There was once a time when anyone in the world could look up at the night sky and see unlimited stars. If you live in a city, it’s probably been a while since you’ve seen the Milky Way. If you live in the suburbs, there might be a few visible constellations. Even rural places suffer from the effects of light pollution. If you ever find yourself missing the stars, check out these places. They have some of the darkest skies in the world.
1. Death Valley National Park, California
Don’t let the name fool you. Death Valley is a place of beauty, life and stars. Known as “the land of extremes,” Death Valley National Park has 3.4 miles of open wilderness with virtually no light pollution. The park comes alive at night. Because of the heat, most animals are nocturnal and emerge with the stars when the sun goes down. If you want to see a lunar eclipse or meteor showers, there is no better place. Another Gold-Certified Dark Sky Park, Death Valley has a dry climate with clean air which makes stargazing that much easier.
Photo courtesy | John Buie
2. Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania
If you live on the Northeast coast and you’re tired of city lights, this state park is perfect for you. One of the darkest skies on the east coast, Cherry Springs is named for its large black cherry trees. It is located on a mountain surrounded by the Susquehannock State Forest. The remote wilderness offers perfect dark skies at night for seeing the Milky Way. They have a Night Sky Viewing area for those just wanting to see the stars for a few hours and other options for serious astronomers and stargazers. On the perfect night, a traveler can see 10,000 stars with his naked eye.
Photo courtesy | Ben Ferenchak
3. Big Bend National Park, Texas
Big Bend is known for its fossils and dinosaur bones, miles of hiking trails, rich ecology, volcanic dikes and desert landscape. But at night, there are even more beautiful sights to see. Located in Southwest Texas, this area is isolated and protected with nights so dark viewers can easily see planets and meteorites. Unsurprisingly, the park received a gold certification as an International Dark Sky Park after going through drastic energy reduction.
Photo courtesy | Vincent Lock
4. Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah
This area is known for its natural bridges, most of them caused by a river changing course thousands of years ago. During the day, the bridges are certainly awe-inspiring. But at night, the bridges add more wonder to the vast view of stars, planets and other bodies in space. The park also has “potholes” which are natural occurring sandstone basins which collect rainwater. While urban environments allow you to see roughly 500 stars, this park on a perfect night will reveal 15,000 stars to those who wander outside the city limits.
Photo courtesy | Harlen Adams
5. Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico
The Chaco Culture National Park is rich with history. The park offers guided tours, biking and hiking trails with evening campfires to help visitors understand the great history of Chaco, a place of ancestral Puebloan culture. It has a high desert landscape with monumental ancient architecture still partially upheld today. With over 4,000 prehistoric archeological sites, the park can only be reached by dirt roads. Stargazing here not only offers the chance to see a sky rich in astronomical wonders, but also a chance to look back in time and see what our human ancestors saw.
Photo courtesy | Norby Anderson