Dark Skies: The 16 Best Stargazing Destinations in the US

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Sonoran Desert National Monument
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Perseid meteor showers
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Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, California

Situated between mountain ranges and miles away from urban light pollution, Whiskeytown is a stargazing heaven favored by many astronomers including members of the Shasta Astronomy Club. Visit the area during the summer months for sky ranger-led programs and star parties.

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Man stargazing in North Carolina
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Cape Hatteras, North Carolina

Located in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Cape Hatteras is a photo-worthy destination for celestial viewings. The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse provides a stunning backdrop for the stars throughout the summer and early fall months.

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Popercorn Overlook night sky
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Popcorn Overlook, Georgia

Fall and winter are the best seasons for stargazing in Georgia, due to the decrease in humidity. Venture out to Popcorn Overlook between Clayton and Hiawassee, Georgia, and you'll find more than 60 miles of true wilderness and with virtually no light.

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dark skies away from city lights
©Bureau of Land Management California/Flickr, Creative Commons
Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument, California

Known for its scenic landscape, Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument is the perfect destination to hitch a tent, roll out a sleeping bag and stare up at the twinkling night sky.

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Night Sky at RiverWind Lodge
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Buffalo Outdoor Center: Ponca, Arkansas

After a day of relaxing in swimming holes and hiking in wilderness, retreat to RiverWind Lodge at the Buffalo Outdoor Center in Arkansas. This destination is favorable for couples seeking a romantic night under the stars.

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Sonoran Desert National Monument
©Bureau of Land Management/Flickr, Creative Commons
Sonoran Desert National Monument, Arizona

Wildlife viewing, hiking and sightseeing are just a few of the activities to try after a night of astronomy at the Sonoran Desert National Monument. The area's unique vegetation makes a great photo subject with the starry sky in the background.

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night sky
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Pickett Memorial State Park, Tennessee

You don't need a telescope to see the stars at Pickett Memorial State Park. Just grab a folding chair, keep light to a minimum and marvel at the clear horizons. Plus, Pickett is listed as a certified dark sky viewing location by the International Dark-Sky Association.

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Stargazing in the valley
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Panoche Hills, California

Grab a telescope and head to Marina, California, where low ambient light in the Panoche Hills region creates an ideal stargazing environment for both professional and amateur cosmologists. 

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Vintage car in front of a dark sky
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Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Located more than 200 miles from large cities, Petrified Forest National Park displays awe-inspiring night skies for backpackers who camp overnight in the wilderness area. The region's low humidity attributes to its clear, dark skies. 

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milky way above saint mary lake in glacier national park
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Glacier National Park, Montana

This UNESCO biosphere reserve and world heritage site located within a rugged mountain terrain is home to dark night skies. It's so dark and clear that the Milky Way can be seen with the naked eye.

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Milky way galaxy and stars from Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
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Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Colorado

Another great location for viewing the Milky Way, Black Canyon of the Gunnison possesses areas where it's possible to see up to 15,000 stars throughout the night. The park is always open for solo-viewing, but visit the park from May through September to hear discussions from rangers and astronomers.

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night sky shot against the silhouette of pine tree in Everglades National Park
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Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

The Big Cypress National Preserve has one of the darkest skies in the Eastern United States, which is why the park's rangers lead tours and telescope viewings. Here, visitors can peak at star clusters, planets, nebulae and more.

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Milky Way rising over the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park
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Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

One of the best places for stargazers in the United States, the rangers at the Grand Canyon offer constellation tours and telescope viewings on the South and North Rim. The park will also host a star party from June 22-29, 2019. 

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Cherry Springs State Park
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Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania

Visitors to Cherry Springs State Park in may catch glimpses of constellations, asteroids, Omega Nebula and the Andromeda Galaxy, so rent out one of the park's Astro Cabins to watch the natural wonders.

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dark skies away from city lights
©Bureau of Land Management California/Flickr, Creative Commons
Afton Canyon Campground, California

Located in the desert just two hours away from Las Vegas, Afton Canyon is a perfect destination for stargazing, as there's very little light pollution to interfere with the night skies.

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Milky Way over Craters of The Moon National Preserve Idaho Landscape
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Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho

Thought the name of this park gives it away, Craters of the Moon is an Astrophile favorite. The park, which is a designated dark sky viewing site, hosts star parties and astronomer-led events from the Idaho Falls Astronomical Society.

By Jasmyn Snipes Louis

There's something inspiring about looking up at the sky above and marveling at the stars, galaxies and other celestial bodies that paint our landscape.

Whether you consider yourself a professional astronomer or an amateur astrophile, the national parks and recreational areas across America offer ample opportunity to view twinkling stars. At these starry destinations, visitors can join star parties or venture out on a solo exploration to discover true dark skies. 

Jasmyn Snipes Louis
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