Mount Hamilton & Lick Observatory

Grand Views at Mount Hamilton

Lick Observatory atop Mt. Hamilton.


Mount Hamilton, in Joseph D. Grant County Park, is the highest point in the South Bay Regional Parks. At 4,213 feet, it is the second highest point given in the Nifty Ninety Peaks challenge (Mount St. Helena, in the North Bay, is 4,339 ft.). There are two options for reaching the peak–driving or riding. (I have yet to find an account of anyone hiking it–not sure if it would even be legal because the highway doesn’t have shoulders. )





Although the drive is scenic, it is slow. From the west, through San Jose, the drive will take you about one hour;  from the east, you will need an hour and a half because the roads are very step and winding.  Bicyclists should allow a couple of hours. 

The original telescope, the Great Lick Refractor, on Mt. Hamilton.



But, one should not visit Mt. Hamilton for only the outstanding views (when weather conditions allow). Choose a day when the Lick Observatory is open–which is currently Thur-Sun. 12-5. There are additional hours, during the summer, for evening events–lectures, musical, viewing through telescopes (by reservation only).






Then, in the main building view the exhibits, take a free short tour, which will include seeing the Lick Refractor telescope. On your own, take a short walk to the Shane Dome to view the 120-inch Reflector from the Visitors’ Gallery (open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.). Displays explain the Shane reflector, one of the major telescopes used to discover extrasolar planets.

Visitor Info

You’ll find vending machines with snacks and sodas, but no meals available. Good gift shop with Lick Observatory sweatshirts, T-shirts, mugs, astronomical photos, posters, educational toys, and more.

Driving directions

From San Jose: Quimby Road, Highway 130-E (25 miles).

From Hayward: Hwy. 880-S., 130 E. or Livermore, CA-84 W., Hwy. 680-S.,  Quimby, 130-E. Either is approx. 1 hr. 30 minutes.

However, it’s advisable to call for road conditions. During winter months, the road to the peak may be temporarily closed due to snow or ice. For current road closure information, go to the California Highway Information website and enter Hwy #130.

Though we drove almost all the way to the peak rather than coming on foot, it was still a highlight of doing the #Nifty Ninety Peaks challenge. Date visited: 1/31/19