Dark Skies: 3 Best Places in the U.S. to See the Stars
Modern Nomad is a weekly column dedicated to mobile gear, must-see world destinations, tips for life on the road, and traveling better through technology.
City dwellers, particularly those along the coastal United States, are cursed with some of the worst light pollution in the world. It’s sad to think that many Americans in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and the like have never truly seen the night sky. Fortunately, whether you simply love stargazing or are looking to bolster your night sky photography skills, there are plenty of certified dark sky parks throughout the country. Here are just three of our favorites.
Cherry Springs State Park (Pennsylvania)
The International Dark-Sky Association (yes, that’s really a thing) certified Pennsylvania’s Cherry Springs State Park as the second official dark sky park in the world. Thanks to a location far removed from the lights of every east coast urban center, the park offers the best dark sky conditions of anywhere on the eastern seaboard. The fact that it’s relatively unknown to non-locals also means that it’s the ideal spot for quiet camping and backcountry getaways. The best part? It’s 7.5 hours from Boston by car and less than a six-hour drive from New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C.
Death Valley (California)
Death Valley is the hottest, driest, and lowest point in the United States. It’s no surprise that, as one of the country’s most remote and rugged state parks, it’s also the perfect destination for viewing the true night sky. In fact, the park bears the distinction of being a Gold Tier dark sky park — the highest designation awarded by the IDSA. While some light pollution trickles in from Las Vegas, the park is arguably the best spot in the country to see the sky as our ancestors did before the rise of modern cities. You’ll see astronomical bodies — planets, asteroids, stars, and more — clearer here than almost anywhere else on earth. The best part? The park is so vast that visitors are likely to find a patch of desert land all to themselves almost any time of year.
Goldendale Observatory Park (Washington)
While not a Gold Tier park, Washington state’s Goldendale Observatory Park is a unique destination for stargazers as it’s home to one of the country’s largest, public telescopes. Park rangers and professional astronomers routinely host viewing events, presentations, and dark sky parties through its massive, 24.5-inch optics. The unit is slated for an upgrade and refurbishment in 2016, however, so visitors should plan a trip before its temporary closure. The best part? The park is only a two-hour drive east of Portland and 3.5 hours by car from Seattle.
(Photo via Flickr)