The 12 Best Places to Stargaze in America
People have been curious about stars since the beginning of humankind, and there’s still so much we don’t know about them.
There’s something about these celestial beings that is truly magical and really forces us to take a step back, relax, and put life in perspective.
Unfortunately, you can’t do this just anywhere. There are some who live in big cities where seeing the stars just isn’t an option. And there are others who live in places where it seems to be eternally overcast and the view of the stars is always obstructed.
However, there are places throughout the United States that bring out the best of the stars and are places where you can really appreciate the beauty of the sky above.
So look to head to these places for epic views of these stunning celestial beings.
Top Stargazing Spots
1. Mauna Kea | Hawaii
There are a number of reasons why this spot is at the top of our list.
First of all, it is an observatory that sits on a volcano. Albeit it’s a dormant volcano, but a volcano nonetheless. And that volcano just happens to be nearly 14,000 feet tall.
If that’s not enough to “wow” you, then how about the fact that Mauna Kea is the largest astronomical observatory in the entire world. Even better yet, Mauna Kea is the most advanced astronomical observatory in existence.
Also, consider the fact that there is almost no interruption of your views due to the lack of city lights here. Not only is Hawaii in the middle of the ocean, but the entire island has a light ordinance.
In short, this spot is widely known as one of the best spots in the world to stargaze. So good, in fact, that 11 countries have built observatories on the volcano. Thanks to the tropical inversion layer here, pollutants don’t get in the way and the skies are always clear for viewing.
2. Bryce Canyon National Park | Utah
There are a number of things working in favor of this place to make it one of the best stargazing spots in the United States.
First of all, the air is dry and is clean, making pollutants a non-issue. In addition, Bryce Canyon National Park is at a high elevation and away from city lights, thus creating the ideal situation for looking at the night sky.
And there is plenty to look at here. With over 7,500 stars viewable with the naked eye, there is absolutely no shortage of twinkling stars to see.
The park also offers astronomy programs throughout the year with the help of its “Dark Rangers,” so check this schedule to time your visit to have the chance to peer through a high-powered telescope to see the sky.
Speaking of timing, you’ll also want to try and come here around the new moon because then you’ll have the chance not only to see the most stars, but also a chance to really see the Milky Way in its fabulous beauty.
3. Denali National Park and Preserve | Alaska
Different than your typical idea of stargazing, when you head to Denali National Park, you’ll be seeing something truly spectacular — the northern lights a.k.a. Aurora borealis.
If you’re one of the lucky who has seen the northern lights in action, then you know exactly how spectacular this sight can truly be. And if you haven’t seen them yet, then it’s about time you do. This mystical display of colors dances across the sky and will have you in complete awe the entire time.
The reason you want to head to Denali to see them is because the northern lights are focused around the earth’s magnetic poles, and Denali is right up there. With the lack of city lights and the remoteness of Denali National Park, there is nothing here to interrupt your viewing.
4. Glacier National Park | Montana
Aside from the stargazing this is a park you definitely need to visit. However the opportunity here for seeing some epic stars is pretty great, and you’ll be thankful you made the trip here. Though winter is the best time of the year for stargazing, that isn’t an option here at Glacier — it’s really tough to get to this park when the cold weather hits.
You’ll be happy to hear that the summer boasts some of the darkest nights here, so wait until the weather is warm to check out Glacier National Park.
The views of the sky here are so epic because the park gets incredibly dark, as there are no major city lights polluting the sky. In addition, the high elevation and the dry atmosphere here mean stars will be more visible to the naked eye.
Check the park’s calendar for the stargazing parties, and you will find yourself in for a real treat.
5. Cherry Springs State Park | Pennsylvania
Though this park is small, it has a lot to offer when it comes to looking at the stars. Known not only as one of the best places to see the stars on the east coast, Cherry Springs State Park is one of the best places in the world to see this celestial beings in all of their glory.
In fact, it is so wonderful that Cherry Creek Springs State Park is one of the eight places on Earth that has the gold international dark sky status.
What exactly does this mean, you ask? This means that the visibility for stargazing couldn’t possibly get any better. The artificial light here is low and there are few pollutants in the air that obstruct viewing conditions. A high visual magnitude doesn’t hurt either, and that’s what makes this spot so stellar to check out those shining stars.
On a good night, you may even be able to see the center of the Milky Way galaxy — how cool is that?!
6. Big Pine Key | Florida
You may not initially think to head to Florida for stargazing, but you are in for a surprise here in Big Pine Key. About 30 miles north of Key West, this place is the best of the islands to get some nighttime views. That is because there are very few people on this island. It is one of the less busy and populated islands, making it prime conditions for celestial sights.
What makes this place so special from other star watching spots is that it is the only place in the contiguous United States that you’ll find constellations similar to those you’d have to travel to the Southern Hemisphere to see.
So get the bang of the southern star gazing without spending all the bucks. You may just get the chance to see the Southern Cross — and you won’t find that elsewhere in the U.S.
Sugarloaf Key / Key West KOA Holiday
7. Chaco Culture National Historical Park | New Mexico
There are a number of things that make this place well worth a visit.
