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4 U.S. Parks Where You Can Still See the Stars

March 07, 2016

Photo: Steve Eng

When was the last time you took a moment to look at the stars? With cities getting bigger and brighter, it's getting more difficult every day for stargazers to do what they love. Here are a four U.S. parks where you can get still get an amazing view of the night sky.


1. Natural Bridges National Park - Southeast Utah

 

Photo: Denny Mont
Due to it’s low humidity and relatively low population density, the Southwest offers many opportunities to get a great look at the stars, but Natural Bridges National Monument is in a league of it’s own. The park’s status as one of the darkest places in the lower 48 states earned it the first certification by the International Dark-Sky Association bestowed upon a national park. Visitors can gaze at the night sky through a massive window created by one of the world’s largest natural bridges, with thousands of stars bright enough to cast a shadow.
 

2. Cherry Springs State Park - Northern Pennsylvania

Photo: Nicholas Tonelli

Located within an enormous expanse of Pennsylvania wilderness, Cherry Springs State Park has been called “the last best refuge of the natural night sky” in the eastern half of the United States. The park’s remote location grants protection from light pollution and airline traffic, and large berms have been constructed around viewing areas to block the light from passing cars, allowing stargazers an amazing and unobstructed view of the stars.


3. Mauna Kea - Big Island, Hawai’i

Photo: Mark Ireland

You can add prime stargazing to the long list of reasons to visit Hawai’i. Mauna Kea, the island’s largest mountain, presents uniquely favorable conditions for stargazing due to it’s cool, dry climate and remote, elevated location. The summit is home to 12 observatory facilities, including some of the largest telescopes in the world. While amateur stargazers are allowed on the summit, access is difficult and somewhat dangerous. Most visitors stick to the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station, located at 9,200 ft above sea level. Here, guides, park rangers, telescopes, and facilities are available to the public 365 days a year.


4. Big Pine Key - South Florida

Photo: John Sabin

The southern U.S. can be a tricky place to get a good look at the night sky, with high humidity, low elevation, and light pollution often all working together to obscure the stars. fortunately, there are still a few places left for the southern astronomer, such as Big Pine Key. Every February, hundreds of people gather on Big Pine Key for the Winter Star Party, where lucky stargazers can get a rare glimpse of the Southern Cross constellation.