Star gazers and photographers head to national parks to view clear skies and starry nights. But the catch is that not all national parks have visible night skies due to cloud cover. These national parks showcase universal brilliance best.
1. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
When the sun ventures past the horizon, the moon rises above one of the best stargazing spots in the States. On a clear night, spectators can between 7,500-10,000 stars across the sky. Dark night tours and telescope viewings are available at Bryce Canyon Lodging during good weathered evenings. The Dark Ranger Tours can guide up to 300 people during the night sky tour.
2. Death Valley National Park, California
Death Valley’s proclaimed sky is also a meteorite shower hotspot. The International Dark Sky Association claims that stargazing offers, “views close to what could have been seen before the rise of cities,” due to extremely low light pollution.
3. Acadia National Park, Maine
One of the very few pristine-sky east coast parks, Acadia, features visible skies above, around and across the surrounding ocean. The park hosts the annual Astronomer’s League night festival, where star stricken lovers bring their telescopes and $15,000 camera lens to capture the best of the east coast skyline.
4. Joshua Tree National Park, California
The nighttime desert is an astronomical playground for star enthusiasts. Due to low humidity and light pollution, most nights feature clear skies year round. The Night Sky Program occurs February through May with opportunities to view the Milky Way or other star clusters and clouds with binoculars.
5. Denali National Park, Alaska
Denali stargazers may see one of the best night sky shows, Aurora Borealis. The northern lights are possible when the midnight sun is at rest. The northern lights generally occur during the cooler months of the year, with opportunities to see them during August after midnight through two in the morning. Other than Aurora, the night sky is clear and glistens above snow-capped peaks.
6. Great Basin National Park, Nevada
Located far enough away from the glistening lights of Vegas, Great Basin offers 360-degree views of stars and the night sky. The Milky Way rises from the park’s highest point known as Wheeler Peak. It is also an ideal location to view meteorite showers shooting past the planet.
7. Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico
For those seeking nebulas, supernovas and distant galaxies, visit Chaco to explore the night sky in its own observatory. The park is free from permanent lighting, so more than 99% of the park is considered a “natural darkness zone.” Ranger led night sky programs educate visitors on how the Native American culture connected to the painted celestial sky.
by Elizabeth Kovar