Star Struck: Where to Revel in the Night Sky

Get starry-eyed when you escape the city lights.

Look up the next time you’re off the beaten path. You might catch a fabulous show as stars, planets and other heavenly bodies appear in the night sky. But you’ve got to be in the right place to see them. Travelers on the eastern coast of the U.S., or in densely populated areas, face competition from a lot of light pollution. Try venturing out West, or visit a dark-sky accredited spot, like the ones on our list, and you’ll go home with stars in your eyes. 

Badwater Basin at Death Valley National Park 

Badwater Basin at Death Valley National Park 

The Orion Constellation illuminates Badwater Basin at Death Valley National Park.

Photo by: Tyler Nordgren/Death Valley National Park

Tyler Nordgren/Death Valley National Park

Cherry Springs State Park, Coudersport, PA

Named for the many cherry trees in the park, Cherry Springs State Park is surrounded by Susquehannock State Forest, which helps shield it from outside lights. For a site on the eastern seaboard, it’s unusually dark at night. Carry a telescope or binoculars (at least 7x50 power is recommended) for star-watching, or simply enjoy the view with your naked eyes. This park offers programs to the public every August, during the Perseids Meteor Shower, and sometimes hosts other starry events. 

Stars at Cherry Springs State Park in Pennsylvania

Stars at Cherry Springs State Park in Pennsylvania

Visitors enjoy the Black Forest Star Party at Pennsylvania’s Cherry Springs State Park.

Photo by: Terence Dickinson/Cherry Springs Night Sky at the Black Forest Star Party

Terence Dickinson/Cherry Springs Night Sky at the Black Forest Star Party

Death Valley National Park, CA 

Death Valley is the hottest place in the world, but it’s perfect for star gazing. After the sun sets, watch for meteors streaking across the sky or the ghostly pattern of the Milky Way. This national park is certified as the largest dark sky park in the national park system. Rangers lead sky-watching programs in the winter and spring; check before you visit to see when various astronomy groups plan to hold special events.

Photo by: National Park Service

National Park Service

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, Fredericksburg, TX

Located in rural Central Texas, Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is dark enough to see shooting stars and identify many constellations. The Hill Country Astronomers occasionally hold Rock Star Parties here. The parties are open to the public for a small fee; check ahead for a schedule. Bring a flashlight with a red lens, or some red cellophane to cover the lens, when you visit; white lights affect your night vision. Telescopes are provided, but there’s usually a lot of demand for them, so BYOT (bring your own telescope). 

Stargazing at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area in Texas

Stargazing at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area in Texas

Stars seem to wheel overhead at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, in Texas.

Photo by: Chase Fountain/TPWD

Chase Fountain/TPWD

Big Pine Key and the Lower Keys, Florida

Look for the Southern Cross when you visit Florida’s Big Pine Key or the Lower Keys. You’ll see southern constellations and other celestial marvels here that aren’t visible from almost anywhere else in the continental U.S. Big Pine Key gets extra protection from artificial lighting to help safeguard the nesting sea turtles and endangered Key deer that make their homes there. Everglades National Park is another spectacular sight for seeing comets, meteors and more. Consider a cruise when you visit; you can often get great views of the stars, moon and planets from the water, depending on the time of year and atmospheric conditions. 

Comet Hyakutake streaks over the Florida Everglades.

Photo by: Dr. Lester Shalloway and R. Scott Ireland/Southern Cross Astronomical Society

Dr. Lester Shalloway and R. Scott Ireland/Southern Cross Astronomical Society

National Bridges National Monument, Lake Powell, UT

Looking through Owachomo Bridge, the natural rock formation at this national monument, is like peering through a frame at the stars. Located in southeastern Utah, Natural Bridges National Monument has modified its outdoor fixtures to limit light pollution, using shielded bulbs that point toward the ground. Astronomers praise the beautiful contrast you can see here between the bright stars and the dark canyon walls. 

Blue Ridge Observatory and Star Park, Spruce Pine, NC

Managed by Mayland Community College, this star park is located near Pisgah National Forest. Ground has already been broken for a planned observatory that will sit atop a 2,736 foot-high peak. It’s expected to house a Newtonian telescope with a 34” mirror, which will be the largest telescope in the southeast open for educational as well as public use. Blue Ridge Star Park uses state-of-the-art LED bulbs for its outside lights, which conserve energy while helping protect the beauty of the dark sky.  

Next Up

7 Things You Can't Miss on Kauai

As one of the oldest islands in Hawaii's chain, this lush destination has much to offer.

6 Fun Day Trips from Washington, D.C.

There’s a lot to do in our nation's capital but sometimes you just want to get out of town. Here are six fun day trips.

4 Must-Try Portland Brunch Spots

Dishing up a lot more than just bacon and eggs.

11 Things Not to Miss in San Francisco

Christine Williams and Jules Hatfield from Don't Forget to Move, tell us how to do San Francisco right, on  a shoestring budget.

7 Fun Things to Do on Your Fort Myers Vacation

From sunset kayaking to delicious eats, there is so much to explore in southwest Florida's island sanctuary.

The Newest Reasons to Visit Miami Beach

Learn about Miami Beach's newest hotels, restaurants and more.

Memphis: An Insider's Guide to This Funky Southern City

Experience the city's lesser known wonders.

10 Wild West Family Adventures

Discover how Buffalo Bill, U.S. soldiers, railroaders and Pony Express riders opened the west.

Be Fit And Fabulous in Hawaii

Health and wellness are trending in paradise.

The Top 5 Places to Eat Poke in Hawaii

What better way to eat your favorite seafood than deliciously raw in a traditional poke bowl?