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Look to the Stars! National Parks Stargazing Festivals (2024)

| Updated Jan 2, 2024

Stargazing season is amazing! Enjoy the night skies at their brightest at National Parks stargazing festivals…

National parks are helping visitors make the most of their dark skies by hosting stargazing festivals. The festivals include various night-time events in addition to stargazing. 

These events are right around the corner, so bust out your stargazing kit and get going!

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Dark Sky National Parks

National parks are becoming night sky havens since they have less exposure to light pollution. Dozens of national parks are even designated Dark Sky Parks because of their “exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights…”

Some national parks with the official “Dark Sky Park” classification are:

  • Arches National Park, Utah
  • Big Bend National Park, Texas
  • Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida
  • Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
  • Canyonlands National Park, Utah
  • Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
  • Capulin Volcano National Monument, New Mexico
  • Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah
  • Death Valley National Park, California
  • Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
  • Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
  • Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota
  • Zion National Park, Utah

You’ll notice Utah is a big hitter when it comes to stargazing. There are so many incredible places to not only see during the day but also to be mesmerized by at night!

That's why it's no surprise that our Southern Utah RV Adventure Guide is one of our most popular guides. We also have an article on the 5 Best Dark Sky Locations for Stargazing in U.S.

National Parks Stargazing Festivals (2024)

These annual events are held at similar times annually, so if you've missed one, you can start planning those for next year. 

National parks often host many stargazing activities and events throughout the year, so check for those whenever you plan to visit.

*PRO TIP! If you plan on going to multiple national parks, you can save a lot of money by getting an America the Beautiful Pass.

Alrighty, let’s take a look at the national parks stargazing festivals 2024…

Death Valley Dark Sky Festival, March 1-3

Look to the Stars! National Parks Stargazing Festivals (2024) 1

Death Valley is known for some of the best stargazing in America. It's even designated a Gold Tier Dark Sky Park, the highest rating of darkness.

During the Death Valley Dark Sky Festival, visitors can enjoy the stunning night sky as well as special events, like the Exploration Fair, auditorium talks, astrophotography meetups, and more.

Grand Canyon Star Party, June 1-8

Grand Canyon at night National Parks Stargazing Festivals
Grand Canyon at night

Grand Canyon National Park is known for its breathtakingly beautiful rugged terrain. But did you know it also hosts some of the most beautiful night skies around? 

You can take in those skies this month at their annual Star Party. The event is free, but you must still pay to enter the park. The park fee is good for the North and South rims for seven days. 

The event starts at sunset, and the best viewing time is after 9 pm. Most telescopes will be taken down at 11 pm, although some folks still share theirs after that when the skies are crisp and clear.  

Bryce Canyon Astronomy Festival, June 5-8

Bryce Canyon National Park at night National Parks Stargazing Festivals
Bryce Canyon National Park at night

Bryce Canyon National Park is located in southern Utah. This park has such excellent night sky viewing that it earned its dark-sky designation in 2019!

Come view the reddish-colored “hoodoos” during the day, and then return for its spectacular nighttime views! 

Their Annual Astronomy Festival includes lectures, star stories presentations, and guided stargazing sessions. Last year, they had a performance by an Arizona string quartet called Dry Sky Quartet and other family-friendly activities. 

Annual Badlands Astronomy Festival, July 5-7

National Parks Stargazing Festivals Stars in the Badlands
Stars in the Badlands

South Dakota is home to Badlands National Park, which boasts exciting fossil beds and unique geologic formations. You can see things like sod tables and clastic dikes during the day, then stay to take advantage of their dark night skies. 

The Badlands Astronomy Festival partners with the NASA South Dakota Grant Consortium. Their festival typically includes guest speakers, telescopes, sky viewing, and a guided walk through a scaled solar system model!

Shenandoah Night Sky Festival, August (Dates TBA)

Look to the Stars! National Parks Stargazing Festivals (2024) 2

Shenandoah National Park is a gorgeous gem in the Blue Ridge Mountains in north-central Virginia. In fact, this almost 200,000-acre park is so breathtaking that we have done several posts about it! 

You can view its cascading waterfalls, wildflower fields, and quiet woods daily, then stay for its spectacular nighttime views.  

The other great thing about this park is its location. It is only a 75-mile drive from Washington, D.C. So, you're close to many historical sites and museums as well.

