Daytime Visits: General Admission & Guided Tours

Access to the Observatory grounds is ONLY allowed for visitors with reserved passes. All access requires advance reservations, which are subject to capacity limits. 

Check the calendar for programs and start times.

General Admission:

During a timed general admission session, small groups are able to freely explore the Visitors Center, including the exhibit gallery, gift shop, and outdoor telescope park for up to 90 minutes. Reservations are required to access the facility, including the Visitors Center, and your general admission ticket is limited to the day and time purchased. 

General Admission provides access to the Visitors Center only. To visit the research areas, make reservations for a Guided Tour. Both the Guided Tour and Evening Programs passes include General Admission.

Guided Tours:

A Guided Tour typically lasts 90 minutes and begins with check-in at the Frank N. Bash Visitors Center. Participants drive their own vehicles to the summits of Mt. Locke and Mt. Fowlkes where the research telescopes are located, and will visit the highest point on Texas highways, enjoy stunning views of the surrounding region, and learn more about the current research being done here. A guide discusses the history of the Observatory and the large telescopes on the summits.

Most tour activities take place outside. At Mt. Fowlkes, participants may access to the viewing gallery at the Hobby-Eberly Telescope and will see one of the largest telescopes in the world. Please note that there is no access inside the domes or viewing through telescopes during the Guided Tours. General Admission to the Visitors Center is included and participants may explore the exhibits and giftshop.
RVs and vehicles pulling trailers are not allowed to travel to the summits, and we are unable to provide transportation at this time. The Visitors Center facilities are wheelchair accessible. The top of Mt. Locke is 6,782 ft (2,067m) above sea level. The walk from the Mt. Locke parking area to the telescopes is relatively short, about 125 yards (115m), but the elevation change is nearly 50 ft/15m over that distance. The portion of the tour that takes place at Mt. Fowlkes involves little walking and is essentially flat.
Programs may be cancelled at any time due to weather or public health concerns.

The system defaults to one adult pass. If you're 65 or over and want the senior discount, choose the "Snr (65+)" pass and remove the adult pass. Be sure to click on the "Book" button as your final step in making your reservation. 

McDonald Observatory is located 450 miles west of Austin and is on Central Time.


In this aerial view, the two large domes in the foreground are the 2.1-meter Str

Aerial View of McDonald Observatory