Parks With the Best Night Skies

Stars, Planets, and The Milky Way — Oh My!

Summer nights are all about staying up late, watching the sun melt into the horizon, and then watching the beauty of the night sky unfold. During July in various national parks, you can find clear night skies with perfect constellation viewing. On really clear nights, you might even be able to spot planets and the Milky Way.

Night Sky Destinations for Stargazing

National parks are the perfect location for stargazing. Most parks have extensive boundaries, meaning they’re protected from light pollution. With minimal light pollution, you can see more stars than you can in the city. In certain locations and on certain nights, you might even be able to see the Milky Way.

Stargazing: What to Bring

Before your night under the stars, you’ll want to make sure you have everything you’ll need. You may have a short hike to get to where the stargazing is best, so be sure to pack everything in a backpack or easy-to-carry bag.

Here are our suggestions for stargazing must-haves:

  • Blanket to lay on
  • An extra layer of clothes or blanket for the cool evenings
  • Telescope
  • Tripod for taking long-exposure photographs or holding a telescope
  • A star chart app that can help you identify the constellations and planets you’re seeing
  • Snacks
  • Something warm to drink if the weather will be cool
  • A red headlamp so you can see where you’re going without damaging your night vision

Lake Powell

Take in the beautiful reflection of the night sky on the water.

Lake Powell stretches from Arizona to Utah and has over 2,000 miles of shoreline. In 2018, Rainbow Bridge was designated an International Dark Sky Place, meaning it’s some of the best stargazing territory in the country.

With less light pollution, not only can you see more stars, it’s better for the circadian rhythms of the local wildlife. They say you can see up to 15,000 stars. Just imagine! One of the best ways to see the stars from Lake Powell is aboard a houseboat.

While the sun is shining, there are plenty of fun things to do at Lake Powell, such as:

Mesa Verde National Park

Watch a breathtaking sunset before the stars come out in Mesa Verde.

Among the national parks, Mesa Verde National Park is special. In 1978, it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site to preserve and protect the ancient cliff dwellings and archaeological sites. After the sun goes down, the views aren’t any less spectacular.

With no nearby large cities, Mesa Verde has very little light pollution and has been designated an International Dark Sky Place. High up in Southwest Colorado, there are few cloudy nights, so as long as the weather cooperates and the moon isn’t full, you should have perfect stargazing conditions.

For the best stargazing, go to:

  • Far View Lodge
  • Morefield Campground
  • Montezuma Overlook
  • Mancos Overlook

During the day in Mesa Verde National Park, don’t miss out on:

Crater Lake National Park

There’s no shortage of views when staying at the Crater Lake Lodge.

Formed over 7,000 years ago from the eruption of an ancient volcano, Crater Lake National Park has it all: history, beauty, nature, and outdoor adventures. While visiting Crater Lake, you’ll find activities such as fishing and hiking.

Because of the isolated location of the Crater Lake caldera, you’re certain to get some fantastic stargazing in. The isolated nature of the location combined with the high elevation, low humidity, and minimal cloud cover makes for many summer nights of ideal stargazing.

For your night of stargazing, head to Rim Village for the best viewing spots.

Togwotee Lodge

Take in the vibrant summer colors Togwotee has to offer.

Located just outside of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, Togwotee Mountain Lodge is a great central location for many summer adventures. During your visit, be sure to save time for horseback riding, hiking, and drinks at the Red Fox Saloon.

If you’re planning a day of hiking in Yellowstone, be sure to bring layers and a blanket to stay for the after-sunset show. With no nearby cities, you can get an amazing light show from anywhere in Yellowstone.

If you’re looking for the best stargazing spots, check out:

  • Mount Washburn
  • Upper Geyser Basin
  • Mammoth Hot Springs
  • Lamar Valley
  • Swan Lake Flat
  • Hayden Valley

Summer just isn’t complete without a summer vacation and some stunning night skies. Why not get it all this year by planning a trip to one of these national parks.

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