With space travel trending lately, you might wonder how you can get in on the fun. Thankfully, taking a journey to the world of above doesn’t mean you need a spacecraft. You can enjoy the splendor of the stars just by finding the right spot where ambient light is minimal and the mysterious night sky reigns supreme.
When it comes to finding the perfect place to star gaze, there are a few factors to consider. The visibility of celestial objects is affected by climate, timing, where you are in the world and “light pollution.”
Light pollution can be found in big cities that are well lit at night which dims the appearance of the stars. Think of a lit candle’s vibrancy when the lights are on in a room versus off.
You may have seen the glass igloos in Finland that give you a window to the Northern Lights. Or perhaps the hotels with floor to ceiling windows with natural views of the Milky Way like in Iceland. But there are spots that are at driving distance that will let you gaze at the stars and perhaps catch a meteor shower or shooting star.
Welcome to the world of astrotourism. Let’s find your next adventure …
If you reside in the northeast or even New England, it’s time to set aside a long weekend to visit Maine to see the remarkable sky full of stars that blanket the state. Maine has little to no light pollution, so you’re guaranteed to see a light show year-round and without a telescope.
Acadia National Park has made our list before for its hiking and skiing. It’s also ideal for stargazing with mandates that prevent light pollution from disrupting night sky’s splendor. It’s always the perfect spot to visit, but highest visibility of the stars is reported in July and August.
Moosehead Lake proves that you don’t have to leave the United States to catch a glimpse of the Milky Way. Located on the Maine Highlands region, Moosehead Lake has a shoreline that is mostly undeveloped and a stretch of water that is the largest in New England.
If you’re looking for more guidance from the experts, head to Primland Resort located in the highlands of Virginia where the Blue Ridge Mountains will take your breath away. This is an ideal road trip destination for anyone in the DC Metro area or the Carolinas. The Resort is equipped with an on-site observatory with high-powered telescopes and an astronomer to guide you through the celestial world. There are plenty of amenities and activities on the 12,000-acre property to enjoy during the day as well.
Shenandoah National Park is another stargazing destination in Virginia that is low on development and the light pollution that typically comes with it. The park also has astronomers that give presentations to help guide you through the vast cosmos. There are “Twilight Hiking” tours as well to give your legs some much needed movement after your road trip.
The Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is another great destination for anyone living in Texas or its surrounding states. One of the IDA International Dark Sky Parks, the land is protected for its distinct and extraordinary beauty and the quality of its stargazing environment. Only a handful of parks get the IDA designation which is what makes Enchanted Rock State Natural Area such a treasure to visit.
The Park has guided stargazing excursions for amateurs looking to learn. Seasoned pros can navigate the park easily on their own. There are also daytime excursions you can enjoy like birding, hiking or a nature walk to get to know the indigenous animal kingdom that adds to the Park’s magnificence.
Kickapoo Cavern State Park is another great destination that is located further from the big cities making it darker and thus the stars shine brighter. This option is best for anyone looking for a more intimate experience. Reservations are required and limited to 10 people.
Bryce Canyon is located in southern Utah and is known for its distinct scenery with red rock, pink cliffs and a distinct rock formation that its famous for called “hoodoos.” This is perhaps the most unique destination spot on the list. There truly is nothing like it in the world and is a must see for anyone, especially if it’s only in driving distance for you.
The 35,000-acre national park has Astronomy Rangers ready to take you on a guided tour of the best spots for stargazing. The Astronomy Night Programs will give amateurs and seasoned pros alike an expert guide to the starry night sky. The park even hosts an annual 4-day Astronomy Festival for serious visitors looking to celebrate the majesty of the natural vistas on land and up above.
If you’re on the West Coast and you’re looking for some good stargazing, Southern California is the way to go.
Of course, top on our list is Joshua Tree National Park. The dessert landscape is protected from overdevelopment so you can rest assured that light pollution is limited. Joshua Tree National Park has endless vistas that include the Mojave and Sonoran desserts with the Coachella Valley near Palm Springs. With over 800,000 acres of terrain to explore, you could take multiple road trips here and discover something new each time. Joshua Tree is also one of the few spots in the world where the Milky Way is visible. A must-see to absorb the Earth’s natural majesty.
Anza-Borrego State Park is another hot spot for avid star gazers. In-house astronomers host Borrego Night Sky Tours that are a must for anyone looking for the best experience possible.
Embarking on a road trip to any of the spots mentioned above? Don’t forget to tag Samsara Luggage on Instagram. We’d love to share your photos on one of our stories!