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(2019 - Fall Issue)


Where city lights glow, stars have almost disappeared from view. However, in many rural areas across the United States, it’s still possible to find observatories and stargazing opportunities to embrace the night-sky experience.

In Vermont, one of the best spots for stargazing is New Discovery State Park in the Groton State Forest. The park has seven remote campsites for the ultimate dark-sky experience. For a guided night-sky adventure, check out the hosted astronomy events at Elmore State Park and Button Bay State Park. vtstateparks.com

Starry heavens can also be viewed in all their celestial glory with only minimal intrusion of artificial light at several remote Texas parks. In the southwestern part of the state, Big Bend National Park—the largest International Dark Sky Park to date—has been awarded Gold Tier designation by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) for skies that are “free from all but the most minor impacts of light pollution.” Measurements by the National Park Service Night Sky Team show that the Big Bend region offers the darkest measured skies in the lower 48 states. Big Bend hosts a stargazing program throughout the year and activities include night hikes and telescope viewing. visitbigbend.com  

Arizona prides itself on protecting the night-sky experience for future generations. The desert setting has several sites perfect for night-sky observation due to the inky black skies, dry climate and higher elevations. Kitt Peak National Observatory (near Tucson) boasts one of the world’s largest arrays of telescopes, a visitor centre and nighttime stargazing program perched atop a panoramic mountaintop. Flagstaff’s Lowell Observatory—where Pluto was discovered in 1930—still displays the original photographic telescope. On clear evenings, they bring out portable telescopes for public viewings. Also, Grand Canyon National Park was recently designated an International Dark Sky Park. visitarizona.com

Utah is home to more accredited  International Dark Sky Parks and Communities than any other destination on the planet. Compass Rose Lodge, in Huntsville, has a brand-new observatory with starwalk tours. The Canyon Country Discovery Center, in Monticello, has a twice-monthly, public Dark Sky Discovery Series open March through November. In Kanub, the Adventure Tour Company offers a S’mores and Star Gazing tour. visitutah.com/places-to-go/dark-sky-parks

Great Basin National Park in Nevada is home to what some astronomers are calling the last true dark skies in the United States. The park is also part of the National Park Service’s Night Skies Program, with some campsites specifically designed to enhance stargazing, with enough room for telescopes and tripods. During most summer nights, the Milky Way is visible to the naked eye, as are thousands of constellations, planets, nebulas and galaxies. nps.gov/grba

On the Hawaiian island of Maui, the tall, dormant volcano of Mauna Kea is home to Haleakalā National Park, a sacred landscape featuring spectacular stargazing opportunities and considered an outstanding astronomical site due to low humidity, clear skies and a lack of light pollution. There are 13 working telescopes and only select tour companies are permitted to bring guests to this mountaintop. Options include Mauna Kea Summit Adventures and Arnott’s Lodge & Hiking Adventures. gohawaii.com

In Bend, Oregon, Wanderlust Tours offers Moonlight & Starlight Snowshoe Tours and Moonlight & Starlight Canoe Tours. The Alvord Desert, in southeastern Oregon, offers some of the lowest light pollution in the continental USA, excellent for a limitless star-filled sky. Other remote Oregon locations, perfect for celestial observation, include Crater Lake, Mt. Hood or Dixie Butte. traveloregon.com

Discover more information on travel to the USA at visittheusa.ca.

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