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Greatest Locations to See Stars

Look to the evening skies exterior your own home or house and possibly you’ll see the faint outlines of the Massive Dipper past the road lights, or the glimmering North Star previous a row of headlights on the closest freeway.

Head into the wild, although, and hundreds of stars, planets and satellites will sparkle all evening lengthy. Time your go to proper and also you would possibly even spy the Milky Means.

Whether or not you’re taking starry evening sky pictures or just need to admire the views, listed here are 15 spots all through the US for staggering stargazing.

For those who’re new to stargazing, discover recommendations on Find out how to Get Began Stargazing, and browse on for a number of of our favourite locations to search for on the evening sky.

Massive Bend Nationwide Park, Texas

Massive Bend Nationwide Park, straddling the Texas-Mexico border within the coronary heart of the Chihuahuan Desert, sits removed from the area’s largest cities and cities—and boasts the least quantity of sunshine air pollution of any nationwide park within the decrease 48 states.

In 2012, the Worldwide Darkish-Sky Affiliation named Massive Bend an Worldwide Darkish Sky Park. In doing so, it shouted out the myriad methods Massive Bend works to guard its evening skies—by means of shielding LED lights, slicing energy consumption and putting in movement sensors and timers in order that lighting activates solely when essential.

Today, the park works to assist guests perceive and recognize that astral attract by means of star events, moonlight walks, and different interpretive occasions that exhibit constellations, planets, and even the Milky Means.

Stars over the Chisos Mountains, Massive Bend Nationwide Park. Photograph credit score: Mike Mezeul II

Massive Cypress Nationwide Protect, Florida

One of many darkest spots east of the Mississippi River, this South Florida protect sits subsequent door to the world-famous Everglades. The huge freshwater swamp—it’s almost the dimensions of Rhode Island—is generally recognized for scenic drives, quick hikes and water-based actions, limiting the type of gentle air pollution that may trigger washed-out skies.

As such, stargazing is a well-liked pastime on the park, the place rangers lead astronomy packages that embody constellation excursions and telescope viewings of stars, planets, nebulae and even galaxies.

Trees in silhouette in from of the Milky Way at Big Cypress National Preserve.
Massive Cypress Nationwide Protect, Photograph credit score: Mark Andrew Thomas, Alamy Inventory Photograph

Owyhee Canyonlands, Oregon

In response to the Marketing campaign for the Owyhee Canyonlands, there isn’t any area within the U.S. farther from main highways than the rugged canyonlands close to the intersection of Oregon, Idaho and Nevada. Given its excessive elevation and distance from main cities, the Owyhee Canyonlands are among the many most pristine locations within the U.S. to stargaze and glimpse the Milky Means.

The 4.6-mile-long Three Forks and a Soak hike gives a becoming introduction to the area. On the path, you’ll stroll between sheer canyon cliffsides, make two river crossings and find yourself at Three Forks Sizzling Springs. At roughly 99 levels year-round, the swimming pools are heated by geothermal vents alongside the river mattress and are nestled close to the confluence of three Owyhee River tributaries.

Backpackers and intrepid campers have established a number of primitive campsites, which you should utilize for stargazing. For one thing barely extra developed, angle for an evening at Succor Creek State Pure Space or Slocum Creek Campground within the coronary heart of the Owyhee. As soon as the solar units, you gained’t have a lot gentle air pollution to take care of.

Artist Level, Washington

Not removed from the Washington-Canada border, the North Cascade Vary dazzle out of doors lovers all yr lengthy. However the enjoyable shouldn’t cease when the solar goes down. The area’s distant location, not less than 90 minutes from the closest huge metropolis, results in clear evening skies and beautiful star shows.

And there could also be no finer place to take all of it in than from the Artist Level trailhead on the finish of Mount Baker Freeway. Including to the allure are the craggy peaks that appear shut sufficient to the touch. Mount Shuksan sits to the east, whereas Mount Baker (often known as Kulshan) sits to the southwest. Look ahead to capturing stars and attempt to level out constellations above the peaks from the huge parking space or (with the assistance of a flashlight) head onto a few of the surrounding trails for an excellent darker night-sky expertise.

Mount Shuksan within the North Cascades, Washington. Photograph credit score: Kurt Smith.

Antelope Island State Park, Utah

We may have chosen any one among a dozen places all through Utah for beautiful stargazing. But Antelope Island State Park is one among a form. Little improvement intrudes on the park (limiting gentle air pollution). And its western views look out over the pristine Nice Salt Lake, residence to a few of the darkest evening skies in Utah.

