Want to really see stars? The key to really enjoying a dazzling night of stargazing is finding a remote place with little to no light pollution. If you’re in pursuit of incredible stargazing, these destinations are worth the journey.
1. Death Valley National Park // California
Death Valley is below sea level and produces very little artificial light. With over 3 million acres of wilderness, the park gets really dark at night. The valley can be either very hot or very cold depending on the season and time of day. Be sure to check the stargazing tips on the park's website to optimize your experience.
2. Natural Bridges National Monument // Utah
If you’re in the neighborhood of the Four Corners, consider stopping by Natural Bridges for a peek at some incredibly vivid stars. The monument features three bridges that were naturally formed from water erosion; the largest is 225 feet across. The giant bridges nicely frame the incredible view of the stars.
3. Blue Ridge Observatory and Star Park // North Carolina
This hotbed for star viewing is the first certified International Dark Sky Park in the Southeast. The observatory has a 34-inch telescope open to the public, and visitors can take advantage of the lack of artificial light to enjoy the glow of the Milky Way.
4. Goldendale Observatory State Park // Washington
If you’re serious about your stargazing, you can become one of the roughly 40,000 annual visitors at the Goldendale Observatory. It's no longer classified as a Dark Sky Park, but visitors can still enjoy some incredible magnified views of the night sky.
5. Cherry Springs State Park // Pennsylvania
Named after its abundant black cherry trees, this park is one of the best in Pennsylvania for viewing the night sky. So many campers and astronomers come for the great view of the stars and Milky Way that the park even hosts star parties.
6. Observatory Park // Ohio
This park is one of the few places left in Ohio that hasn’t been impacted by light pollution. It’s fairly new; the land was only acquired by the Geauga Park District in 2003. Since then, it has been a popular spot to photograph the sky and watch meteor showers. It's the only recognized Dark Sky park in the state.
7. Big Bend National Park // Texas
This national park features deep canyons, large rivers, and more land than Rhode Island. The hot springs outside of Rio Grande Village are a favorite for enjoying thousands of stars, planets, and the Andromeda galaxy.
While you’re in Big Bend country, also check out the mysterious Marfa lights. Sometimes called ghost lights, some viewers believe these strange, unexplained lights are paranormal. Most people say they're car lights, street lamps, or small fires.
8. Parashant National Monument // Arizona
Unlike most of the other parks on this list, this one does not offer any visitor center or resources, but it is extremely dark. Located next to the Grand Canyon, this park is perfect for seeing the pristine sky. The park is free to visit; backcountry campers should be sure to check out these rules and regulations.
9. Clayton Lake State Park // New Mexico
This New Mexico park is great for fans of both stargazing and dinosaurs. Park-goers can walk the same trail dinosaurs did around 100 million years ago on a pathway featuring hundreds of fossilized dinosaur tracks. At night, the Star Point Observatory offers a public telescope to explore the heavens.
10. San Luis Valley // Colorado
Located right by Alamosa, this desert area features a quirky tourist attraction called the UFO Watchtower. It has been rumored to be a popular spot for paranormal activity and multiple UFO sightings. Visitors of the tower are provided with information about previous sightings and possible theories. Thanks to very little light pollution, there’s plenty to see, even if you don’t spot any aliens.
11. Headlands on Lake Michigan // Michigan
Visitors of the Headlands can enjoy dark skies and over two miles of Lake Michigan shoreline. The water offers a unique landscape for enjoying the sky. In the past, the park has hosted a Halloween challenge asking park-goers to walk a mile in darkness to a cabin for fortune telling and scary stories.
A version of this article was originally published in 2015; it has been updated for 2022.