Grab some blankets and lawn chairs — it’s time to go stargazing!
From warm summer nights in California to beautiful evenings in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the night sky can be a wonderful addition to your next vacation. These 15 parks offer an incredible view of starry landscapes.
15. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
High elevations, crisp air, and minimal light make Bryce Canyon an optimal place for stargazing. Bryce Canyon is considered one of the nation’s darkest places, which allows visitors to see the entire Milky Way during clear spring nights.
14. Kitt Peak National Observatory, Arizona
The Kitt Peak National Observatory boasts the world’s largest collection of optical telescopes, making it the perfect destination for stargazing. The Sonoran Desert is renowned for stargazing–astronomers and amateurs alike can enjoy the night sky in this beautiful observatory.
Pictured above: The Horsehead Nebula in Orion, seen through a telescope at Kitt Peak
13. Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico
Chaco Culture National Historical Park has over 4,000 archeological sights to explore, all of which you can see the stars from. Just as Aztecs did so many years ago, visitors can study constellations from the remote national park.
12. Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania
With the darkest sky in Mississippi, Cherry Springs State Park hosts an entire astronomy field for stargazers to admire the natural beauty of the sky. The field is at the peak of a 2,300 ft mountain, giving visitors an optimal view of the Milky Way and a myriad of constellations.
11. Big Bend National Park, Texas
For stargazing wishing to find a quiet, secluded place to watch the stars, Big Bend National Park fits the bill. The National Park Service claims Big Bend National park is one of the “best places for stargazing.” For thousands of years, people have flocked to Big Bend National Park to see the milky way and thousands of stars.
10. Big Pine Key, Florida
Warm nights, clear skies, and starry beaches is what Big Pine Key is known for. Part of Florida’s lower Keys — and one of the most scenic places on the Gulf — is home to the Winter Star Party. Big Pine Key is one of the only places in the U.S. where you can see the Southern Cross constellation.
9. The Headlines, Michigan
Occasionally, visitors can get a glimpse of the Northern Lights from The Headlines on the Straits of Mackinac. This year The Headlines was awarded The Innovative Recreation Programming award by the Michigan Recreation and Parks Association for their work to inform guests on the night sky.
“Guests to our programs get the magic and mystery of the night sky while they observe celestial wonders from one of the most beautiful places anywhere: In a rugged wilderness in Northwest Michigan,” Mary Stewart Adams, Dark Sky Park Program Director, said in response to the recent award.
8. Griffith Observatory, California
Although it’s difficult for the human eye to view the stars over Los Angeles, Griffith Observatory gives travellers a chance to view planets, including Jupiter and Venus. The Observatory also offers visitors astronomy exhibits and a phenomenal view of the Hollywood Sign. Plus, the majority of events at Griffith Observatory are free of cost!
7. Maunakea, Hawaii
Hawaii is renowned for their beautiful beaches and volcanoes but is universally known for their starry landscape. Maunakea is a summit on the Big Island, in which you can schedule tours to see the stars. In the observatory, visitors can watch planets, galaxies and various constellations.
6. Acadia National Park, Maine
On the northernmost tip of Maine, Acadia National Park is far enough from the bustle of the big city that the skies remain untouched by the buzz of nightlife and artificial light. Acadia National Park was the first Eastern National Park, providing visitors with stunning views of the night sky on the old coastline. Every September Acadia hosts a Night Sky Festival, celebrating the insane view of the MilkyWay Acadia offers.
5. Denali National Park, Alaska
Denali National Park is known for it’s ethereal views of the aurora borealis, but this natural wonder isn’t the only thing you can watch in the night sky. Denali’s remote location, high altitudes, and long nights leave the night sky remains untouched by any light pollution whatsoever. These conditions make a perfect evening for stargazing.
4. Death Valley National Park, California
One of the most desolate open spaces in the country, Death Valley National Park is ideal for any stargazing enthusiast. In the winter and spring, national park rangers provide stargazing programs hosted by astronomy organizations.
“Death Valley is a place to gaze in awe at the expanse of the Milky Way, follow a lunar eclipse, track a meteor shower, or simply reflect on your place in the universe,” National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis explains.
3. Blue Ridge Observatory and Star Park, North Carolina
Named after the Blue Ridge Mountains, Blue Ridge Star Park has the most magnificent midnight sky on the East Coast. The Blue Ridge Mountains provide a majestic for stargazing, which can be seen from the park trails. Maryland Community College encourages conservation and observation of the night sky, from their excellent observatory, open to all visitors.
2. Great Basin National Park, Nevada
Want to see multiple galaxies, five different planets, man-made satellites, and thousands of stars? Without even dragging along a telescope, it’s possible to view all of these wonders from Great Basin National Park. The park even provides astronomy programs for stargazing, in the spring and fall seasons.
1. Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah
Natural Bridges National Monument was named after its mythical bridges, which are illuminated by 15,000 stars. The bridges were created centuries ago, carved out by the changing flow of a huge river. Since then, the water has dried up and left ginormous valleys and canyons, complimenting several natural bridges.
Natural Bridges National Monument has a sky so dark that it was the first of many to be certified by the International Dark Sky Association. This non-profit organization work to protect Natural Bridge’s night sky, along with many other state parks, against light pollution.
One night at Natural Bridges National Monument, and you’ll discover why the International Dark Sky Association works so hard to preserve its beauty. 800 years ago, native Puebloans slept under the exact same sky visitors observe today.