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 (more information in the next section).

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. RVs and vehicles pulling trailers are not allowed to travel to the summits, and we are unable to provide transportation at this time.

All tour activities take place outdoors. A guide will discuss the history of the Observatory and the large telescopes from outside the domes. Participants will stand at the highest point on Texas highways, enjoy stunning views of the surrounding region, and learn more about our telescopes and the current cutting-edge research done here. Please note that there is no access inside the domes or viewing through telescopes during the Guided Tours. Participants will have a chance to explore the Visitors Center exhibits and giftshop before and after the tour. 

The Visitors Center facilities are wheelchair accessible. At Mt. Locke, the walk at over a mile in altitude from the parking area to the summit (6782 ft/2067m) is relatively short (~125 yards/115m) but climbs 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.

March - May: Reservation information about public programs in March (and beyond) will be posted in January.

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