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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

10 Top Dark Sky Parks in the United States

Plan an unforgettable stargazing outing to one of these light-free destinations across America. Here are some dark sky parks –

Great Basin National Park: Nevada

For a stargazing adventure filled with all kinds of space-themed activities, travel a few miles west of the Nevada-Utah border to Great Basin National Park. Located about halfway between Las Vegas and Salt Lake City, this national park – which is free to visit year-round – features topography that helps shield it from light pollution. As a result, conditions are ideal for stargazing.

Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park: Okeechobee, Florida

Visit one of Florida’s largest state parks to see bright stars above native palmetto trees and grasses. In this 54,000-acre park situated 63 miles west of Vero Beach, you’ll catch a glimpse of stars, planets and more once the sun sets. However, after-hours access is limited to select visitors, so plan accordingly. Unless you have a Florida State Parks Family Annual Pass and request an after-hours permit.


Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve: Idaho

If you want your surroundings to resemble what you may see up above, head to Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in southern Idaho. At this preserve roughly 65 miles southeast of Sun Valley, you’ll find more than 53,000 acres of volcanic terrain that looks like it belongs on the moon. But don’t limit yourself to hiking its rugged trails and exploring its cool caves during the day.

Big Bend National Park: Texas

Big Bend National Park’s isolated location in western Texas by the U.S.-Mexico border makes it an ideal place to go stargazing. At this roughly 801,000-acre swath of protected Chihuahuan Desert land, you’ll discover few tourists and little light pollution, so you can gaze at the night sky without worrying about obstructions. The park charges a $30 per vehicle entrance fee and is open year-round.

Natural Bridges National Monument: Lake Powell, Utah

Natural Bridges National Monument may be best known as the home of Sipapu Bridge. And the second-largest natural bridge in the U.S. You’d be remiss if you didn’t plan an epic stargazing outing during your visit. Because of its remote location on southeastern Utah’s Colorado Plateau, the monument boasts some of the darkest skies in the country. Which gives you the opportunity to see up to 15,000 stars on any given night.

Headlands International Dark Sky Park: Mackinaw City, Michigan

Head to Headlands International Dark Sky Park to stargaze without straying too far from civilization. Despite sitting close to downtown Mackinaw City on Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, Headlands rarely encounters light pollution. So you’ll enjoy phenomenal views no matter when you visit. Arrive in summer to see the Milky Way and meteor showers or visit during the spring or autumnal equinox to admire the awe-inspiring northern lights.

Chaco Culture National Historical Park: New Mexico

Chaco Culture National Historical Park appeals to travelers who want to add a dose of culture to their stargazing vacation. More than 99% of this Dark Sky Park falls within a “natural darkness zone”. Which makes it an excellent place to stargaze without light pollution.

Death Valley National Park: California and Nevada

Considered America’s hottest and driest national park. This low-lying area 268 miles east of Sequoia National Park features an arid landscape fitting of its name. Though many people come to Death Valley National Park to hike its numerous trails and see the sites that represented Tatooine in multiple “Star Wars” films, others know to visit at night when thousands of stars are visible.

James River State Park: Gladstone, Virginia

It is situated approximately halfway between Lynchburg and Charlottesville in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. James River State Park boasts 1,561 acres of land ideal for hiking, kayaking and, of course, stargazing.  At this Dark Sky Park, which charges $5 per vehicle for entry, you can stargaze on your own with a pair of binoculars. Also view the night sky through telescopes provided by local astronomy groups during special evening programs.

So, you know about some of the best dark sky parks. Which one you are deciding to go? Do not forget to check other travel related contents.


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