Their annual stargazing event hosts public stargazing sessions. They haven't announced the 2024 dates yet, but it's typically held around the second weekend of August. You can click that link to see if they've updated their website with dates.

The event includes ranger talks, other lectures and presentations, and family-friendly activities. The guest presentations include a span of topics, including space travel, space weather, and our future in space. 

The event is free with park admission

Great Basin Astronomy Festival, September 5-7

Milky Way in the Great Basin National Parks Stargazing Festivals
Milky Way in the Great Basin

The Great Basin National Park might be for you if you prefer to avoid crowds. It is one of the least crowded national parks! 

The 77,000-acre park in eastern Nevada also has a research-grade observatory! 

This fall, you can attend their stargazing event. This year's festival will have many of the same events as 2023 with new guest speakers, ranger programs, and art projects.

Joshua Tree Night Sky Festival, October (Dates TBA)

Look to the Stars! National Parks Stargazing Festivals (2024) 3
Sunsets can be pretty incredible, too, in Joshua Tree…

Joshua Tree National Park is designated as an International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA).

Every year, the park and non-profit organizations Joshua Tree Educational Experience (JTREE) and Sky’s the Limit  Observatory and Nature Center partner to bring this incredible stargazing event. 

The Night Sky Festival is a ticketed event and has a limited capacity. They haven't announced the 2024 dates yet, but it's typically held around the second weekend of October. You can click that link to see if they've updated their website with dates and ticket information.

It is usually located just outside the park limits at the Sky’s The Limit Nature Observatory and Nature Center. Tickets go on sale in early summer. 

Be Prepared with a Stargazing Kit for Campers!

Of course, all you need to stargaze is a clear sky and a craned neck. But to really soak in the heavens and enjoy your time outside at night, it helps to be comfortable. It’s also nice to know what you’re looking at and to see things even better.

So, we’ve compiled a list of items that take stargazing for campers to the next level.

YOGA MAT

black Yoga Mat

Um, Mike, I want to look at stars, not do yoga. I hear ya! But this yoga mat is better than any picnic blanket you’ll find. With its thick padding, you can lie down anywhere and comfortably gaze up at the stars.

It’s light and easy to carry with its strap. And it’s not a problem if it gets wet. Just be sure to let it air dry before you store it. 

2. TRAVEL BLANKET AND PILLOW SET

travel blanket and pillow

This soft blanket is made of microfiber fleece and comes with a small inflatable pillow. And I do mean comes with a small pillow. Unlike other options, the blanket doesn't fold up into a pillow, which means you can use the pillow and blanket at the same time.

Both the blanket and pillow zip up into a little bag. It’s lightweight, easy to carry, and, most importantly, very cozy!

Preview Product Price
Travel Blanket and Pillow Set Travel Blanket and Pillow Set $22.98Amazon Prime

GO TO THE COMPLETE STARGAZING KIT…

Our 7 Day RV Adventure Guide to Utah

Here's a short review about our Seven Day Adventure Guide to Utah. Here is more information…

Mike and Jennifer's Southern Utah RV Adventure Guide

Look to the Stars! National Parks Stargazing Festivals (2024) 4

Utah, Utah, Utah.  What more is there to be said? In very few places across the United States is there such a tremendous area with breathtaking vistas and diversity of terrain.

This ebook is a seven-day guided exploration of the State and National Parks in Southern Utah. We provide a suggested route and itinerary, links to multiple campgrounds and boondocking spots, and the best spots to see along the way. Don’t plan your trip to Southern Utah without it!


Last update on 2024-04-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Mike Wendland

Published on 2023-12-28

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

2 Responses to “Look to the Stars! National Parks Stargazing Festivals (2024)”

June 17, 2023at10:04 am, Pam Tucker said:

I loved this post. We bought a Winnebago Solis 59PX just to travel to dark skies for our astronomy hobby. We plan to chase the 2 U.S.solar eclipses coming up(annular in oct23 and total in apr24). You once did an interview with John & Brenda Nejedlo of GeoAstroRV. I cannot find current info on them. Do you know if they are still active speakers? We are doing something similar on the local level and would love to see their presentations and maybe meet them someday. Thank you.

Reply

June 17, 2023at8:31 pm, Team RV Lifestyle said:

Mike has lost touch with the contacts – But it sounds like you have an amazing year ahead chasing the the two eclipses! Team RV Lifestyle

Reply

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