You’ve seen the photos of the Milky Way on social media, right? You know the ones, where someone has spent the night camping in Joshua Tree or some other location with minimal light pollution – and the stars look simply amazing.
Heck, it might even have inspired you to look up information on the best stargazing near me. But why stop there when you can plan a trip to one of the best spots for stargazing in the entire USA? Let us help you plan for one of these destinations.
1. Joshua Tree National Park (California)
It’s no secret that Joshua Tree is an awesome place to do some night sky photography. And with views like this of the Milky Way, it’s easy to see why.
Located in Southern California, the night skies in Joshua Tree don’t have the light pollution that plagues most of the region. In fact, you’ll find some of the area’s darkest night skies right here in the park.
Where You Can View the Stars and Milky Way:
- Park campgrounds
- Roadside pullouts
- Wilderness backpacking in the park
Since Joshua Tree National Park never closes, there are no limitation on when you can go marvel at the night sky.
Location: Not far from Palm Springs, CA and Indio, CA. To get there, approach Joshua Tree from Interstate 10 or California Highway 62 (the Twentynine Palms Highway). (The closest airport is in Palm Springs.)
Tip: Each year, the park has a Night Sky Festival, where you can come and enjoy the stars, constellations, and occasional meteors with likeminded astronomy enthusiasts. Learn more here.
2. Mauna Kea (Hawaii)
Located on the Big Island of Hawaii, Mauna Kea summit and observatory is a dormant volcano that lies 4,207.3 m above sea level. The result is an unparalleled view of the night sky and all its majestic glory.
It also happens to be a great location to watch the sunset, if you want to get there early.
One thing to keep in mind is that this place is sacred to the Hawaiians, so you have to take great care to be respectful while visiting.
Location: Located on Maunakea, at 19°45’33″N Latitude and 155°27′22″W Longitude. Be sure to check if roads are open before planning your trip.
Tip: Due to the high altitude and the very real possibility of altitude sickness, this is not recommended for every one.
3. Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming)
Covering around 3,500 square miles, it’s not surprising that you get great night sky views from Yellowstone National Park. What is surprising is that you can’t get these views in all of the park because the developed areas do put out some light pollution.
The park staff is actively working on reducing the light pollution problem.
Some of the best parts of the park to see the stars include:
- Upper Geyser Basin
- Mount Washburn
- Mammoth Hot Springs
- Firehole Lake Drive
- Dunraven Pass
Location: Wyoming. Get GPS coordinates here.
Tip: Paths are not illuminated at night, so you walk through the park at your own risk.
4. Breckenridge (Colorado)
If you find yourself not quite as far west as the location above, then Colorado might be a good spot to go stargazing for you.
Since Breckenridge is a resort town, you do need to get out away from the lights in order to actually be able to see the stars with your naked eyes.
Good locations to star gaze include Boreas Pass, Hoosier Pass and Sapphire Point.
Location: 80 miles (129km) west of Denver
Tip: Sapphire point is just a short walk from the main parking lot at the top of Swan Mountain, which makes it secluded and easy to access.
5. Acadia National Park (Maine)
If you’re on the East Coast and hankering to see the Milky Way, then heading to Acadia National Park in Maine is your best bet.
This is actually one of the biggest dark sky locations in the Eastern Seaboard. To get here, it’s around a three hour drive from Portland, Maine.
The best locations in Acadia National Park for stargazing are:
- Cadillac Mountain
- Sand Beach
- Jordan Pond House
- Schoodic Peninsula
- Seawall Picnic Area
Of those spots above, the most remote is Schoodic Peninsula. So, pack a tent and prepare to camp at the Schoodic Woods Campground for a night full of amazing starry night views.
Keep in mind that the skies here are clearest between June and October, which is when you should plan your trip.
Location: southwest of Bar Harbor
Tip: Once a year, in the fall, you can attend the Acadia Night Sky Festival in the park. It’s perfect for amateur astronomers.
Those are the top five locations in the USA for seeing the Milky Way, but they’re not the only places you can see the stars and constellations.
A few other locations to consider include Death Valley National Park, Yosemite National Park, Cherry Springs State Park (Pennsylvania), Blue Ridge Observatory and Star Park (North Carolina), and Staunton River State Park (Virginia).