11 Underrated Places to Stargaze in the U.S.
Stargazing has become a widespread practice as a new way to relieve stress and connect with nature while leaving our busy lifestyle behind. Studies have found that the night sky brings inexplicable calm to our minds and bodies. As soon as you look to the stars, the tension you accumulate for different reasons will start to loosen.
Looking to the stars gives us a sense of awe and forces us to pause, observe, and reflect, bringing several benefits for our physical and mental well-being. Include stargazing as one of the winter activities that can help us to experience a happier life.
Some of the benefits stargazing provides are:
Promotes selfless and positive social behavior. Connecting with the big dark sky reminds us that there’s more going on than our busy lives, and this sense of awe stimulates kind and helpful social conduct.
Relieve stress. Taking a break from our busy lives finding a moment of calm can help us to relieve stress and experience mental silence.
Boosts creativity. Looking up at the stars while being in the moment, our conscious mind quiets down, our subconscious mind steps into play, and our imagination can roam free.
Stargazing is a magical and inexpensive activity we can enjoy at various times of the year. Although having access to a modern telescope allows an excellent view of the stars, binoculars can also work to have a close-up view of the moon and its craters. If you wonder when is the perfect time to go out to see the stars, fall is the favorite season for many skywatchers since it gets dark earlier and the night temperatures are still comfortable.
Studies have found that 80 percent of Americans can no longer see the Milky Way from their homes. Since now it’s hard to stargaze in our backyards, where light pollution can get in the way, all we have to do is go away from the big cities to have a good view of the stars. For those who want to enjoy skies dark enough to see countless twinkling stars, along with various planets and constellations, here is a list of 11 stargazing destinations around the U.S., little known to many and the best places to stay during your adventure.
1. Animas Mountain Trail (Durango, CO)
Colorado provides plenty of unique locations to stargaze. One example is Animas Mountain Trail, a 6-mile loop trail near Durango, Colorado, that becomes the perfect place to go stargazing at night. After climbing more than 1,500 feet up the mountain and enjoying breathtaking views, you’ll get a clear 360-degree nighttime view.
You can turn this adventure into a luxurious vacation due to the proximity to a great vacation destination like Durango, where you can find many lodging options. You can choose from iconic hotels to private mountain view vacation rentals and continue gazing at the dark sky.
2. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (Borrego Springs, CA)
California has the most amazing spots, a haven for stargazers and those who love to connect with nature. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the largest in California and has been designated an International Dark Sky Park. If you’d like to learn about what you’re seeing, you can schedule a night tour with an astronomer or visit the small observatory at the RV resort The Springs at Borrego that hosts public viewings and lectures.
Exploring this park is the ideal opportunity to enjoy a glamorous Californian destination such as Palm Springs, where you can find unique estate properties with views of the desert mountains and resort-style amenities.
3. Enchanted Rock State Natural Area (Fredericksburg, TX)
Night sky fans will find Fredericksburg to be one of the greatest sites in Texas to stargaze. Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, located just outside of Fredericksburg, is an International Dark Sky Park. Stargazing events are held regularly. It is highly encouraged that you make a reservation before visiting Enchanted Rock State Natural Area.
Fredericksburg is the most charming town in Texas, where you can find elegant shops and fine restaurants. In addition, this city offers a variety of lovely cabin rentals perfect for a stargazing adventure.
4. Mauna Kea Visitor Center (Hilo, Hawaii)
Stargazing on Mauna Kea at 9,000 feet, you will see thousands of stars. A few telescopes are available around the Visitor Center for the public, but you’ll probably spot long queues. The best of this stargazing high up in the mountain location is that the sky is so clear that you’ll be able to spot the stars with just the naked eye.
When you decide to take a trip to Hawaii to enjoy its spectacular dark skies, you will have at your disposal an endless number of top-quality accommodations from 5-star resorts to secluded oceanfront rentals and charming condos.
