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“Amazing science, beautiful location”

Ranked #7 of 12 things to do in Safford
Attraction details
Tucson, Arizona, United States
Level Contributor
13 reviews
8 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 10 helpful votes
“Amazing science, beautiful location”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 16 October 2013

I had the privilege of visiting the telescope during an employee family day. The sheer size and functionality of the Large Binocular Telescope is incredibly impressive. This is not a telescope you get to look through to view the stars. The data collected by the telescope is sent to computers for the researchers to do their thing with it. The facility has living quarters for researchers as they come from across the globe.

We got to stand in the telescope chamber as the operator opened the top/sides of the building for that night's work. The entire chamber spins 360 degrees so we got a spectacular view of the valley and mountains. The operator also maneuvered the very large mirrors so we could see how they work. The whole thing was quite impressive.

While I took my 7 year old son along, I would not recommend a trip up the mountain solely to visit the observatory for young children. My son enjoys learning about the "technical" aspects of things so he thought it was great. But it is a very long drive for kids who need a place to run and interactive activities. If you are on the mountain for hiking, camping, etc, I would recommend a tour of the observatory even with children. As another reviewer mentioned, you must schedule a tour ahead of time.

Remember that you will be at close to 10,000 ft in elevation. The air is thinner and it can be quite chilly, even when it is in the 90s in the valley. A good portion of the drive to the observatory is a dirt road. It is easily driven with any vehicle, but be aware that is will be slow going. Also, if you are driving on the mountain at night, keep an eye out for deer. We had 3 dart in front of us as we were driving down after our tour.

While the tour itself is not very long, the drive up and back will take up a good portion of the day. Overall, I would highly recommend visiting the observatory if you have an interest in science and technology. Have a picnic, take a hike and enjoy the area.

Visited October 2013
6 Thank Jennifer C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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17 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Any
English first
Level Contributor
22 reviews
12 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 8 helpful votes
“International Observatory”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 3 September 2013

Mt. Graham is a very special mountain. Sky Island. Lots of different environments changing as you go up the paved road.... the observatory is very interesting. Huge. Would of liked to see more actual pictures...the ones I saw were amazing.

Visited May 2013
2 Thank Jerayn1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Glendale, Arizona
Level Contributor
111 reviews
52 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 68 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 28 July 2013

So, this is going to be an all day deal and I advise you arrive in Safford, Arizona, the day before you are scheduled to take your tour. To get the 411 on taking the tour (just 15 people can tour per day of tour) call: Jackie Madsen at: 1-928-428-6260. You may have to wait for a tour date as they usually tour only one time per week. If you are not good with altidudes you may want to pass on this tour as the telescope is above 10,000 feet. Anyway, you are taken in vans (about an hour and a half (1-1/2) ride up switch back roads. I say roads as you will eventually end up on a dirt road (very bumpy) near the summit. Views are spectacular, if a clear day. This is an "E" ticket ride. You do remember "E" tickets don't you? You will then tour all three telescopes. Believe this or not the Vatican is a heavy investor in this project. If you've been to Kitt Peak and the Mirror Lab in the Tucson area, you'll be better prepared for this tour and I therefore recommend that you do so. The Binocular Telescope will blow you away. The size of this project is beyond imagination. It is the strongest telescope (at this time) in the world by ten (10) times. It can see into space better than Hubble (the telescope that orbits the earth in space). The Volunteers who make this tour possible are GREAT and you couldn't be in better hands. If you are a science nut, then you should read up on this telescope before the trip as the guides are limited in the actual operations of the systems involved. Hell, it's beyond "rocket science" so give them a break. The cost was $40.00 per person (cash) which included a Sub-Way sandwich for lunch. I would have paid $500.00 to see this. Just trying to picture how all this huge stuff got way up this mountain is enough for most. It is a must do before you pass on from this earth. Ron.

Visited July 2013
13 Thank avie8tor
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Tucson, Arizona
Level Contributor
68 reviews
28 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 33 helpful votes
“Beautfiul place, take the drive”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 7 May 2013

Take the drive up to Mt. Graham and experience the beauty of mountains, lakes and berries! Seriously, take a hike through the mountains and you can pick fresh wild raspberries that will make your mouth water all year when you think about them.
Go to the observatory and truly experience what a small planet we live on and why we should use good conservation methods to keep it healthy.
Enjoy a picnic at one of the spots designed for you or maybe you want to camp out for a little while, up at 9000 feet it is truly cool....even when the heat of the desert hits 100, the mountain is cool and refreshing!
When you are done on the mountain then visit the communities of Safford and Thatcher to see the unique shops that wait for your visit. Enjoy lunch at the Main Street Cafe, the staff is all from the mentally challenged community under the direction of an outstanding manager (patience is her middle name I think!!) and enjoy being served by those that are truly delighted you have come to join them. The meals are home cooked and really good!
Stop in at some of the shops that line the "square" and find that perfect something while being waited on by friendly, gracious staff.
Great area to visit, truly someplace to put on your travel itinerary for the year!

Visited May 2013
6 Thank visitthemall
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Houston, Texas
Level Contributor
37 reviews
5 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 20 helpful votes
“Never made it to the top after several attempts”
2 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 19 June 2012

Never made it to the top after several attempts. Someday maybe I'll make it

Visited May 2012
2 Thank cajunbully
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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