America’s Top Stargazing Spots to See Beautiful Night Skies
We rounded up America’s top stargazing spots, from small towns to sprawling parks, that you can visit on moonless and clear nights.
America’s Top Stargazing Spots to See Beautiful Night Skies
The night sky tells a story we simply can’t see during the day. While the sun sleeps, innumerable stars, planets, meteors and more celestial objects sprinkle the sky with stories and possibilities. But depending on where you are, the visibility of astronomical wonders may be bright, or dim.
A casualty or a necessity of industrialization, the light pollution of urban areas makes the magic in the night sky hard to come by. To truly appreciate the allure of our solar system, you’ll need to visit some of the darkest places in the U.S.
We rounded up America’s top stargazing spots, from small towns to sprawling parks to, of course, some of the 150 certified Dark Sky Places, that you can visit on moonless and clear nights.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Where to stay: The historic Lodge at Bryce Canyon is the only lodge within the park’s boundaries, allowing you to step outside your room, suite or cabin and take a night walk among the stars. The season here runs from April 1 to Oct. 31.
Stargazing Tips in Bryce Canyon
Set up a trip when the sky is the darkest — during the week of the new moon or the week prior to the new moon. Moonless and clear nights offer 7,500 stars to behold.
Duringspring, summer and fall, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, the park offers about 100 astronomy programs to educate and aid visitors in getting the most out of their stargazing experience.
Denali National Park and Preserve
Where to stay: For an adventurous and secluded setting, The Sheldon Chalet, a luxury lodge in Denali National Park, will take your breath away. Situated just 10 miles from the mountain’s summit, the chalet is only accessible by helicopter. The fully off-grid Borealis Basecamp, will have you viewing the Northern Lights from one of the dome-shaped white cabins complete with panoramic windows angled for optimal stargazing.
Stargazing Tips in Denali
Should the borealis be occurring, come in the fall, winter and early spring when there is enough darkness to allow you to see the Northern Lights. Enjoy stargazing in March and April, when the weather begins to warm above freezing during daylight.
While the aurora borealis is technically always present, the lights are known to be brighter and more active up to two days after sunspot activity is at its highest. Check with an agency, like NASA, that monitors solar activity and issues aurora alerts to ensure you get the best show.
Chaco Culture National Historical Park
Location: New Mexico
Where to stay: Camping is the only lodging available in the park itself. A 15-mile drive along a rocky road will bring you to Gallo Campground. Positioned near ancient petroglyphs and inscriptions, offers first-class views of the cosmos.
Stargazing Tips in Chaco
Come between April and October on Friday and Saturday nights to take advantage of one of Chaco’s Night Sky programs.
Night Sky programming at Chaco features limited capacity and includes walks geared toward the solstices and equinoxes.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Where to stay: Just outside the park’s west entrance, there’s a cabin resort called Grand Lake Lodge. The lodge features a sizable veranda and lookout decks that have earned it the nickname “Colorado’s favorite front porch.”
Stargazing Tips in the Rockies
For optimal stargazing, come during a clear night during the new moon. For action and education, visit during summer when the Rocky Mountain National Park Night Sky Festival takes place. The festival runs for three days and offers plenty of activities, programs and experts.
Trail Ridge Road offers unobstructed views of the night’s sky, including the Milky Way, from nearly any vantage point. Bear Lake is ideal for stargazing with its easy access and beautiful surroundings. The reflection of the stars in the water makes for a unique setting.
Big Bend National Park
Where to stay: Tucked withinthe Chisos Basin at 5,400 feet, the Chisos Mountains lodge is open year-round and is the only lodging available within the park.
Stargazing Tips in Big Bend
Winter promises ideal stargazing conditions, when nights are longer and skies have the least amount of pollution.
The park is one of the most remote places in America, so a visit here is sure to impress. For supreme views that are easily accessible by any vehicle, stargaze along River Road, at the West Contrabando Trailhead, Big Hill and the Hoodoos.
Grand Canyon National Park
Where to stay: Backpackers will enjoy camping below the canyon rim, though it requires a backcountry permit. Bright Angel, Indian Garden,and Cottonwood Campground are some of the campgrounds. For non-tent lodging below the rim, Phantom Ranch is the sole option and requires reservations made via an online lottery 15 months in advance.
