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Kitt Peak National Observatory

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General Information

Description - Information courtesy of The University of Arizona

If you plan to visit the observatory during the day there are daily tours for a small fee, lasting about one hour each. During these tours, a guide will lead you to the telescope buildings where you can view the telescope from a gallery, and the guide will provide information about the telescopes. Observing through the telescopes is not available during the day. There is no charge to visit the Observatory, but donations are accepted.

Attractions - Kitt Peak is at an elevation of 6,875 feet above sea level. Mountain temps vary considerably from the desert floor by 15 to 20 degrees and it is often windy, so please dress warmly. For your comfort, the visitor center is heated and cooled during the summer.

Those visiting at night for the Nightly Observing Program please be advised that the conditions especially in the winter require you to wear hats and gloves. Please feel free to bring a blanket as most of the program occurs outdoors in a non-heated observatory.

The picnic area is open from 10am to 4Pm and is located about 1 mile from the summit. The area needs to be reserved for large groups by calling 520-318-8600. Facilities include a ramada, restrooms, picnic tables and water. There are also picnic tables found on the summit for the general pubic to use. No open fires of any kind are allowed. The area is closed from time to time for maintenance and high fire danger. When planning your visit always call ahead to see if the facility is open.

Recreation - The drive up the mountain is all on paved roads at a constant grade with guardrails in most places. The 12 mile drive takes you through some of the nicest scenery the Sonoran desert has to offer. There are plenty of pullouts to take photos if you so wish. Please follow the speed limit and watch for road hazards such as rocks or wildlife. The road is maintained by the State of Arizona and is on tribal lands. Any other activities outside of driving and taking photos must be approved by the Tribal Administration Office in Sells and may require a permit 520-383-2028. Allow 90-minutes of driving time from downtown Tucson.

Climate - Temperatures on Kitt Peak are 20 degrees cooler than in Tucson. Be prepared with warm clothing. Arizona Weather - Cold air masses from Canada sometimes penetrate into the state, bringing temperatures well below zero in the high plateau and mountainous regions of central and northern Arizona. The lowest readings can dip to 35 degrees F below zero. High temperatures are common throughout the summer months at the lower elevations. Temperatures over 125 degrees F have been observed in the desert area. Great extremes occur between day and night temperatures throughout Arizona. The daily range between maximum and minimum temperatures sometimes runs as much as 50 to 60 degrees F during the drier portions of the year. During winter months, daytime temperatures may average 70 degrees F, with night temperatures often falling to freezing of slightly below in the lower desert valleys. In the summer the pine-clad forests in the central part of the state may have afternoon temperatures of 80 degrees F, while night temperatures drop to 35 or 40 degrees F.

Location - Kitt Peak is 56 miles southwest of Tucson via State Route 86 on the Tohono O'Odham Reservation. Allow 90 minutes of drive time from Tucson. Take I-10 to I-19 South. Less than 1 mile is Ajo Way/Hwy 86 (Exit 99). Take this exit West (right). Proceed past Ryan Airfield and Three Points. Continue until Junction 386 (Kitt Peak turnoff). Turn left onto 386. The Kitt Peak Visitor Center is located at the summit (12 miles).

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More Information

Contact Information:
Kitt Peak National Observatory , , , , Phone: (520) 318-8726

Additional Information:
Arizona Astronomy -


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