NOIRLab is pleased to receive public and educational visits at no cost to our site, and make every effort to accommodate the public interested in learning about astronomical research/engineering activities. A minimum of 24 hours notice is necessary for scheduled public visit requests.
- The Gemini North telescope is located at 13,825 feet over sea level, at the Maunakea mountain in Hilo, Hawai'i.
- At Gemini North the limit is 10 visitors per tour.
- The minimum number of confirmed visitors for a scheduled tour is 2 people. If the minimum number of people has not been met, (or the number has fallen below the minimum due to guests canceling) the day before to the scheduled visit, it will be canceled.
- Minors under 13 years are not permitted.
- Minors 13 to 17 are required to be accompanied by an adult when visiting Gemini North.
- Pets are not allowed.
- All visitors to Maunakea must also be exposed to a cultural, environmental, and resource management briefing/handout.
- All visitors traveling to Maunakea will need their own 4WD transportation. No transportation will be provided for any portion of the trip. Visitors without 4WD cars will not be allowed to drive up the mountain.
- Fuel is not available for sale at the summit. Fill your tank before departing from sea level.
- Bring your own lunch. It is recommended that you bring a small lunch to enjoy while you acclimatize at the Visitors Information Station in the Halepōhaku area.
- Drone flights are not allowed.
During the reservation process we will ask you whether you comply with our Safety and Liability Rules. Please consult them here in advance:
When to Visit ?
What will you see on the Tour ?
Registered visitors will drive their 4WD vehicles to the Visitors Information Station (VIS) (Onizuka Center for International Astronomy, Halepōhaku on Google Maps) at 10:30 am HST on the day of the visit, where you will be greeted by the NOIRLab tour guide. After checking in with your ID, your guide will lead you to the private Hale Pohaku facility for a brief orientation and mandatory safety briefing (depending on parking availability this may involve a 15 min walk). After the presentation you may explore the VIS area and have your bagged lunch, in order to acclimatize at the 2800 meters (9160 feet over sea level) for at least 1 hour.
Visitors should plan to arrive at the Gemini North telescope by 1:00 pm HST. Upon arrival to the telescope, guests will have their oxygen level checked before visiting a few key areas at the facility.
Areas you may see include the control room, where you will be introduced to how astronomers work, the coating chamber, where you’ll learn more about the engineering that supports astronomy research, and the telescope dome where you will see the telescope and instruments that capture the light from distant galaxies and stars. Actual locations visited will depend on the engineering tasks happening on the day of your visit. The tour will last from 45–60 minutes, after which you will be on your own and may continue your visit on Maunakea or return to sea level as you please.
How to book a Public visit
- Select a Tour below and complete the Reservation Form at least 24 hours in advance of your desired date.
- The sites you are visiting are active worksites so please accept the Safety, Liability and Code of Conduct rules and recommendations provided in the Form.
- Once you have submitted the form, you will receive an automated email informing you that we have received your booking; if you do not receive this notification please check your spam folder and if still not found send an email to us.
- Please note that every effort will be made to follow through with your planned visit; however, certain circumstances may prevent us from being able to conduct the visit as planned. It is advisable to have a plan B, in case the visit is canceled. This can occur if the site become inaccessible due to weather, earthquake, or if there is an unplanned engineering event etc. If we need to cancel the visit we will let you know by e-mail as soon as we become aware of the potential issue.
Read more about Maunakea’s very special cultural and natural history significance:
Travel information to visit Gemini North telescope at Maunakea can be found here