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The 12 Best Places to Stargaze in the U.S.

Humans have always been drawn to stargazing—and it’s easy to see why. The vast darkness juxtaposed against the brilliant dots of light evokes a sense of astronomical wonder that reminds us just how much more is out there beyond our own existence.

In recent years, stargazing tourism has boomed, with travelers seeking out the best spots around the world to get a clear glimpse of the night sky. But you needn’t cross an ocean for a better view: Plenty of incredible places right here in the U.S. rank as some of the best spots on earth for stargazing.

1. Death Valley National Park, California

Death Valley, Image by Wilson Ye

Death Valley National Park sits at 282 feet below sea level, making it the lowest land elevation on earth. You might think that the extra distance from the stars would make this destination less astronomically worthy, but the vast salt flats provide an exceptional escape from light pollution and even give way to the annual NASA-produced Death Valley Dark Sky Festival every February.

2. Big Bend National Park, Texas

Big Bend National Park, Image by Jesse Sewell

Head to Big Bend National Park if you’re seeking out crystal-clear views of the Milky Way and meteor showers. Big Bend is home to some of the darkest skies in the country, which means you’ll be able to see every constellation, especially in the summertime when the skies in the Northern Hemisphere are at their most clear.

3. Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park, Image Arubhav Saxena

This expansive canyon might be famous for its rock formations and sandstone cliffs, but once the sun goes down it’s easy to see why Zion is revered for its stargazing. Its wide-open and clear skies earned Zion an International Dark Sky Park certification. You may also book an organized camping tour to spend the night under the stars with a knowledgeable guide.

4. Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

Big Cypress National Park

Just one hour outside the bright lights of Miami, you’ll find Big Cypress National Preserve, which features some of the darkest skies in South Florida. Stargazers hungry for the best views and vantage points can participate in the Fox Astronomical Observatory’s weekly stargazing event held every Saturday at sunset.

5. Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Canyonlands National Park

This Gold-Tier International Dark Sky Park is widely recognized as one of the best places to stargaze in the country with over 337,000 acres of wide-open desert landscape. Canyon Lands National Park is also stunning come daytime thanks to its abundance of canyons and panoramic views.

6. Rappahannock County Park, Virginia

Big Meadows at Rappahannock County Park

This small preserve isn’t a national or state park, but Rappahannock County Park’s 7.3 acres offer one of the best (and only) places on the East Coast to catch a glimpse of the Milky Way. It has also earned an International Dark Sky Park certification. Rappahannock County is located just outside of the Appalachian Trail, which makes it an appealing detour for hiking enthusiasts as well.

7. Cosmic Campground, New Mexico

Image by Adventure_Photo

The Cosmic Campground was the very first destination in the country to receive recognition as an International Dark Sky Sanctuary. As a campground, the 3.5-acre site offers an easy and affordable way to spend the night under the starry skies.

8. Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California draws thousands of visitors each year for its unbelievable crystal blue hydrothermal waters, bubbling mud pods and stunning wildflower meadows. But stargazers argue that it’s even more stunning come sunset. To enhance the experience, the park features a ranger-led Starry Night Program to help night-sky fiends better understand the celestial sky.

9. Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Greater Basin National Park

It’s best to visit the Great Basin National Park in the summertime when the skies are at their most clear and the Milky Way can be easily spotted by the naked eye. The destination, located in Nevada at the Utah border, offers regular astronomy programs at its Astronomy Amphitheater for those looking for a more structured stargazing experience.

10. Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve, Idaho

Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve

Touted as America’s first Gold-Tier International Dark Sky Preserve, this remote area of Idaho boasts some of the darkest skies in the entire country, allowing you to see a whole lot of twinkling celestial objects that you won’t be able to see elsewhere. Grab a pair of binoculars and keep an eye out for everything from the Milky Way to the International Space Station, if you’re lucky.

11. Acadia National Park, Maine

Acadia National Park, Image by Adrian Pelltier

It’s not always easy to get a good look at the night sky on the East Coast of the country. But if you’re looking for stargazing in New England, you’ll want to consider a road trip to Acadia National Park in Maine. The best nighttime view in this acclaimed park is at the Cadillac Summit, but note that the road closes in the wintertime so you’ll want to plan your trip in the spring or summer.

12. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bryce Canion National Park, Image by Ken Cheung

Known for its breathtaking rock formations, you might only consider Bryce Canyon National Park for its daytime vistas, but the enormous reserve is well worth exploring after sunset. The park touts that on a clear, moonless night, more than 7,500 stars are visible, as well as certain planets, including Venus and Jupiter.

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