When was the last time you stargazed? With the massive increase of light pollution, you may need to drive pretty far away from civilization to catch a glimpse of the Milky Way — no longer visible to two-thirds of the U.S. population.
Now’s the time to get out there with your family and friends to appreciate the night sky. To help you narrow down where to plan your trip, we’ve selected 12 of the best places for stargazing in the United States.
12 Best Places for Stargazing in the United States
Stargaze thousands of miles from any harmful lamps
Mauna Kea, Hawaii
Sixty times larger than the Hubble telescope and high above a 14,000-foot volcano is perched the Mauna Kea observatory. This location is the prime place to view the stars due to its dry atmosphere and cloud-free skies. It gets very little light pollution, especially since it’s smack in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.View Hotels Near Mauna Kea
Glimpse the divine Southern Cross in Florida’s Big Pine Key
Big Pine Key, Florida
Big Pine Key is one of the most sparsely populated areas in Florida and is relatively free of that awful light pollution. It’s also the only place in the continental U.S. where you can glimpse stars usually only seen by those living closer to the equator, including the Southern Cross constellation. Since Florida nights are hot, you’ll be stargazing comfortably in tank tops and shorts.View Hotels in Key West
Do a starlit hike in Colorado
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
The higher you climb, the further you’ll get away from the city lights of nearby Boulder and Denver and experience the darkness that reigns in the higher altitudes of Rocky Mountain National Park. Winter is the best time for stargazing because of the cooperation of atmospheric conditions.View Hotels in Boulder
Feel tiny under the shadow of the Milky Way
Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania
This remote park is one of the best places to stargaze on the East Coast and is one of the few International Dark Sky Parks in the U.S. For the sake of stargazing, keep your flashlight angled to the ground or use a red light filter to help protect the skies. Under the best conditions, the Milky Way is so bright it actually casts a shadow!
Twinkling lights above, below and behind you
Griffith Observatory, California
Perched up high and away from the distraction of the Los Angeles city lights, you’ll be able to see stars and planets thanks to some very powerful equipment. Not only that, you’ll be within sight of the Hollywood sign and get a fantastic view of the city. The observatory has also been the set of movies like “Rebel Without a Cause” and several “Terminator” movies.View Hotels in Los Angeles
See the bridge separating heaven and earth
Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah
This national park has a program that will teach you about the ins and outs of astronomy. Following the informative sessions, they provide you with telescopes to get a closer look at the stunning spectacle of stars that takes place in this Gold International Dark Sky Park.
A possible portal to visit Andromeda
Big Bend National Park, Texas
The lack of clouds, low humidity and remote location of Big Bend National Park lets its visitors see the Andromeda galaxy, 2 million light-years away! Remember to visit during a moonless night (May 28, June 27, July 26). This park is another “International Dark Sky Park“, so you are likely to be joined by a bevy of astronomers who have helpful tips and tricks during your stargazing expedition.View Hotels in Big Bend
One step closer to Heaven in Death Valley
Death Valley, Nevada
With less than two inches of rain a year (clear skies) and as the newest member of the International Dark Sky Park club, Death Valley guarantees the perfect stargazing conditions. Spring and Fall offer the comfiest nighttime temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s.View Hotels Near Death Valley
Don’t trip over a dino footprint in this Dark Sky park
Clayton Lake State Park, New Mexico
This bird sanctuary has become a mecca for avid stargazers. This is another Dark Sky Park, and officials often put on stargazing parties that provide information and tips for visitors. Another cool feature of the park is the abundance of dinosaur footprints.View Hotels in Clayton
Stargaze with your toes in the ocean
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
The night sky over Cape Cod provides clear views of a gorgeous sky. Locals recommend Surfside Beach, Nantucket Island and Chatham Light Beach for the best stargazing since they are removed enough from the distracting lights of residents. Since summer is tourist season, catch the best views during the off-season in late fall, winter and early spring.View Hotels in Cape Cod
No lights allowed at the Bosque Del Apache Wildlife Preserve! Due to the thousands of snow geese that depart from here on their annual migration at dawn, no lights are allowed since they can throw the birds off course. This promises perfect stargazing conditions, but be careful not to frighten the poor creatures who call this preserve home.
Watch the stars just melt into the ocean
Bar Harbor, Maine
The lack of light pollution and lack of population makes Maine a fantastic place overall to drop your head back and look at the stars. Bar Harbor has taken serious steps to keep the skies of the Acadia National Park as dark as possible with town lighting ordinances. This is a great place to see the stars right beside the ocean. How idyllic!View Hotels in Bar Harbor
Feature photo courtesy of Robson Hatsukami Morgan, Unsplash