13 Best Places In The U.S. To Star Gaze
1. Cherry Springs State Park, PA
This 82-acre state park in Pennsylvania is a haven for both amateur and professional astronomers. It’s considered one of the “darkest” places east of the Mississippi (which in this case is a good thing!) and was certified by the International Dark-Sky Association as a place of exceptional nighttime beauty.
Pro Tip: The Nighttime Viewing Area across from the official observation field is open all the time for your viewing pleasure.
2. Big Bend National Park, TX
This massive park in the wilds of West Texas is not only a remote viewing area for star-gazers, but the park has gone to great lengths to maintain their status as an IDA park including changing the lighting to shielded LEDs.
Pro Tip: Fodor’s recommends winter as the best time for gazing here, since the nights are longer and there are fewer clouds.
3. Natural Bridges National Monument , UT
The Natural Bridges National Park in Utah was the first IDA-certified park and is said to have some of the darkest skies in the world with almost zero light pollution.
Pro Tip: Of the three natural “bridges” (you can’t actually walk or drive on them), Owachomo (pictured) is the easies to hike to and provides the best “frame” for photos like this of the Milky Way.
4. Death Valley National Park, CA
Home to the recently de-mystified self-propelling rocks, Death Valley is one of the darkest and most remote parks in the country.
Pro Tip: Park rangers host talks and tours during full moons with incredible telescope-views of the surrounding stars.
5. The Headlands, MI
This Michigan park on the Straits of Mackinac is one of the darkest spots in the eastern U.S., where you not only can see thousands of stars, but also sometimes the Northern Lights.
Pro Tip: The Dark Sky Discovery Trail, added in 2012, takes you directly from the entrance of the park to the official viewing area on a one-mile paved path.
6. Blue Ridge Observatory and Star Park, NC
The first IDA park in the southeast, this observatory is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. The observatory is part of Mayland Community College, which is committed to limiting light pollution in the region.
7. Big Pine Key, FL
Although much of the sunshine state’s humidity and light pollution prevent such nighttime views, Big Pine Key which is 100 miles south of Miami is known for its clear skies. It is one of the only places in the U.S. to see the Southern Cross constellation, which is visible in winter.
Pro Tip: The Southern Cross Astronomy Society (one of the oldest astronomical societies in the west) throws a Winter Star Party every year, which is the perfect gathering for aspiring astrophotographers.
8. Griffith Observatory, CA
While Los Angeles is definitely not known for its wide or dark skies, the Griffith Observatory located on Mount Hollywood is a great (and free!) place to view some astronomical wonders including Jupiter and Venus.
Pro Tip: The museum hosts free monthly “Star Parties” on the lawn with guided viewing through different kinds of telescopes.
9. Chaco Culture National Historical Park, NM
Not only does this New Mexico park house some of the greatest concentrations of Pueblo architecture in the country, the remote darkness of the area also allows for some of the best stargazing in the state.
10. Mauna Kea, HI
Hawaii is widely recognized as one of the best destinations for star-gazing in the world, both because of the distance from major cities and the elevation. Mauna Kea, a summit on the Big Island, has lots of stunning locales and tours to choose from.
11. Great Basin National Park, NV
According to the National Park Service, on a clear night you can see thousands of stars, multiple galaxies, five different planets and man-made satellites with the naked eye in this Nevada park.
12. Acadia National Park, ME
The wide expanses of Maine’s downeast coast are some of the last places in the eastern U.S. to see the Milky Way.
Pro Tip: The annual Acadia Night Sky Festival serves as both a gathering of amateur and professional astronomers and an awareness campaign about reducing light pollution in the area year-round to preserve star-gazing views.
13. Denali National Park, AK
With minimal light pollution, long nights and high altitudes, almost all of Alaska offers unparalleled views of the night sky, but during the fall, winter in places like Denali National Park & Preserve, you can also catch insane views of the Aurora Borealis.