At some of America’s national parks, half the park is after dark! A whole new world comes alive at night at parks across the country, and many parks offer night sky programs. Explore some of the best national parks to explore the night sky.Less
One of the best places to view the Milky Way is Acadia National Park. Make your way to the summit of Cadillac Mountain to gaze at the night sky. Vehicle access to the summit is subject to night closures, but reservations aren't needed to hike or bike there. Pack something comfortable to sit/lie on, flashlights, or bike lights (ideally with a red-light function). If visiting during the winter season, check the park’s website for possible road closures.
The stars can be seen from just about anywhere at Arches National Park on a clear night. The farther north you drive, the darker the sky will be with the best views located at Balanced Rock Picnic Area, the Windows Section, Garden of Eden Viewpoint, and Panorama Point. Enjoy the concrete presentation bay, seating for 75 people, and telescope pads available at Panorama Point, just 30 minutes from the park’s visitor center. Check the park’s website for more information.
Summer nights at Badlands National Park are for night sky viewing! Join park rangers and astronomy volunteers each evening from Memorial Day through Labor Day at the Cedar Pass Amphitheater for a view of constellations, planets, and more than 7,500 stars. The annual three-day Badlands Astronomy Festival brings space science lovers together to celebrate the beauty of a dark night sky and the wonder of space exploration. Check the park’s website ahead for more information on these events.
Big Bend National Park has the darkest night skies of any other national park unit in the lower 48 states, designating this park as an outstanding location for stargazing. The staff and volunteers at Big Bend offer several night sky interpretive programs for visitors, such as star parties and moonlight walks. Camping is also a popular attraction at Big Bend, so be sure to check the park’s website for reservations.
With a host of outdoor activities to participate in, Big Cypress National Preserve is more than a vast swamp. From hiking and camping, to canoeing and kayaking, you can certainly fill your day with things to do. Join one of the park’s astronomy programs to learn more about the importance of the night sky, how it impacts wildlife, and how the night sky has been an inspiration for centuries. Be sure to check the park’s website for program schedules.
he story of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park dates back over 60 million years. Created by volcanic eruptions and the force of the Gunnison River, Black Canyon is known for its dark skies and the highest cliff in Colorado: Painted Wall. The annual Black Canyon Astronomy festival takes place on the South Rim, where visitors can participate in astronomy activities and telescope viewings with rangers and volunteers. Check the park’s website for more details.
Bryce Canyon National Park’s remote location and thin, clean air makes it a phenomenal place for stargazing, due to less air and light pollution. The high elevation at Bryce Canyon provides a breathtaking view of hundreds of miles into the desert, and you can even search the sky for the Andromeda Galaxy after dark. The park offers ranger programs, such as constellation tours and full moon hikes. Visit the park's website for program schedules and general park information.
Buffalo National River is 135 miles long, making it ideal for a variety of daytime water activities, but to some the fun starts after dark. The sound of the river while gazing up at the clear night sky surrounded by the Ozark mountains is an experience being preserved for future generations through the park’s efforts to adopt responsible outdoor lighting practices. Check the website for more information on star parties, ranger-led night sky programs, and ways to protect the night sky.
Canyonlands National Park is divided into 4 districts: Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze, and the rivers. While all share a desert atmosphere, they each have characteristics that keep visitors entertained from day to night. After sunset, Canyonlands reveals some of the darkest skies remaining in the U.S. Camping sites and backcountry opportunities are available, so be sure to pack appropriately for the park’s extreme temperatures. Check out the park’s website for a calendar of events.
Capitol Reef National Park became an International Dark Sky Park in 2015, designating it as one of the best night sky viewing opportunities. The park offers many locations to stargaze, including the Fruita Area, South (Waterpocket) District, and North (Cathedral) District. The park offers many tips and suggestions for visiting Capitol Reef to ensure your safety and an enjoyable experience. Check out the website for more information on night hiking and stargazing.