First of all, let’s talk about the fact that Chaco Culture National Historical Park is full of that: history. Boasting over 4,000 archeological sites that date back to prehistoric times, there is no shortage of sights here that will take you back to the days of our earliest ancestors.
And the idea of looking at the stars in the same location as the some of the earliest humans is something we just can’t even wrap our heads around, but definitely want to experience.
Secondly, the San Juan Basin keeps the light out of this place and lets the darkness really sink in to where you can look up and see more than you ever imagined.
Thirdly, this park is only accessible by dirt roads, so you won’t find your average stargazer trekking out here — only the really dedicated ones who are committed to their stars.
Chaco Culture National Historical Park is another one of the famed gold-certified International Dark Sky Parks, so that seal of approval ensures epic views.
You can head there on your own for stargazing or you can take advantage of some of the astronomy programs there during the spring and summer.
8. Rocky Mountain National Park | Colorado
Though this place does suffer a bit from the light pollution radiating from nearby Boulder and Denver, the elevation here is what keeps the viewing conditions still top-notch.
Here at Rocky Mountain National Park you’ll find the “highest continuous paved road in the United States,” measuring it at a whopping 10,758 and named the Trail Ridge Road.
Follow the yellow brick road to see the brightest stars and the darkest nights. Though the winter is the best time to find the right conditions, we recommend you really take it easy — this road can be a hard one to deal with when the weather gets tough and the potential for road closures increases.
If you aren’t feeling confident about your ability to pass these roads in the winter, and deal with the possibility of the road being closed, stick to visiting in the summer. You’ll still get great views of the stars during that time of the year.
9. Death Valley National Park | California
With a whopping 3.4 million acres, this park has a lot of opportunity to see some serious stars. The vast majority of this park is dedicated to wilderness sans any sort of development, so you’d be hard-pressed to find artificial light really anywhere in this park.
Another International Dark Sky Park that’s been awarded the gold certification, Death Valley National Park is not only one of the darkest, but also one of the most remote parks in the entire United States.
The conditions here are absolutely ideal for stargazing — dry and crisp, clean air, combined with a seemingly never-ending skyline.
Just be sure to visit here during the cooler seasons. Temps in the summer in Death Valley National Park pretty much always stay above 100 (hence its name “Death Valley”). By heading there in the winter and spring, you’ll not only stay much cooler but you’ll also get to experience the programs that are led by park rangers to really take your star watching adventures to the next level.
10. Big Bend National Park | Texas
Right on the border of Mexico, this Texas national park is a favorite for avid stargazers.
First of all, it is very remote. This means you’ll have minimal light pollution and maximum viewing opportunity.
The humidity here in this desert is also very low, with few clouds to boot, so you’re looking at a lot of chances to look up and see some serious stars.
Head here in the winter for ideal conditions, just be sure to bring a coat with you. Winter is the best time because the nights are longer and the skies also happen to have the least amount of pollution during this time of year. And you know what that means — more clarity for your stargazing.
Also, this is another place on the list of gold-certified International Dark Sky Parks, and Big Bend National Park definitely did some work to get this certification that included changing all of their lighting in the park to LEDs to cut down on light pollution.
11. Grand Canyon National Park | Arizona
There are a number of reasons why the Grand Canyon should be on your list of places to visit. In case you didn’t know, it’s one of the most visited destinations in the United States.
Many people go there to check out, of course, the Grand Canyon. However, there is much more to this place than what you can see below you from the rim.
In fact, some of the best views here can be seen by looking up to the sky. The dark nights here and lack of light pollution means you’ll be able to see some faraway planets and nebulae in addition to more stars than you’ll know what to do with.
If you really want to take your experience here to the next level, then hike around the base at night. Also be sure to check the calendar for star parties that the park hosts so that you can join up with other stargazing fanatics for some evening fun.
12. Arches National Park | Utah
This park is known for its red rocks and of course, it’s namesake — the arches. They are beautiful enough on their own, but when viewed in contrast to the incredibly dark skies above, you will be truly wowed at the sight.
Head to Arches National Park for the chance to see over 2,500 stars in completed unpolluted skies free of light and other pollutants.
If you’d rather skygaze on your own, then head to the park anytime to see the stars shine in all their glory. But, if you’d like to join in on some fun with others, then sign up for a Night Sky Program, which take place during the summer. You can also opt for a ranger-led program in the spring and the fall.
Whichever your preference, there is no shortage of viewing opportunities here at Arches National Park.
Feeling ready to get out your telescope, a blanket, and head to go look at the stars? We are too. There is something so magical about these celestial beings that really cannot be fully appreciated unless you’re out in nature, free from interruptions of life and the world around you.
These are our favorite spots to do just that. So grab your bags and some hot chocolate, and get on the road to check out these hot stargazing spots.
Leslie, a.k.a. Copy Girl, is a copywriter who gets butterflies from telling stories through words.
Her voice comes from a place filled with passion, dreams, and lots of sugar. “Cake over steak” is her go-to motto.
With over 10 years of experience in crafting words, and years of embarking on travels that have taken this Montana girl to some incredible places, Leslie love the adventures of both body and mind her writing takes her on.
Everywhere she goes, she takes this advice with her:
“Hold on to your divine blush, your innate rosy magic, or end up brown.” – Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume
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