If you live in Texas or are planning a visit to the Lone Star State and have an interest in stargazing, read on!
In this article we will share locations to see the most stars in Texas and tips so you can have a great experience enjoying the night sky.
Where Can I See the Stars in Texas?
If you look at a light pollution map and draw a line down the center of the United States from the north to the south, you would find the western side to be significantly less light polluted than the eastern half. So, if you are planning to see more stars in Texas, go west and try the state’s excellent state parks!
West of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex (DFW) and down to Austin, you’ll find some of the darkest skies in the country located in Texas. With 89 state parks, many of them can be found to be the perfect spots for stargazing. Some of these parks even have star parties and stargazing programs specifically for visitors to enjoy.
Texas Parks and Wildlife also has a number of programs outside of stargazing, so be sure to take them into consideration when planning your trip so you can make the most of your visit to these awesome camping locations.
Texas State Parks Dark Sky Guide
If you love to camp specifically to enjoy the night sky, we have shared our personal camping spreadsheet to help you quickly find the best campground to see the stars. Listed below the Google Sheet, we share what each categories represents.
If you are on a mobile device, slide the graph left or right to see more data.
Name: This is the name of the state park.
Region: This is the general region of the state where the park is located.
Dark Sky: This is the approximate Bortle level. Read this article first if you aren’t sure what we mean. Typically avoid red, orange, and yellow for the best stargazing.
Obstruction: How many trees will block your view of the sky? “Open” gives you the best chance of having a clear view at almost all campsites. “Partial” means there are some sites with clear views and some without. “Obstructed” means most campsites have a blocked view of the sky.
Special Notes: Since we mainly camp in an RV, this column of the spreadsheet helps you see if it is a state park that only offers tent camping or if there is no camping. We have also used a strikethrough to cross out the parks currently where no camping is allowed.
The first step in finding a camping spot for stargazing is finding a spot that has little to no light pollution. If you have never observed the night sky away from city lights, this will be an experience you won’t soon forget! When looking at a light pollution map, we like to choose locations that are coded in the green, blue, and gray areas. The Milky Way is very hard to observe in anything more light polluted than green. There will be a pleasant improvement going from white and red down to yellow and orange, but I suggest you use our guide to select parks from green, blue, and gray when planning a stargazing trip. It’s where Jason and I prefer to stay when camping and shooting the stars.
Even the darkest skies in the world suffer when the moon is out.
When planning a stargazing trip, be sure to align your travels when the moonlight is at its lowest. If you are traveling when there is a full moon, check the rise and set times to see if you will have some time in the night to go outside and enjoy the stars before the moon rises or after it sets. This is especially important during meteor showers, so be sure to plan accordingly so you don’t end up disappointed. We like to use moonlight as a source of light in our landscape as we wait for the moon to set. A moonlit sky can be beautiful on its own, so be creative with it!
Aside from light pollution, there are a number of factors to take into consideration when searching for a campsite. Unobstructed views of the sky is a must when planning a dark sky trip. This increases your chances of getting the most out of your experience by allowing you to see it all. It is best to select campsites that are free from large trees and we recommend you use a satellite search such as Google Earth to find the best open sites a park has to offer.
Campsites on a hill, rather than in a basin or at the base of a hill are optimal. Our guide gives a general idea on how obstructed a campground is. If there are sites that have visibility, it will be listed as partial. If partial visibility is hard to come by from the campsite, we have listed those campgrounds as obstructed. It is always best to check the satellite maps for confirmation when booking a site at any park.
Local Light Pollution
Now that you have found a state park that has a campground with dark skies and unobstructed views of the sky, it is now time to consider local light pollution. This is light pollution that is created by the park facilities or your local campers in adjacent sites. Typically park facilities such as the restroom and shower buildings will have light on. If you select a site right next to these, you might find the lights here affect your night vision and view of the sky. For most people who plan to stargaze with their eyes, this may be of no consequence. However, for those planning to shoot some landscape astrophotography, I encourage you to take note of this, especially if you are planning to photograph from your campsite.
A more important source of light are those from your fellow campers. Many people will hang string lights around their site, or leave their exterior RV lights on overnight. This will impact your photography, so it is best to choose a site that is set apart from others so the light they put out doesn’t influence your work.
Now that you have booked the best stargazing camping trip, the only thing left is to cross your fingers for clear skies. Unfortunately, even the best planned trips get rained on. When this happens to us, we shoot time lapse videos! There is something beautiful about watching the independent movement of the clouds and stars across the sky. Time-lapse videos of stars peeking out from behind clouds or of a passing storm have been some of my favorite shoots!
Check out our Texas stargazing F.A.Q. page, for more information on questions you might have about stargazing in this amazing state!
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.