Stargazing in America: The Best Locations to See Constellations

by | 2 Aug 2023

Of all the places to see stars in our world, the USA packs as many as possible between its borders. From national parks and wild expanses designated as Dark Sky Places to world-renowned observatories that offer the deepest views into space, hundreds of stargazing locations across the country offer both easily accessible and hard-earned spots to stare into our celestial ceiling. And some of the best places to stargaze in the US are within footsteps of America’s most popular attractions, cities, and landscapes.

Northeast U.S. Stargazing Locations

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AMC Maine Woods | Maine

Home to the only International Dark Sky Park in New England, Appalachian Mountain Club Maine Woods is one of the darkest places on the East Coast. Bostonians are only four-hours south of the Woods, while Canucks can look across the Quebec border at this near-uninhabited forest. Forget the sleeping bag: just pack your telescope and check out celestial bodies from an ecolodge connected to endless trails.

Check out: Why the East Coast of Canada and USA are at their best in September

Feel like peepin’ fall leaves and taking a gander at Orion’s Belt? Join us for 8 days of New England’s Fall Foliage. Spend your morning sipping spiced apple cider and collecting colored leaves then enjoy s’mores and stargazing in the White Mountains.

 

Cherry Springs State Park | Pennsylvania

Black cherry trees reach into the heavens, praising the planets, nebulae, and galaxies all visible from the forest floor of Cherry Springs State Park. It’s one of the best places to stargaze on the US’s eastern seaboard. An Overnight Astronomy Observation Field and Night Sky Public Viewing Area are open throughout the year so you can get some face time with the Milky Way. If you’d rather rub elbows with other amateur astronomers, visit during the annual Black Forest Star Party.

Places To See Stars In The Southeast U.S.

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Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park | Florida

Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park is going to fill your Big Dipper Bingo card. It’s Florida’s first Dark Sky Park. You can see the rockets launching from NASA soar into the heavens. Jupiter and Saturn? Yea, you can wink at them without a telescope, but the real star of the sky is the sightings of the International Space Station.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park | Tennessee

Routinely one of the most visited national parks in the country, Great Smoky Mountains National Park isn’t the first iconic USNP that comes to mind when selecting stargazing locations. However, it’s one of the best places to see stars in the region thanks to its seclusion from major cities and mountains reaching as high as 6,000 feet above sea level. Plot Clingmans Dome or the Newfound Gap Trailhead into your GPS and you’ll arrive at a showcase of stars that you can use to find your way back home.

Read next: See more stars at the best national parks to visit in the Eastern US

Best Places To See Stars In The American West

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Grand Canyon National Park | Arizona

With the Milky Way far above and the Colorado River far below, you’ll be trapped in a state of wonder when you embrace the night at Grand Canyon National Park. The vastness of space and the iconic canyon will make you feel small in the most awe-inspiring of ways. 24/7 access means spotting star clusters all night until the Sun and Venus light up the morning. A tip for shutterbugs: the best photos with the Grand Canyon and Milky Way together in frame are at the North Rim, too.

Get lost in the rocky landscape of the American West on our Enchanting Canyonlands tour. One week is all you need to tackle the terrain at the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, and Monument Valley Tribal Park.

Yellowstone National Park | Wyoming

Some of the best places to stargaze in the US are as remote as can be, but Yellowstone National Park dresses up the scene a bit with its iconic geysers as set pieces. Imagine it: sitting beside Old Faithful, waiting for an eruption while the Perseid meteor shower flies by overhead. You don’t need to wish upon a star to make it a reality; just find a ride to the Upper Geyser Basin.

Need to know: Why June is the best time to visit Yellowstone National Park

Palomar Observatory | California

California gives you a glimpse into the life of stars both celestial and celebrity. LA’s stars aren’t exactly down to Earth, but they’re nowhere near as cosmic as the stars on show at San Diego’s Palomar Observatory. The importance of this astronomical research facility is out of this world: its Hale Telescope was at the forefront of modern astronomy from the mid-1900s until the millennium. Sadly, visitors cannot peer through this lens on a guided tour, but the observatory’s campground hosts Explore The Stars events that’ll give your naked eye an uncensored view of the universe above.

Spend the first day of our Best of California tour exploring the Palomar Observatory at your leisure. This 10-day Golden State tour transports you from the city streets of San Diego and San Francisco to the serene surroundings of Mariposa Grove and Yosemite National Park.

Places To See Stars In In The Midwest

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Theodore Roosevelt National Park | North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a literal home on the range where the buffalo roam and the skies are not cloudy all day (or all night). Whether on horseback, snowshoe, or the seat of your rental car, this accessible park offers endless opportunities for stargazing. The Dakota Nights Astronomy Festival may be finite (two days in early autumn) but multiple telescopes each focused on a specific space subject make it one of the best places to see stars in the Dakotas.

See where the Midwest meets the West as your pioneer your way across 14 cities on our American Parks Trail tour. 9 Days take you from Utah to South Dakota where you’ll visit 3 iconic national parks: Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Badlands.

Buffalo National River | Arkansas

Simplicity in stargazing is on the schedule at Buffalo National River. It’s an International Dark Sky Park that welcomes you to whitewater raft in the daytime and roll out your sleeping bag under the stars at night. Organized night sky viewing events occur monthly around the park, but they don’t compare to paddling out onto the river’s quiet pools and watching the twinkling stars from the water.

Non-Contiguous United States Stargazing Locations

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Mauna Kea | Hawaii

After you’ve soaked in a good tan on the beach, bask in the starlight on Mauna Kea. This dormant volcano on the Big Island is not only home to the Hawaiian snow goddess, Poli‘ahu, but also the world’s largest astronomical observatory. 13 telescopes line this arid summit, and although you cannot visit the summit at night on your own, there are multiple official operators offering summit stargazing tours for ages 13+.

Skip a night of sleep and experience Mauna Kea’s summit for yourself when you extend our 7-day Hawaii With Oahu & Maui tour to include a trip to the Big Island.

Denali National Park | Alaska

With more than 6 million acres of wilderness hardly disturbed by human activity, Denali National Park is a haven for stargazing. Minimal artificial light lets you scope out shooting stars and count constellations. Just keep an eye out for Ursa Major and Ursa Minor — in the sky and on the ground. Bears may be out stargazing with you, alongside moose, wolves, and caribou.

Read more: Why the USA has a state for every palate, passion, and purpose

Where’s your favorite spot for stargazing in America? Tell us what you think the best places to stargaze in the US are in the comments below.

I'm Alex, Editor of Insightful. While the list of places I've been lucky enough to visit is long, the list of places I've yet to see is far longer. At the top of that list is Japan. I'm fascinated by indigenous cultures and traditions, and have a hearty appetite for history (but a poor memory for dates). I love photography, Italian food and wild landscapes.

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