Best Dark Sky Locations for Stargazing

 Best Dark Sky Locations for Stargazing

We enter a New Moon phase today and that means darker skies at night, and plenty of opportunity to truly marvel at the beauty of the universe — if you’re in the right spot.

They’re called “dark sky” parks and they’re free from light pollution.

In short, you’ll see the universe in a whole new way and come to truly appreciate its vastness.

If you’re wondering where to start, MarketWatch recently published “Six places in the U.S. that have epic starry skies.”

They are:

  1. Flagstaff, Ariz.

Flagstaff was the first city to ever receive the dark sky designation in 2001. Of course, the area offers tons of great outdoor activities local and regionally at places such as Sedona and the Grand Canyon.

  1. Borrego Springs, Calif.

California’s only International Dark-Sky Community is located in this desert oasis town in San Diego County.

  1. Torrey, Utah

Utah has nine dark sky parks, plus the town of Torrey, a dark sky community.

  1. Headlands International Dark Sky Park in Emmet County, Mich.

Among other things, Headlands boasts 550 acres of woodlands and more than two miles of undeveloped Lake Michigan at the northern tip of the state’s lower peninsula.

  1. Staunton River State Park in Virginia

This state park has replaced all lights with approved dark sky fixtures.

  1. Chaco Culture National Historical Park near Albuquerque, N.M.

A favorite stop of RVLifestyle contributor Campskunk, explore the ruins of Chaco Canyon by day and take in the splendor of the universe by night.

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A campsite at Gallo Campground, near Chaco Canyon.

Fans of the RVLifestyle might remember when our podcast featured John Barentine, program director, International Dark Sky Association, and Chrystal White, leader, Colorado Plateau Dark Sky Cooperative.

Barentine received his Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Texas at Austin in 2013. He is the author of The Lost Constellations and Uncharted Constellations

“The Dark Sky Places program that I manage designates both protected areas like parks as well as municipalities — places like cities and towns — on the basis of the work that they do to preserve what dark skies they have and to promote that through their communications to residents or visitors.

“It’s not just about whether or not you have a dark sky…but it’s also about how you’re being proactive to try and keep it,” Barentine said.

Barentine explained the difference between dark sky parks and dark sky reserves.

Parks are pretty self-explanatory.

Reserves are a bit more complicated and typically involve large areas of public spaces “but there may be settlements inside those areas.” So far, there aren’t any dark sky reserves in the U.S., he said.

Barentine added that dark skies aren’t just important for stargazing.

“It touches on our lives in ways we might not immediately think of,” he said. “Those include things like public safety, crime and security, our energy independence, the impacts on wildlife — there’s something in this for everybody really.”

White’s group trains star guides to lead stargazing trips, and hosts education and outreach events in schools, parks and planetariums. You can read more about the Colorado Plateau Dark Sky Cooperative accomplishments here: https://cpdarkskies.org/our-work/mission-statement/.

She said dark skies help us connect with our past.

“We definitely don’t want to lose that draw to the night sky that our ancestors had,” White said. “It definitely connects us. And if you’ve ever been under a clear night sky there’s nothing quite like it.

“It connects us to the whole universe itself,” she said.

We couldn’t agree more.

You can learn more about Dark Skies and find a Dark Sky Place or Preserve near you at: http://darksky.org.

If you’re interested in taking pictures of the Milky Way, but sure to check out the RVLifestyle episode where I discussed it here.

And those who are interested in astronomy in general may want to check out Campskunk’s “Guide to the Stars: Astronomy with RV-Ready Telescopes” and the RVLifestyle Off the Beaten Path report on the McDonald Observatory in west Texas.

ANd listen to tomorrow’s episode #249 of the podcast in which we interview an RVing couple who took early retirement so they could travel around with a telescope to visit national parks and teach about dark skies.

Of course, we’re always looking for new locations to feature on the RVLifestyle so if you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments below!

Mike Wendland

Mike is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road. He enjoys camping (obviously), hiking, biking, fitness, photography, kayaking, video editing, and all things dealing with technology and the outdoors. See and subscribe to his RV Lifestyle Channel on YouTube, where he has hundreds of RV and travel related videos. His PC MIke TV reports, on personal technology are distributed weekly to all 215 NBC-TV stations.

5 Comments

  • Just returned from the Grand Canyon Star Party an amazing 10 day event. Grand Canyon just received their official Dark Sky dwas signation.

  • Was walking my dog before bed at an RV park close to Capitol Reef Nat Pk. Saw more stars (and Milkey Way), than I’d ever seen. Looked up on the Internet, & Capitol Reef designated an official dark sky location. Now I want to see more!!!
    Will look for Headlands dark sky in MI, as I’ll be in that area next month. Will also be heading for Bois Blanc Island. : ) Thanks for your YouTube!

  • […] Be a considerate: From outdoor kitchens to exterior home theaters, we RVers enjoy the comforts of home. But please don’t let the noise from your favorite RV luxuries annoy your neighbors. Use your generator sparingly. Don’t contribute to air and noise pollution. Minimize TV and stereo sound. And be sure to respect dark skies! […]

  • […] of Sedona’s average winter temperatures that range from 57-61 degrees. As RV Lifestyle previously reported, Arizona is generally great for stargazing. Depending on when you visit, you might also catch the […]

  • While it’s not a designated dark sky park, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and surrounding national forest near Ely, MN has little to no light pollution. It’s a fabulous area to stargaze and to perhaps see the northern lights.

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