Take within the surroundings from atop Frary Peak, the best level on Antelope Island. At greater than 6,500 ft above sea stage, the summit gives unparalleled views of the Nice Salt Lake and the encompassing valley.

Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania

Whereas a lot of the japanese seaboard is simply too populated for flawless stargazing, Pennsylvania’s Cherry Springs State Park marks some of the sought-after websites for darkish skies and clear views.

Positioned 4.5 hours from Philadelphia, Cherry Springs sits on high of the Allegheny Plateau, greater than 2,000 ft above sea stage within the distant Susquehannock State Forest. The park’s Astronomy Area gives an unobstructed, 360-degree panorama of the evening sky. Reserve one among 30 campsites for in a single day visits. Or plan your journey for one of many park’s twice-yearly star events.

Trying to stretch your legs? The one-mile Cherry Springs Working Forest Interpretive Path gives a straightforward stroll by means of the encompassing woods. A number of interpretive panels alongside the way in which clarify the environmental, social and financial advantages of forests.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California

Inside 600,000-acre Anza-Borrego, rangers and astronomers lead night-sky excursions the place you’ll study eclipses and phases of the moon. The close by city of Borrego Springs has labored to scale back streetlight air pollution by swapping out too-bright bulbs and inspiring companies and owners to show off lights at evening.

The Milky Way glows brightly over wild flowers at California's Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
Milky Means over the Anza-Borrego Desert wildflowers. Photograph Credit score: Kevin Key/SLWORKING/Getty Photographs

Dying Valley Nationwide Park, California

Dying Valley Nationwide Park in Southern California and Nevada is understood for its brooding desert landscapes and excessive temperatures. The distant circumstances additionally make Dying Valley a pristine stargazing location.

Made doable by the erosion of the close by Cottonwood Mountains, the wavy dunes at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes are precisely what you envision while you consider the desert. They’re extra accessible than different dunes throughout the park; the tallest is just about 100 ft, making the area in style for hikers and dune boarders alike. That accessibility, unobstructed views, and broad expanse make Mesquite Flats a really perfect stargazing location.

Elsewhere, hikers can absorb panoramic vistas of Dying Valley from atop Dante’s View. More than a mile above sea stage, the elevation ensures a lack of obstructions in each path.

Dying Valley. Photograph Credit score: Mike Mezeul II

Cape Hatteras Nationwide Seashore, North Carolina

The one factor higher than a day on the seashore? An evening of stargazing on the sand.

Begin your day with a largely flat 4.7-mile hike on the Cape Hatteras Level Loop. The path is residence to quite a few coastal birds, scores of seashells, animals, and wildflowers. Two ocean currents, the Gulf Stream from the south and the Labrador Present from the north, merge to create constantly-changing sandbars within the space.

Sea turtles are a summertime presence alongside the Cape Hatteras Nationwide Seashore. Bioluminescent plankton often gentle up the surf after sundown, and 4 campgrounds look out over the dunes.

Newport State Park, Wisconsin

Close to the northern shores of Lake Michigan, Newport State Park sits on the northern tip of the almost 80-mile-long Door Peninsula because it juts out into the huge physique of water. That helped it earn the coveted Darkish Sky Park designation from the Worldwide Darkish-Sky Affiliation—solely the second park within the Midwest to take action.

The park boasts spectacular evening skies, unobstructed views of the japanese horizon and virtually no synthetic gentle sources. (In reality, campers are inspired to dim telephone screens and lanterns to attenuate gentle air pollution.) Occasional teaching programs assist guests perceive the satellites, stars, planets and different celestial objects they’re seeing.

A star field shimmers over Lake Michigan at Newport State Park.
The evening sky at Newport State Park. Photograph Credit score: Dennis Moutray

Stephen C. Foster State Park, Georgia

Stephen C. Foster State Park, nestled in southeastern Georgia, is much from the most important park on this piece; at simply 120 or so acres, it’s smaller than Disneyland. However what it lacks in dimension, the park makes up for with unimaginable stargazing alternatives.

And for that, we are able to thank the park’s standing as the first entrance to the Okefenokee Swamp—the biggest blackwater swamp in North America; not simply that, however the surrounding Okefenokee Nationwide Wildlife Refuge provides one other buffer between the park and close by communities. And given how arduous it’s to develop a swampy space, the state park and its environment are fortunately bereft of sunshine air pollution.

