It’s hard to believe in this fast-paced, populated continent that there are still places devoid of light pollution, offering us stunning exploration of the wonders of space. 

Just because it’s a national park doesn’t mean it offers excellent stargazing. The best stargazing in the U.S.A is dependent on atmospheric conditions, city light pollution, and remoteness of the spot. 

If you are looking to take some stargazing trips in the U.S.A, we have collected our top 10 favorite destinations and the gear you will need for an excellent glimpse into space. 

1. Mauna Kea | HAWAII

It takes two hours to drive to the 13,796-foot summit of Mauna Kea, where you will find the world’s largest optical telescope. Mauna Kea is the most advanced astronomical observatory in existence. It is an observatory that sits on a volcano at nearly 14,000 feet tall. Mauna Kea is one of the best places to stargaze because it sits in the middle of the Pacific Ocean without any city lights 

2. Rocky Mountain National Park | COLORADO 

The Rocky Mountain National Park offers stargazers outstanding views of the universe beyond our atmosphere. There are plenty of places to search for constellations and meteors, but favorites include the Trail Ridge Road and lakes like Poudre Lake or Bear Lake. 

3. Cherry Springs State Park | PENNSYLVANIA

In 2014, the northern lights, usually only visible in high-latitude regions, were spotted four times in the 82-acre Cherry Springs State Park. Astronomers and stargazers trek to Cherry Springs in September each year for the Black Forest Star Party.  

4. Bryce Canyon National Park and Arches National Park | UTAH

Pollutants and city lights are not an issue in Bryce Canyon and Arches National Park, making for some of the best stargazing in the U.S.A. There are over 7,500 stars viewable with the naked eye at Bryce Canyon. “Dark Rangers” offer stargazing programs with an opportunity to peer through a high-powered telescope to see the sky.

At Arches National Park, there are over 2,500 stars to see clearly in the night sky. Sign up for a Night Sky Program during the summer and a ranger-led program in the spring and the fall.

5. Denali National Park and Preserve | ALASKA

The northern lights, or Aurora borealis, are a sight to see at Denali National Park. The northern lights are focused around the earth’s magnetic poles, and Denali is right up there. With the lack of city lights and the remoteness of Denali National Park, there is nothing here to interrupt your stargazing.

6. Glacier National Park | MONTANA

The summer boasts some of the darkest nights in Glacier National Park, where the views of the sky here are epic. No city lights, no pollution, high elevation, and dry atmosphere all equal spectacular stargazing.  

7. Death Valley National Park | CALIFORNIA

Death Valley National Park is 3.4 million acres of skies filled with stargazing opportunities. Death Valley is an International Dark Sky Park that’s been awarded the gold certification. Death Valley National Park is not only one of the darkest spots in the U.S., but it’s also one of the most remote.

8. Chaco Culture National Historical Park | NEW MEXICO

With over 4,000 archeological sites dating back to prehistoric times, there is much to see and appreciate at Chaco Culture National Historical Park. The San Juan Basin keeps the lights out, so the only way to access the area is by dirt road. Chaco Culture National Historical Park is a gold-certified International Dark Sky Park.

9. Grand Canyon National Park | ARIZONA

The Grand Canyon is one of the most visited destinations in the United States, from canyon to rim to sky. The dark nights offer amazing views of faraway planets and nebulae in addition to a plethora of stars

10. Big Bend National Park | TEXAS

Located near the Mexican border in southwest Texas, Big Bend has almost no light pollution and is the largest protected area of Chihuahuan Desert topography and ecology in the United States. Here, the stars are abundant for those who appreciate galaxies and planets. 

How to Stargaze Like a Pro

Don’t get caught out in the dark wilderness without the gear you need to be a successful stargazer. Find out how to stargaze by checking out this list of important equipment and gear to bring along (or leave behind) on your next star safari. 

Equipment and Gear

  • A telescope is an ideal piece of equipment to bring along in a stargazing experience, but you don't need it. 
  • Bring binoculars for bringing up detail of galaxies and nebulae. 
  • Star charts or maps help identify your findings. The David S. Chandler Night Sky Planisphere is a rotating star wheel that you hold up to the sky.
  • Take a headlamp to help find the perfect spot to set up your telescope, camera, or blanket. 
  • Bring a red flashlight. The red filter has a less jarring effect on your eyes in the dark.
  • Download apps for a virtual star identifier, such as the SkyView Lite app or SkySafari
  • Be prepared for cold nights by bringing warm clothes.
  • Bring an astronomical log book to record your stargazing observations.

Road Scholar Stargazing 

At Road Scholar, we take travelers on stargazing trips to the National Parks around the country. Book with Road Scholar today for travelers who love to learn. 

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