5. Minaret Vista (Mammoth Lakes, CA)
Minaret Vista is a favorite stargazing location with a stunning view of Mammoth Lakes’ characteristic skyline, the Minarets, part of the Ritter Range. If you want to go stargazing in the winter, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing are the way to access there. You can also see Mount Ritter at 13,157 feet and Banner Peak at 12,945 feet, the two tallest peaks in the range.
Mammoth Lakes is a year-round Adventureland where you can enjoy many outdoor activities to complement your stargaze getaway. This beautiful destination offers various lodging options to suit every vacation style, including luxurious hotels, unique B&Bs, cozy cabins, and condos.
6. Duck Beach (Outer Banks, NC)
Duck is a little town located on the Outer Banks known for its pristine beaches, water activities, and ideal location for the stargazer. With two gigantic bodies of water on both sides, we can see constellations all year-round. Duck beach is truly one of the best places on the east coast to enjoy the dark skies above.
Going on this outdoor adventure doesn’t mean you can’t stay in comfort and style. You can find numerous options for vacation home rentals and cottages where you can stay in the OBX.
7. Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park (Okeechobee, FL)
Kissimmee Prairie is one of the most incredible places in Florida for stargazing, recognized as Florida’s first Dark Sky Park since it is free of the pollution that plagues other big towns. Here you can spot the Milky Way in the night sky without using telescopes or binoculars, and you may be able to see Jupiter and Saturn.
Although this State Park closes at sunset, they offer many ways to access after-hours to the preserve to enjoy the dark skies. The Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park is a couple of hours driving from Orlando, a family-friendly destination known for its hospitality through its many hotels, resorts, and services for all budgets and tastes.
8. Myakka River State Park (Sarasota, FL)
The magnificent Myakka River runs across 58 square miles of Florida’s oldest and most expansive parks. If you enjoy stargazing, the Myakka River State Park in Sarasota is excellent for making sky-friendly discoveries. In beautiful darkness, you may view incredible astronomical marvels. All you need is your trusty telescope and wide-open space to take in the breathtaking views and landscapes.
Sarasota is a destination with an eclectic mix of culture and excellent cuisine, magnificent beaches, and a wide variety of shopping options. The Sarasota area offers accommodations to suit any need, from luxurious hotels to beautiful rental properties.
9. Jordanelle State Park (Park City, UT)
This Park has hosted dark sky events for over a decade, and the Nature Area harbors Jordanelle State Park’s darkest skies. Jordanelle State Park is close to Park City, Midway, and Heber City. The hills and mountains that surround mitigate the impact of artificial light generated by these communities making it an ideal area to contemplate the dark skies. The Park’s total land and water area are 6,704 acres, where visitors come to boat, fish, camp, picnic, watch wildlife, hike, and stargaze.
If you want to turn your stargazing trip into a celebrity-style getaway, be sure to reserve a place to stay in Park City, world-renowned for hosting the Sundance Film Festival.
10. Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch (Gilbert, AZ)
Whether you’re a beginner or an astronomy enthusiast, Phoenix and its unique surroundings are the finest places to find new stargazing opportunities. The Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch, which houses The Gilbert Rotary Centennial Observatory, is a must-see for anybody interested in learning more about the night sky. The observatory is accessible to guests every Friday and Saturday evening at nightfall.
You may upscale this stargazing in Arizona journey by staying in one of the many comfortable hotels and stunning vacation properties this area offers.
11. Pine Mountain Observatory (Bend, Oregon)
This Oregon Observatory at the Sunriver Nature Center is owned and operated by the University of Oregon and is about 19 miles southwest of Bend. They boast the most extensive collection in the entire country of telescopes for public use. In addition, there is an unimproved U.S. Forest Service campground adjacent to the observatory for visitors who want to combine serious stargazing with camping out under the stars.
When you decide to visit this observatory, you will be amazed by all the magnificent accommodations available in Bend. You can choose from stylish vacation homes, luxury condos, or cozy cabins.
Start planning a unique getaway to go look at the stars, get out your telescope, check out the International Dark-Sky Places map, and get on the road to check out amazing stargazing spots.