For nature-loving outdoorsmen, it’s hard to imagine a more enticing phrase than “sleeping under the stars.” There’s something so instinctual, serene, and just right about sleeping outdoors, staring up at the sky, contemplating our place in the universe. These days, you needn’t be a hardened backcountry survivalist to find the right place. If you like your outdoor experiences with a few more creature comforts, here are the best places to sleep under the stars in 2021.
As one of the country’s most off-the-grid destinations, Joshua Tree National Park has something of a mythical and mystical reputation among nature lovers. Its unique location amid Southern California’s desert ensures some of the darkest skies in all of the American West. That makes for near-perfect stargazing and night photography, so it’s no surprise that the park was officially designated as an International Dark Sky Park. By day, visitors will find all manner of soft- and hardcore adventuring from rock climbing and bouldering to mountain biking and desert hiking.
Big Island Hawaii
The largest astronomical observatory lies on Hawaii’s Big Island in Mauna Kea Recreation Area. Suffice to say, it’s one of the best places in the United States for stargazing. Camping is available inside the park in one of seven private cabins. All are situated steps from some of the clearest night skies in the country. This is due entirely to a unique tropical inversion cloud layer that keeps the upper atmosphere over the park clear of nearly all pollutants.
For a long list of reasons, Utah is one of the most breathtaking natural destinations in the U.S. That Natural Bridges National Monument is one of only four International Dark Sky Parks in the western world is just one more reason to visit. The small, 13-site campground within the monument’s boundaries is a spectacular place for sleeping under the stars. Campers will have no trouble finding peace and quiet amid the acres of juniper trees, with crystal clear views of the Milky Way after dark. Spaces are limited and only available on a first-come, first-served basis, so be sure to book your spot early.
With one of the densest populations in the United States, the East Coast is hardly ideal for stargazing. But, rural Maine has all the right ingredients for sleeping under the stars. The aptly named ComfyDome Glamping Hill-Side Site is perched atop a tiny hill in Jefferson, Maine. Visitors sleep inside a clear geodesic dome with 360-degree views of the surrounding fields. Firewood, homemade whoopie pies, and even heat are all provided in the winter.
Camping in an abandoned fire lookout tower is one of those “once in a lifetime” experiences everyone should do at least once. Many of the best towers, however, require hours or days of hiking to reach. The one-of-a-kind Summit Prairie Lookout is a pitch-perfect replica inspired by original U.S. Forest Service lookout towers built in the early 20th century. This is no ordinary camping experience but rather glamping at its finest. The private sleeping quarters are outfitted with hot and cold water, a full kitchen, a heater, lamps, and more. The wood-fired, spring-fed hot tub outside provides the perfect spot to relax under the stars. Be warned, though: Bookings are extremely limited, and they fill up fast every season.
Big Bend, Texas
Thanks to its incredibly remote location in Texas’ extreme south, most people never get the chance to visit Big Bend National Park. It’s a shame because it’s one of the country’s best places for stargazing. In nearby Terlingua lies the uniquely beautiful Terluna Off-Grid Adobe Dome. It’s a simple, one-room dwelling that’s perfectly situated amid the vast Texas desert, making it ideal for stargazing. Despite its location, guests will find all the comforts of home inside, including a well-equipped kitchen, cozy sleeping quarters, and plenty of solar power to boot.
Big Water, Utah
Most would consider Utah to be the crown jewel of the U.S. National Parks system. Here, at the intersection of five national parks, lies Amangiri. This five-star resort is home to Camp Sarika — a stunning world-class retreat quite literally in the middle of nowhere. That remote location provides this exotic luxury camp with privileged access to some of the best stargazing in the western world. After dark, guests can sleep under the stars on luxurious bedding, surrounded by high-end amenities. By day, there’s world-class hiking, climbing, and outdoor exploration opportunities just minutes away.
Saranac Lake, New York
For those for whom only the best will do, there’s New York’s The Point — a storied hotel that dates back to the time of the Rockefellers and the glamorous (for the rich) ‘30s. The Boathouse is the property’s signature suite with a massive stone fireplace, vaulted ceilings, and a canopied bed fit for a king. But, the real get here is the wraparound porch overlooking Saranac Lake. Here, guests will find two hanging outdoor beds with sweeping views of the water and the night sky.
Beverly Hills, California
Even amid posh Beverly Hills, the Beverly Wilshire stands out. Sky lovers looking to take their stargazing to the next level can book the one-of-a-kind Veranda Suite at this under-the-stars hotel. This rooftop “room” is accessed via a hidden eighth-floor entrance behind a wrought-iron and marble stairway. The studio space boasts all the comforts of home. But, the real star here is the 2,100-square-foot terrace featuring a 10-foot-tall sleeping tent adorned with fur rugs, marble lamps, and even a crystal chandelier above the bed.
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