Stargazing Tips in the Grand Canyon
There’s no denying the Grand Canyon is one of the most visited destinations in the U.S., and yet it remains one of the best places to stargaze thanks to its lack of pollution.
For backpackers hiking around the rim of the canyon at night, scout out a stargazing spot with a durable surface and clear view of the sky during the day.
Arches National Park
Where to stay:Devils Garden Campground is the only campground within the park. You must reserve a site in advance during peak season (between March 1 and Oct. 31). The rest of the year, campsites are on a first-come, first-served basis. For elevated comfort, Hoodoo Moab, Curio Collection by Hilton is a must.
Stargazing Tips in Arches
Be on the lookout for hosted stargazing events. The park offers ranger-guided night activities, including full moon walks and telescope gazing sessions in the spring and fall. Sign up for the Night Sky program for events held during the summer.
Just north of Moab, the park is known for its namesake arches, rich red rocks and opportunities to view more than 2,500 stars. Drive north, away from the lights of Moab, for the darkest skies. The best stargazing opportunities include: Balanced Rock Picnic Area, The Windows, Garden of Eden Viewpoint and Panorama Point.
Gila National Forest
Location: New Mexico
Where to stay: The first designated Dark Sky sanctuary in the country, Cosmic Campground International Dark Sky Sanctuary is known for its “star parties” that offer a 360-degree, unobstructed view of the night sky. The campground is 40 miles from any artificial light sources.
Stargazing Tips in Gila
Spring in Southwest New Mexico features some of the darkest skies on the planet since the season is typically dry.
Take advantage of the hard-surface observing area with four pads for telescopes within Cosmic Campground.
Great Sand Dunes National Park
Where to stay: For rustic but elegant historic ranch rooms, plan a stay at the 103,000-acre Zapata Ranch. Located a few miles south of the main park entrance, it offers views of the sands and the stars just off the deck. The ranch is open March through October.
Stargazing Tips in Great Sand Dunes
For a chance to spot the Milky Way, come during late summer and fall when the galaxy is highest and clearest in the evening sky.
Skip the frenzy of people and go to the north access point. Located right off the Piñon Flats campground, you’ll enjoy a brighter view of the Milky Way.
Sierra Nevada Mountains
Where to stay: Guests checking into Wylder Hope Valley can add on a Stargazing Package with their stay. Located amid California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, the hotel resides within the least populated county in the state, making for minimal light pollution and a whole lot of darkness to ogle at the stars. The add-on package includes night hiking, snowshoeing and climbing access to the Indian Head Trail for stargazing.
Stargazing Tips in the Sierra Nevada Mountains
The dry air and permanent marine airflow make for nearly 300 cloudless nights per year.
Take a drive through the Hope Valley area, and you’ll spot dozens of road pullouts and forest service access roads perfect for an evening picnic under the stars.
Location: Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico
Where to stay: Seclusion, luxury and jaw-dropping architecture come together to form Amangiri. The clear, dry air sets the scene for the sky’s nightly theatrical performance. The resort offers easy access to not one but three national parks, along with the Navajo Nation Reservation, making its location ideal for exploring the geologically mesmerizing landscape the Colorado Plateau offers.
Stargazing Tips in the Colorado Plateau
Even the light from a thin crescent moon can lessen your chances to see fainter stars or the Milky Way, so be sure to plan your stay during a new moon or when the moon is below the horizon.
Take advantage of Amangiri’s resident guides and bespoke itineraries, including a private stargazing session with a local astronomy enthusiast.
Acadia National Park
Where to stay: Outdoor lovers will relish in Acadia National Park’s abundance of campsites. Check out this guide to camping in Acadia.
Stargazing Tips in Acadia
Come in late September when the Mount Desert Island communities host the Acadia Night Sky Festival. The five-day festival includes family-friendly hikes and nightlife with star shows.
If you like your stargazing with an ocean backdrop, head toSchooner Head or Seawall Campground; for lakes and ponds, go to the Jordan Pond House tea lawn or Eagle Lake. And for a 360-degree view, there’s no better spot than Cadillac Mountain.
Grand Teton National Park
Where to stay: Sandwiched between the towering Tetons, Spring Creek Ranch offers a remote setting complete with cabin-style rooms, suites and villas. The dark skies at Spring Creek Ranch make for a prime location for viewing galaxies, star clusters, planets and even the Northern Lights.
