7 Best Places to Stargaze in the US
PHOTO: Milky Way over Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park. (Photo courtesy Thinkstock)
As our cities expand and our population spreads, stars are quite literally fading into a night sky that is brighter and filled with the glow of artificial light. However, there are still a surprising number of places that have not succumbed to the glow of neon and LED screens and one organization is working to help save our dark skies.
The International Dark Sky Association protects the night skies for present and future generations. It is dedicated to helping some of our most treasured natural areas prevent the influx of artificial light and preserve the ability to appreciate and observe the beauty of the night sky. The organization’s website has a searchable database of worldwide Dark Sky Places, but if you are looking for some of the nation’s best, here are seven suggestions.
Death Valley National Park: Known for its extreme dry climate, Death Valley has been able to maintain its dark skies despite the rising metropolises surrounding it. It is one of the few places where visitors can see the Milky Way with the naked eye, and the exceptionally dark skies in portions of the park allow visitors to see astronomical objects that are rarely seen in lighter places on earth.
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area: This park is famous for its giant pink granite dome and attracts wilderness enthusiasts with its primitive backpacking, rock climbing and caving. The park is also known for hosting star parties called "Rock Star Parties" for visitors.
Canyonlands National Park: This park was recently dedicated a Dark Sky Park in 2015. It’s close to Natural Bridges National Monument but has been called one of the most “magical places on earth” by essayist Edward Abbey. The park preserves a series of canyons and mesas at the confluence the Colorado and Green rivers on the Colorado plateau.
Cherry Springs State Park: This is one of the only Gold Tier parks in the Eastern U.S. It is located about 2,000 feet above sea level and is in the largely undeveloped Susquehannock State Forest. The park’s dedicated “astronomy field” has an unobstructed 360-degree view of the night sky. The park hosts two major star parties every year that attract hundreds of astronomers.
Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument: Here there are no paved roads, few structures and four wilderness areas that create a pristine night sky with little light pollution. The monument is jointly managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the National Parks Service.
Natural Bridges National Monument: It has almost zero light pollution and is among the darkest of the National Park Dark Sky Places. In the summertime, there are ranger-led astronomy programs. The park is located on the Colorado Plateau in the southeastern corner of Utah. It is famous for being home to the second-largest natural bridge in the world.
Big Bend National Park: This is one of the least-visited national parks in the lower 48 states. It’s a haven for backpackers and one of the largest protected areas of the Chihuahuan Desert topography. The park is located at the “Big Bend” of the Rio Grande River that marks the boundary between Mexico and Texas.
More by Janeen Christoff
Get Travel Deals and Travel News
Recent Travel Opinions
Airlines & Airports
Cruise Line & Cruise Ship