This blog post was updated on June 27, 2022.
If you live in a city, you might get bummed out every time a super cool astronomical event is about to happen. There’s so much light pollution around major cities, you’re lucky if you can spot the Big Dipper, let alone an interesting astronomical anomaly. Sometimes, getting the clearest view is totally worth the two-hour drive out of town!
To help you get a head start to the best vantage points from which to gaze up at the stars, we’ve put together the ultimate list of “dark sites” in the United States. Yes, that a real term. A dark site is a place that’s officially measured and recognized by the International Dark-Sky Association as a location with little to no light pollution, giving you the best unadulterated views of space. Happy stargazing!
The Cosmic Campground, New Mexico
We start our meteoric journey with the darkest place in the United States! Located in the Gila National Forest outside Glenwood, New Mexico, the “Cosmic Campground” is as dark a place as you’ll find stateside. The nearest source of artificial light is more than 40 miles away from this amazing spot, making it a “must do” for stargazers and a favored location to gather with likeminded fellows just in time for International Asteroid Day and Meteor Watch Day, both of which take place every June 30th.
Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Once the sun sets at Canyonlands National Park, the shadows created by its breathtaking canyons and unique rock formations are truly mesmerizing. The scene is peaceful rather than eerie, and that’s why it’s an amazing place from where to explore the vastness of the starry night sky all year long.
Brockway Mountain, Michigan
Brockway Mountain is about as far north as you can get in Michigan without being in Lake Superior itself. Located just west of Copper Harbor on the Upper Peninsula, Brockway Mountains features a scenic driving route that takes you to the summit of the mountain, where views are unparalleled due to the beautiful dark skies. If you go at the right time of year (April, October, and November are best), you can even stare in wonder at the Aurora Borealis!
Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
When it comes to looking for great places for stargazing, you can’t go wrong by heading to Alaska’s Denali National Park. Not only do you get to enjoy amazing natural beauty during the day, but also get to marvel at the wide open heavens at night. Denali Park is an especially great place to view the Aurora Borealis, although you should definitely check the Aurora forecast to make sure you have the best chance of seeing it.
George Washington and Jefferson National Forest, Virginia
Finding dark skies on the East Coast can be difficult with all the light pollution– but the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest, which covers some 1.8 million acres on the border of Virginia and West Virginia, offers surprisingly dark skies that, coupled with the high elevation, gives stargazers a wonderful platform to explore space!
You may also like: 6 U.S. National Parks & Forests with Spectacular Evergreens
Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania
You’ll find this vast expanse of woodland hidden away in central Pennsylvania. Cherry Springs has also been credited as the darkest place east of the Mississippi. Join tons of other stargazers to witness meteors, lunar eclipses, and other astronomical activities during events that are frequently hosted by the park itself!
Death Valley National Park, California
Death Valley effectively “kills” all artificial sources of light, and as such is famous for being one of the darkest U.S. spots. Viewers can sight meteors with the naked eye and observe the Milky Way with a richness of detail they’ve likely never seen before. What a great excuse to start looking for cheap flights to California for your next starry getaway!
Have you traveled to stargaze before? Tell us all about it in our comments section below!