Stargazing Tips in Grand Teton
Take a drive during summer to the iconic Moulton Barn on Mormon Row for an indulgent view of the Milky Way as it beams up from behind the barn.
Head into the town of Jackson for a visit to Wyoming Stargazing.This nonprofit organization offers various stargazing and astro-focused experiences.
Massacre Rim Dark Sky Sanctuary
Where to stay: For a remote experience that offers shadows cast by the light of the Milky Way, backcountry camping is the way to go. There are no established campgrounds in the area, but instead Leave No Trace Massacre Rim camping that permits up to a 14-day stay per location.
Stargazing Tips in Massacre Rim Dark Sky Sanctuary
A visit in July promises world-class stargazing when Sagittarius and Scorpio constellations are their highest in the sky. The Perseids meteor shower is visible from mid-July each year, with its peak in early August when dozens of shooting stars fill the sky each hour.
If you prefer to stay on paved roads, nearby communities in Surprise Valley, California, and Gerlach, Nevada, offer noteworthy dark sky viewing opportunities.
Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve
Where to stay: The Hotel Limelight celebrates the astral activity of Ketchum/Sun Valley with stargazing events and packages, including the Dark Sky Dinner. The package whisks you away to a secluded backcountry yurt for incredible food and views. The package includes two nights lodging at The Limelight.
Stargazing Tips in Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve
The Idaho Dark Sky Reserve offers a variety of events throughout summer, including a viewing party that allows you to view the wonders of the sky through the park’s telescope.
Enjoy a drive among the stars along scenic Highway 75. The beautiful drive will take you through the heart of the Reserve from Stanley to Ketchum.
Where to stay: After enjoying an epic experience on the dormant Mauna Kea volcano, head to the beachside of the volcanic mountain, where you’ll find Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. The five-star resort is complete with an 18-hole championship golf course.
Stargazing Tips in Mauna Kea
The Big Island offers an extensive astronomy calendar. Take a look to find the best time to go.
The volcano’s unique location near the equator makes it the sole location in the U.S. for viewing major Northern and Southern Hemisphere constellations at once. As a result, Mauna Kea offers more than a dozen astronomical observatories. Reaching the summit makes for nearly perfect observing conditions, with no light pollution and a thin atmosphere between the telescope and stars.
Big Pine Key at Bahia Honda State Park
Where to stay: The park offers cabins, RV sites and tent camping. There’s also various marinas in the area.
Stargazing Tips in Big Pine Key
Come during winter when you can glimpse the Southern Cross constellation. Big Pine Key is one of the few spots in the U.S. where you can glimpse this constellation and other stars typically only those living close to the equator can see.
Big Pine Key is an exception to the humidity and light pollution that make Florida difficult for stargazing. Overnight guests are encouraged to wander up the Old Bahia Honda bridge, walk the shorelines or enjoy the scene in the sky from their boat, RV or tent.
Where to stay: Cozy up at the Hill Country Casitas. The property is set on 13 acres of wooded grounds. You’ll enjoy views for miles from the comfort of one of the 11 custom built casitas.
Stargazing Tips in Dripping Springs
For fall festivities, come in October, aka Hill Country Night Sky Month.
The community of Dripping Springs is abound with stargazing opportunities. Learn about the sky and the universe at Reimers Observatory, where you can take telescope classes and attend a two-hour program about the science behind the sky.
Stargazing Tips in Tucson
For the best time to stargaze, check the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association (TAAA) calendar. The association conducts Public Star Parties throughout the Tucson area.
Tucson Mountain Park is a good place for stargazing because the Tucson Mountains block the city lights.Just an hour away from Westward Look, the Kitt Peak National Observatory offers nightly programs for galactic enthusiasts. It also has the world’s largest telescope collection.
Glacier National Park
Where to stay: Enjoy the pristine water of Lake McDonald with a stay at The Village Inn at Apgar (open mid-May through late-September), located 2 miles within the park. Campers can take advantage of the many Glacier National Park campgrounds as well.
Stargazing Tips in Glacier
Come in summer, when Glacier Park rangers host popular viewing events at various locations.
Park guests can witness thousands of stars, planets and galaxies from pretty much anywhere in the park. But for a chance to take in the Northern Lights, consider cycling or driving up Going-to-the-Sun Road at night.
