireless connectivity.

Kapteyn Cottage: The Kapteyn Cottage is a 2 bedroom, 2 bath, and full kitchen house with wireless connectivity.

Checking into the Monastery: The Monastery is administered by the Mount Wilson Institute and CHARA has no control, or say in who stays there and when. If you need to stay there please contact the MWI director.

Checking out of the Monastery:
To check out, fill out the Key Return/Payment Envelope with your name and institution. Leave your key in the envelope and put it in the drop box at the check-in area along with your payment (unless you will be billed). If your stay is to be billed to an organization (eg: UCLA, CHARA, ISI, etc.) please enter the name on the “Bill To” line. If you need a receipt, please take one from the Money Receipt Book.

During your stay at Mount Wilson

Laundry: Beds are already made up, and fresh sheets and towels will be dropped off for guests staying more than seven days, and also after each additional seven-day period. A washer and dryer are located in the Day Monastery; you will need laundry powder and four quarters to operate each machine. However, due to the severe drought on the mountain this past year, it would be appreciated if visitors could arrange not to have to do laundry during their stay.

There are no food service facilities or vending machines on Mt. Wilson, except for the Cosmic Cafe open on weekends from April-November. The closest town (La Cañada) is about 19 miles away. You will need to purchase groceries in Pasadena, or at Trader Joe’s or Ralph’s in La Cañada. In addition, La Cañada has one “American” restaurant (Hill Street Café) and the following eateries: a pizza place, a Japanese restaurant, a Mexican restaurant, a Chinese restaurant, Taylor Steak House, and a Subway, all located on the main street (Foothill Boulevard). On Mt. Wilson, there are facilities for cooking and dining (stove, oven, microwave oven, freezer, refrigerator, dishes, cookware, silverware, paper napkins, and tables and chairs) in the Galley and the Cottages. It is advised that meals are cooked either at the galley or the housing area you are staying at. The CHARA office kitchen is not a full meal preparation facility and is available mainly for staff. (There are no cooking facilities at the Monastery.) The water supply at Mt. Wilson is safe for drinking; it is tested regularly to make sure that it is within government standards.

Whichever kitchen facility you use, please mark or identify your food, and when you leave either discard all perishables or identify them as available for others to use by writing FREE on them with the date. Please read and adhere to all kitchen rules posted, CHARA is at times short staffed and cleaning up dishes etc should be done promptly to make way for others. Please dispose of all trash–particularly food waste–properly to avoid attracting bears and other pests

Please remember when staff is not present or when exiting the CHARA Operations Center to keep the building locked.

Safety and other considerations:

* Flashlights It is advised that one brings their own flashlight. Spare flashlights are kept in the CHARA Main Office Building; please be sure to return them. Mt. Wilson is a wooded site, and although snake , scorpion and larger creatures of the night sightings are extremely rare, it is a must to have a flashlight and to navigate the grounds with awareness of such creatures. The operations center flashlights in the control rooms are off limits to visitors.
* Bug Spray In the summer months Mount Wilson has flies, mosquitoes and gnats. It is advised that a personal supply is brought by the visitor.
* Although rare, scorpions have been found, and it is wise to check your shoes before putting them on.
* For safety reasons, it is OK to drive with headlights on inside the Observatory, but please check with CHARA staff about the protocol for driving by the S1 and S2 telescopes. Bright lights can disrupt a number of instruments and cause data to be lost!!!
* Rules of common courtesy prevail in the Monastery concerning noise and cleaning up after oneself.
* Note that cell phones do not work reliably past the La Cañada area. Some AT&T signal can be had at the cliff east of the CHARA office.
* In case of an emergency, contact Larry Webster or Steve Golden (626-796-3730).
* All residents and visitors are subject to rules and regulations of the U.S. Forest Service; in times of drought, smoking is allowed only inside vehicles, residences, or other buildings where smoking is permitted.
* Telephones: Skype is available as a free download and can be used to make free personal phone calls, video calls and instant messaging from your own computer/work station and Skype can be used with smart phones using the network. Skype out and in minutes can be purchased through the web site at .The Monastery telephone accepts incoming calls, but no ring-tone is heard at the Monastery. Outgoing calls can be placed to local numbers only. The telephone at the Kapteyn Cottage is intended for brief long-distance calls only, for example, calling a spouse to have him or her hang up and then return your call; please use a phone card for personal calls over a couple of minutes. The CHARA Office telephones are basically for staff business-related calls only.
* La Cañada has a Shell Station which is open 24/7. You are urged to keep at least half a tank of gasoline in your car. In the event that the U.S. Forest Service has to evacuate the Observatory, the only available routes might be a considerable distance from the Observatory grounds.
* Before leaving for the Observatory, you can check with mountain staff or at California Transportation; (enter 2 for the Hwy number) in the rare event of a road closing due to forest fires or winter ice and snow, information is posted at that site.
* For information on weather at Mt. Wilson, including 10-day forecasts, you may use the links on the MWI web page at or at the CHARA web site
* For mail or delivery services to or from the Observatory, please see Larry Webster. Please do not use CHARA's Fedex or UPS numbers for shipments without express authorization from the CHARA Site Manager or Business Manager.

Last Updated 2016-10-23

chara/mountain_accommodations.txt · Last modified: 2018/07/03 16:21 by jones