Mt. Wilson Observatory, founded in 1904 by the Carnegie Institution of Washington (CIW) with astronomer George Ellery Hale, sits atop the 5,715-foot summit of Mount Wilson in the San Gabriel Mountains. Since the 1980s, when it decided to restrict deep-sky astronomy research to its Las Campañas Observatory in Chile, CIW now partners with the Mt. Wilson Observatory Association (MWOA) to maintain operations. Check out the MWOA web site (mwoa.org) for fantastic photos of the 100-inch telescope mirror being hauled up the mountain in July 1917. Telescope observations here began with studies of the sun and quickly expanded to include study of the properties and origins of all celestial objects and events. In other words, astrophysics was pretty much invented in the mountains overlooking our fair town.
There are docent-guided tours, or you can print out your own self-guided tour, available at mtwilson.edu. About a twenty-mile drive into the rugged and beautiful mountains, a visit to the observatory makes a wonderful half-day trip. Typically, it is open April through November, but weather concerns may force a closure at any time (road currently closed). The CHP designates the Angeles Crest Highway a “special enforcement zone,” requiring daylight headlights to be on. Don’t ignore the signs, as they have been known to ticket—and the fine can be a whopper! Also, remember your picnic basket, because the picnic tables command an eagle’s-eye view of the Los Angeles basin—depending, of course, on the weather.
Red Box Rd. off Angeles Crest Hwy.