No City Lights Here: The Best Stargazing Sites in the U.S.
Cherry Springs State Park offer 360 degrees of night-sky viewing. (Photo: Kevin Wigell, Wikimedia Commons)
By Jayme Moye
Experiencing the full brilliance of a starry night sky is no longer a given when you step outside. Even on the clearest nights, artificial light from cities obscures the natural darkness, making nighttime skies look a lot less majestic than they should. Across the country, however, there are still vast swathes of wilderness that retain the natural lightscape. In these star-gazing destinations, you’re sure to be awestruck as you gaze up at the jaw-droppingly beautiful skies above.
Cherry Springs State Park
One of the darkest spots east of the Mississippi, Cherry Springs State Park became a Gold-Certified International Dark Sky Park, one of only a handful in the U.S., in 2008. Despite its proximity to urban areas, the 82-acre park is set atop a hill surrounded by the 262,000-acre Susquehannock State Forest and offers a 360-degree view of the night sky free from light pollution. In the summer, Cherry Springs serves up a robust schedule of sky tours on Friday and Saturday nights.
Insider Tip: Cherry Springs State Park’s Night Sky Viewing area, located north of Route 44 (opposite the gated Astronomy Observation Field), is always open. Here you’ll find public parking and information kiosks. Follow the walkway to the viewing area, which is shielded from passing vehicle lights.
Death Valley. (Photo: beboy / Shutterstock)
Death Valley National Park
For those hoping to see meteor showers or lunar eclipses, there is no better vantage point than Death Valley National Park. The park produces very little artificial light within its 3.4 million acres, 91% of which are designated as wilderness with no development. But what really makes this Gold-Certified International Dark Sky Park so special is the combination of dry climate, clean air, and an expansive horizon that seems to start at your feet.
Insider Tip: Steer clear of Death Valley in the summer, when temperatures soar well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Instead, plan your visit from November to April, when temperatures are in the 70s and park rangers lead night sky programs.