Best Places to See the Stars in the US
There are many places in the United States where you can see beautiful night skies, but the best places are known for their dark skies and minimal light pollution, typically state and national parks.
One of my favorite weekend getaways is to do an overnight trip to a nearby park. Depending on your desire for roughing it, you can either camp outside or get an AirBnB right near the park and simply cruise back to the house after dark. Here are some options:
Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania: This park has been designated as a Gold-Tier International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA). It's known for its fantastic stargazing opportunities and is a popular spot for astronomers. It's a bit of a drive from NYC, but worth the weekend trip when the weather is nice.
Joshua Tree National Park, California: One of my all time FAVORITES! At about 2 hours car ride from LA, it's simple to get to and fantastic. The park's high elevation and remote location make it an excellent spot for stargazing. It's also designated as a Gold-Tier International Dark Sky Park by IDA. Also not to be missed is the amazing desert sunset! I personally like to show up about 2 hours before sunset, and then do dinner over the fire before settling into some true star gazing.
Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, Arizona: This remote area of the Grand Canyon is one of the darkest places in the country and offers an unparalleled view of the night sky. If you have the chance to camp in the Grand Canyon, it's simply unbelievable. I did this right before COVID in February 2020 and the Milky Way views shocked me.
Great Basin National Park, Nevada: The park's high elevation and remote location make it an excellent spot for stargazing, it's also designated as a Gold-Tier International Dark Sky Park by IDA.
Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah: This park was the first International Dark Sky Park, it's known for its unique natural rock bridges and its clear night sky. If you're making more than just a weekend getaway out of it, make sure to also hit Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park a few hours away.
It is important to note that the best time to see the night sky is during the new moon phase. If you go out to star gaze and the moon is full you're not going to see many stars - the moon overwhelms all.
Wherever you're heading for the evening show, dress warmly! Most of the above locations are deserts, which means the temperatures will vary wildly from day to night. Don't be fooled by the warm daytime temperatures, and bundle up with clothing that is meant for temperatures just above freezing. You may find you want to layer a comfortable hoodie with a light jacket for the nighttime.