Cherry Springs State Park
Where to stay:Sweden Valley Hotel & Cabins is a great location for sightseeing. The quaint, rustic cabins feature private, forested stargazing fields. During the day, wildlife steals the show.
Stargazing Tips in Cherry Springs
Skywatchers should head to the Astronomy Observation Field during fall and winter for 360-degree views of the night sky and the chance to gaze at the Northern Lights.
The park holds two star parties per year. The first is the Cherry Springs Star Party, held in June by the Astronomical Society of Harrisburg. The second is the Black Forest Star Party, held in September thanks to the Central Pennsylvania Observers.
Stephen C. Foster State Park
Where to stay: Within the park you’ll find cabins/cottages and campsites. The Suwannee River Eco-Lodge, operated by Stephen C. Foster State Park, can sleep up to 40 guests in 12 bedrooms. If you don’t want to rent out the entire facility, choose from one of the 10 individual cottages, all equipped with screened porches and forest views.
Stargazing Tips in Stephen C. Foster State Park
The Milky Way thrives in the park during the summer months. This is when the view of it in the Northern Hemisphere is the densest and brightest.
This remote park is home to one of Georgia’s seven natural wonders: the legendary Okefenokee Swamp. The scene by day or night is magnetic. Spanish moss-laced trees reflect off the black swamp waters, which alligators, turtles, raccoons, black bears, deer, ibis, herons, wood storks, red-cockaded woodpeckers and numerous other creatures call home. The dark sky lends to various astronomy programs accompanied by an 18-inch telescope.
Where to stay:L’Auberge de Sedona combines the best of both worlds: luxury and backcountry. The resort is spread across 11 acres, with the picturesque Oak Creek setting a serene scene. The fiery backdrop of Sedona’s skyhigh red rocks offers a welcomed contrast to the lush greenery that encapsulates the resort. A few times a week, astronomer Dennis Young leads stargazers on a tour of Sedona’s world-famous night skies.
Stargazing Tips in Sedona
While Sedona is perfect for stargazing nearly any time of the year, monsoon season, occurring July and August, should be avoided.
The astronomy club, Sirius Lookers, hosts star parties throughout the year. The club notes the best stargazing can be found at Schnebly Hill Vista Overlook. Sedona Stargazing is another program, which hosts the Evening Sky Tours, where small groups are led by professional astronomers using state-of-the-art telescopes.
Where to stay:Ventana Big Sur offers an expertly guided stargazing experience, in which guests are taken on a hike through the redwood forest that surrounds the resort until they reach a star bathing location, consisting of an enchanting circle of old-growth redwoods. Once here, flashlights are turned off and guests are invited to sit in a meditative state and bathe in the constellations.
Stargazing Tips in Big Sur
Fog can put a damper on stargazing, so be sure to come in December, when skies offer crystal-clear views of the heavens above.
Most of the California coast south of San Francisco Bay is too close to civilization for supreme stargazing, but Big Sur is a breath of fresh air. Pfeiffer Falls State Park is just far enough from the confines of the marine layer to allow clusters of stars to stream through the tall redwood trees.
Headlands International Dark Sky Park
Where to stay: Campers can find several campgrounds just outside the park. Nearby TeePee campground in Mackinaw City has campfires every night and a private beach you can walk to town.
Stargazing Tips in Headlands International Dark Sky Park
Seasonally, there are different constellations and meteor showers to be seen. The popular constellation, Orion, can be found at the top of the sky dome at Headlands Dark Sky Park in March and April.
This 600-acre nature preserve doesn’t allow camping, but you’re free to stay all night long and enjoy the vast night sky. The location is far enough north that you may even be able to catch the aurora borealis!
Mayland Earth to Sky Park & Bare Dark Sky Observatory
Location: North Carolina
Where to stay: While the Mayland Earth to Sky Park doesn’t allow camping, nearby Toe River Campground offers a fine place to pitch a tent, while Terrell House Bed and Breakfast offers creature comforts.
Stargazing Tips in Mayland Earth to Sky Park
Viewings at the observatory are scheduled depending on the moon cycle and sunset times for two-hour blocks. View times and days here.
The Bare Dark Sky Observatory in the Blue Ridge Mountains is home to the Sam Scope — the largest telescope in the Southeast dedicated for public use. Enjoy a 360-degree view at an elevation of 2,736 feet.