Do you love stargazing as much as we do? Do you want to see the stars in some of the most beautiful and pristine places on Earth? If so, you should definitely visit our nation’s incredible national parks.
They are not only home to stunning landscapes, wildlife, and history, but also to some of the darkest and clearest skies in the country. In fact, many national parks are certified as International Dark Sky Parks by DarkSky (formerly called the International Dark-Sky Association), which means they have exceptional quality of starry nights and nocturnal environments.
In this blog post, we will share 7 great stargazing spots in the national parks of the U.S., so you can enjoy the beauty of the night sky in some of the most stunning natural settings in the world. These spots are based on our own research and experience as well as the Bortle scale ratings, which measure the brightness of the night sky from 1 (excellent dark sky) to 9 (inner-city sky). Of course, there are many more amazing places to stargaze in our country’s national parks, but these are some of our favorites.
1. Death Valley National Park, California
Be prepared to have your mind blown in Death Valley National Park. Not only is it the hottest and driest place in North America, but also one of the darkest. This park has very low humidity and minimal light pollution, which allows you to see millions of stars and even faint objects like galaxies and nebulae. You can also witness some rare celestial events here, such as zodiacal light and gegenschein.
Some of the best spots to stargaze in Death Valley National Park are Harmony Borax Works, Badwater Basin, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Zabriskie Point, Dante’s View, and Eureka Dunes. You can also enjoy star parties or night sky festivals hosted by the park or local organizations.
When Alison first met, this was one of the first places we visited together to hike and stargaze, so it has special meaning to us.
Death Valley Bortle scale rating: 1 (in the darkest areas)
2. Big Bend National Park, Texas
Big Bend National Park is another remote and rugged park that offers spectacular stargazing opportunities. Located in southwest Texas near the Mexican border, this park has one of the darkest skies in North America. You can see thousands of stars, planets, comets, meteors, and even the Milky Way with your naked eye.
Some of the best spots to stargaze in Big Bend National Park are along Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive and Panther Junction Road. You can also explore the night sky with one of the park’s regularly scheduled ranger-led programs or make your own adventure.
Honestly, we have had luck stargazing literally all over the park. Even the nearby town of Terlingua is pretty darn dark, so you can’t go wrong with this entire region for enjoying dark skies.
Big Bend Bortle scale rating: 1 (in the darkest areas)
3. Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
Denali National Park and Preserve is one of the most spectacular and wild places in North America. Located in Alaska, this park is home to Mount Denali, the highest peak in North America, as well as glaciers, forests, tundra, and wildlife. This park has very low light pollution and high latitude, which make for amazing stargazing opportunities in the winter. You can also see some of the most incredible phenomena, such as auroras (northern lights), noctilucent clouds (night-shining clouds), and nacreous clouds (mother-of-pearl clouds).
Some of the best spots to stargaze in Denali National Park and Preserve are Wonder Lake Campground, Eielson Visitor Center, Savage River Campground, and Teklanika River Campground. You can also join an aurora viewing tour offered by one of many local companies.
Fun facts: Alison when to high school in Anchorage, Alaska. Also, when we last visited the state, we hiked in the gorgeous Chugach State Park and really need to go back so we can explore more trails.
Denali Bortle scale rating:1 (in the darkest areas)
4. Great Basin National Park, Nevada
Great Basin National Park is one of the least-visited national parks in the country, but also one of the best for stargazing. If you have never been here before, you will be pleasantly surprised. We loved it! Located in Nevada, this park has very low light pollution and high altitude, which make for excellent viewing conditions. You can see thousands of stars in the Milky Way from here.
Some of the best spots to stargaze in Great Basin National Park are Mather Overlook on the scenic drive and at one of the park’s beautiful alpine lakes. If you are up to it, consider joining the Great Basin Astronomy Festival.
If you enjoyed watching our Great Basin National Park YouTube playlist, we have hundreds more videos you might find helpful.