So celebrated is Stephen C. Foster for hanging celestial views, it was designated a Darkish Sky Park in 2016 by the Worldwide Darkish-Sky Affiliation. Today, campers staying in one of many park’s 9 cottages and 63 campsites can take pleasure in ranger-led telescope viewing alternatives, particularly when meteor showers are current.

Nice Sand Dunes Nationwide Park, Colorado

Because of its location within the excessive desert of the San Luis Valley and a base elevation of seven,520 ft, Nice Sand Dunes has a few of the clearest, darkest skies within the West. The park hosts various free packages after hours, together with laser-guided constellation excursions.

A hiker treks up a sand dune at night.
Photograph Credit score: Danita Delimont/Getty Photographs

Indiana Dunes Nationwide Park and Indiana Dunes State Park, Indiana

A typical thread on this listing is simply how distant most of those parks are. Most of the spots we’ve highlighted to this point are not less than a half-day drive from the closest metropolis or city.

Not so at Indiana Dunes Nationwide Park and Indiana Dunes State Park, neighboring parks simply 45 minutes from the Chicago metro space on the southern shore of Lake Michigan. In reality, the nationwide park abuts the city of Beverly Shores, which in 2014 was named the world’s seventh Worldwide Darkish Sky Neighborhood by the Worldwide Darkish-Sky Affiliation—owing largely to residents’ efforts to protect the world’s darkish evening skies.

When climate permits, occasions at each parks enable telescope viewing of meteor showers, star clusters, planets, and extra. Native astronomers and naturalists with the Calumet Astronomical Society, for example, lead occasions at Indiana Dunes State Park and provides talks (aided by laser pointers) that discover and clarify constellations. Even when an occasion isn’t taking place, Kemil Seaside at Indiana Dunes Nationwide Park makes a shocking (and surprisingly subdued) place to take a look at the evening sky. Seize a pair of binoculars and obtain an non-obligatory cellular app equivalent to Sky Information for iOS units or SkySafari for Android units.

Central Idaho Darkish Sky Reserve, Idaho

In late 2017, the Worldwide Darkish-Sky Affiliation formally designated 1,400 squares miles of land because the Central Idaho Darkish Sky Reserve. It was the primary such designation within the U.S. and on the time, one among solely 12 on the earth. In doing so, it acknowledged the work advocates have performed for years to guard a few of Idaho’s hottest locations—equivalent to Ketchum, Solar Valley and the Sawtooth Nationwide Recreation Space—from rising gentle air pollution. So darkish are parts of the reserve, it’s doable to see the Milky Means whereas driving space highways after darkish.

However in case you’d moderately get out of your automotive and luxuriate in an evening below the celebs, a number of locations supply that chance. The small Pioneer Park, for example, sits on a hill above Stanley. The elevation places it above the neighborhood’s sources of sunshine air pollution and affords 360-degree views of the encompassing Sawtooth Mountains. Additional afield, a historic resort and a handful of campgrounds sit close to or alongside Redfish Lake, which is greater than a mile above sea stage. That prime elevation coupled with an absence of sunshine air pollution results in dazzling shows after the solar goes down.

Valle de Oro Nationwide Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico

In 2019, the Valle de Oro Nationwide Wildlife Refuge—only a 15-minute drive from Albuquerque—was named the Worldwide Darkish-Sky Affiliation’s first-ever City Evening Sky Place. The 560-acre refuge, housed on the location of a former dairy farm subsequent to the Rio Grande River, put in totally shielded lighting, applied movement sensors and minimized using blue lights (which may be dangerous to nocturnal animals). Guests can view the skies on their very own from alongside the refuge’s quick trails—or alongside native astronomers armed with telescopes at particular occasions all year long.

A part of what makes the refuge such a enjoyable stargazing vacation spot is its proximity to Albuquerque. However in case you’re on the lookout for one thing extra far-flung, contemplate Chaco Tradition Nationwide Historic Park within the northwest nook of the state. Greater than 99 p.c of the Worldwide Darkish Sky Park, designated as such by the Worldwide Darkish-Sky Affiliation, is taken into account a “pure darkness zone,” which suggests no everlasting lighting exists round most of Chaco. Interpretive packages are often provided to point out off the starry skies and educate guests on the significance of limiting gentle air pollution.

Discover a Full Moon Hike Close to You

Megan Michelson contributed to this text. 



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