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12 Best Places for Stargazing in the United States

By , May 16th, 2014

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

[caption id="attachment_5111" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Observatory Hawaii Mauna Kea Stargazing Above a 14,000-foot volcano is the best observatory in the world. (CC) Christosnyc[/caption]

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.

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Glimpse the divine Southern Cross in Florida’s Big Pine Key

[caption id="attachment_5125" align="aligncenter" width="667"]Florida Keys Stargazing The Milky Way from the Florida Keys. (CC) Art Mullis[/caption]

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.

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Do a starlit hike in Colorado

[caption id="attachment_5149" align="aligncenter" width="750"] Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado Stargazing Meteorite Shower at the Rocky Mountain National Park (CC) Wayne Boland[/caption]

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.

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Feel tiny under the shadow of the Milky Way

[caption id="attachment_5113" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Cherry Springs State Park Stargazing The perfect camping destination. Cherry Springs State park. (CC) John Blough[/caption]

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

[caption id="attachment_5148" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Griffith Observatory Los Angeles Stargazing The Griffith Observatory and the lights of L.A. (CC) Ron Reiring[/caption]

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.

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See the bridge separating heaven and earth

[caption id="attachment_5115" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Natural Bridges National Park Stargazing The Owachomo Bridge (CC) DannyMont[/caption]

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

[caption id="attachment_5116" align="aligncenter" width="694"]Big Bend National Park Stargazing The Texan Sky. (CC) Bala Sivakumar[/caption]

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.

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One step closer to Heaven in Death Valley

[caption id="attachment_5117" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Death Valley Stargazing The Death Valley Sky (CC) M Ge[/caption]

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.

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Don’t trip over a dino footprint in this Dark Sky park

[caption id="attachment_5118" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Clayton Lake State Park Stargazing The sky at Clayton Lake will make you feel tiny. (CC) Essayru[/caption]

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.

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Stargaze with your toes in the ocean

[caption id="attachment_5119" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Cape Cod Stargazing Perfect spot to view the Northeastern Sky (CC) Christopher Seufert[/caption]

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.

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Sparkling skies shared with soaring birds
[caption id="attachment_5150" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Bosque Del Apache Wildlife Reserve Stargazing Stargaze in solitude, surrounded by avian life (CC) US Fish and Wildlife Services[/caption]

Bosque Del Apache Wildlife Preserve, New Mexico

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!

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Feature photo courtesy of Robson Hatsukami Morgan, Unsplash