Great Basin Bortle scale rating: 2 (in the darkest areas)
5. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is one of the most dramatic and deep canyons in North America. Located in Colorado, this park has very low light pollution and a high elevation, which create stunning views of the stars and the canyon walls. You can see thousands of stars, planets, comets, meteors, and even the Milky Way from this park. You can also enjoy some unique features of the night sky here, such as earthshine (the faint glow of the dark side of the moon) and airglow (the natural emission of light by the atmosphere).
Some of the best spots to stargaze in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park are South Rim Campground, North Rim Campground, Tomichi Point, Pulpit Rock Overlook, and Chasm View Overlook. You can also attend the annual Black Canyon Astronomy Festival or join a guided night sky program.
We have had two of the most surreal moments of our lives here different times visiting. The first was witnessing an incredible sunset that included a gust of wind so powerful it felt like it would blow us off the canyon edge. Yeah, we quickly left after that. The second was when Alison and I shot the Milky Way on the edge of the canyon for a couple of hours. It was so dark and a bit unnerving knowing we were so close to such a massive drop…and in bear country. Both made for awesome moments for a very memorable park.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison Bortle scale rating: 2 (in the darkest areas)
6. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the most popular national parks for stargazing, and for good reason. This park is home to some of the most unique and colorful rock formations in the world, such as hoodoos, spires, arches, and amphitheaters. These formations create a stunning backdrop for the night sky, which is exceptionally dark and clear due to the high elevation and dry climate.
Some of the best spots to stargaze in Bryce Canyon National Park are Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, Inspiration Point, Bryce Point, Paria View, and Fairyland Point. You can also attend the annual Bryce Canyon Astronomy Festival or join a guided night sky program offered by local astronomy groups.
This is another park we have visited on multiple occasion because of excellent hikes and stargazing opportunities. It’s a favorite for sure. Also, don’t forget to visit nearby Kodachrome Basin State Park. It’s worth a couple of days all on its own.
Bryce Canyon Bortle scale rating: 3 (in the darkest areas)
7. Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota
Voyageurs National Park is one of the best places to experience the wilderness and waterways of northern Minnesota. Located near the Canadian border, this park has very low light pollution and high latitude, which allows you to see thousands of stars and other wonders in the sky. You can also see some spectacular phenomena here such as auroras (northern lights), shooting stars, and satellites.
Some of the best spots to stargaze in Voyageurs National Park are near Kabetogama Lake Visitor Center, Ash River Visitor Center, or Rainy Lake Visitor Center if you don’t want to paddle too far out. Also, take advantage of the boat tours offered by the park.
We love shooting astrophotography near the water, and this park has plenty of it.
Voyageurs Bortle scale rating: 3 (in the darkest areas)
Bonus Tip: How to Find More Dark Sky Locations in the National Parks
If you want to find more dark sky locations in the national parks, you can use the National Park Service Night Sky Program website. This website provides information and resources about the night sky quality and events in the national parks, as well as tips and tools for stargazing. You can also find out which parks are certified as International Dark Sky Parks by Dark Sky (the IDA) or are working towards that designation. We love this organization so much that we are members and want to help them save the night sky.
If you feel like just exploring a dark sky map to find a good location that isn’t necessarily a national park, try our stargazing map. It can help you get an idea of which areas have minimal light pollution. Sometimes that’s what we do, and we always discover new spots to visit.
Wrapping It Up
Stargazing is a wonderful way to connect with nature and the universe while visiting the national parks. Our parks offer some of the best places to stargaze in the country, with dark and clear skies, stunning landscapes, and rich history and culture. Whether you are a beginner or an expert, you can find a spot that suits your interests and preferences in the national parks. Just remember to bring a sense of wonder and awe.
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About the Authors
We are avid stargazers Jason and Alison Takacs also known as “Roadtrippin’ with Takacs”. With our two boys Preston and Grayson, we seek out some of the darkest skies in the country while also going on many incredible hiking and other outdoor adventures. As part-time RVers, we try to see as much of this amazing world as possible in our spare time and hope you will join us through this blog and other forms of social media as we explore the night sky and other natural wonders as hardcore astrotourists.