Looking to escape the city lights? Ready to do a little stargazing with your favorite people? Then visiting a Dark Sky Place should be a top destination on your travel list! Get ready to gaze at the night sky the way it was meant to be seen...in complete darkness!
WHAT IS A DARK SKY PLACE?
The International Dark-Sky Association has certified 43 places in the U.S. (from Pennsylvania to California) with a “dark sky” rating. In order to be awarded this prestigious certification, a state park, natural area, national monument or national park has to be protected for natural conservation and have an exceptional nocturnal environment — perfect for starry nights! All of these places are publicly accessible for everyone to enjoy, so grab your blanket and your camera, and head out into the night. See the stars like you’ve never seen them before at one of the darkest places in America!
TAKE A SCENIC DRIVE THROUGH
BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK, TEXAS
When you think of scenic drives through national parks you may not think of Texas, but there’s a national park with amazing dark sky views nestled in the Lone Star State along the Rio Grande River. If you’re looking to get away from the bustle of the big Texas city, take the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, pick a canyon, and gaze up at the stars — you’ll definitely see some all the way out there. Big Bend National Park has the least light pollution of any park in the lower 48 states!
GO OFF GRID IN THE BEAUTIFUL
CENTRAL IDAHO DARK SKY RESERVE
If you want a true “dark” experience, get off grid in the beautiful Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve! Located in the Sawtooth Mountains (the middle of a wilderness area with no cell service), you can bet on a truly dark experience. Only head out here if you have a lot of backpacking or mountaineering knowledge. Because of its exclusivity, it has been designated one of the last known “pools” of darkness in the U.S.!
GET COZY IN CALIFORNIA'S
JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK
Just a short drive from Palm Springs, in the high desert of California, is Joshua Tree National Park. You’ll need a car to get there, and it's a bit of a trek — but the view makes it worth it! During the day, you can scramble up the rocks to gaze over desert landscapes as far as the eye can see, and at night, you'll see the sky open up! There are no city lights up there amongst the rocks and the trees, so keep your eyes peeled for the Milky Way. Be sure to be prepared with plenty of water and blankets. Even though it’s California, it can get cold at night -- This is a desert after all.
INVESTIGATE THE NIGHT AT
BLACK CANYON OF THE GUNNISON NATIONAL PARK, COLORADO
During the day, park-goers are faced with views of a steep-walled black canyon, stretching out for miles and miles, but at night, the views are up in the sky! Take a night hike along the rim (but be careful!) to see your favorite constellation — you will be able to see up to 15,000 stars at night! Rangers and local astronomers at Black Canyon of the Gunnison also offer talks and star gazing activities during the week in the summer, as well as a large astronomy festival in June. This National Park is a must-see stop in Colorado!
EXPLORE THE EAST COAST SKY AT
CHERRY SPRINGS STATE PARK, PENNSYLVANIA
With all the hustle and bustle of city-life, it may seem as though a dark-sky place can't be found along the East Coast, but these isn't true. There are still some great places that are safe from light pollution including: Cherry Springs State Park. Named after the thousands of cherry trees you’ll walk through in the Susquehannock State forest, this park is one of the best places to view the night sky east of the Mississippi River. The astronomy field is perfect for viewing the night sky (with 360 degree views) and is open all year round.
TEAM UP FOR TELESCOPE VIEWING IN
CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK, UTAH
Seeing the Milky Way in the desert in Utah should definitely be on your bucket list, so plan a trip to Moab, and head on out to Canyonlands National Park! After hiking all day through Island in the Sky part of the park, go on a ranger-lead program with visitors from Arches National Park and Dead Horse State Park for an introduction in stargazing and telescope viewing. Some viewers are able to see the rings of Saturn on a moonless night — it’s that dark!
There's nothing like a night of stargazing,
especially when it's at a dark sky place. No light pollution, out in nature, seeing the stars like never before. These places are cherished by so many that they have been preserved so that everyone and anyone has the opportunity to visit. Take advantage of these stunning sites and head to a Dark Sky Place -- It's something ever person should do at least once in their lifetime!