Travel Ideas

The 10 Best Stargazing Destinations in the U.S.—And Where To Stay at Each

Photo: Getty Images/Steven Blizzard-EyeEm
How often do you actually take the time to truly admire the night sky above? Well, it likely depends on where you live, because with that in mind, you may or may not be able to spot a few stars from your space. According to The National Park Service, almost 80 percent of Americans can no longer view the Milky Way from their location due to light pollution—which is even more of a reason to consider planning a trip to one of the best stargazing places in the U.S.

There are a number of destinations across the country with skies dark enough to see countless twinkling stars, along with several planets and constellations. A slew of them have been deemed International Dark Sky Parks by The International Dark-Sky Association, a nonprofit that works to preserve night skies by educating and informing folks on the negative impacts of light pollution, so you can be confident they're worth the visit.  So below, check out the 10 best stargazing places in the U.S., along with where to stay during your visit to each.

The 10 best stargazing places in the U.S.

  1. 1. Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

    The Grand Canyon is spectacular during the daytime, but it becomes arguably even more magical at nighttime when bright stars and constellations surround you. And since the national park, which is certified as an International Dark Sky Park, has developed a wide array of educational and enriching activities—otherwise known as the Night Skies Program—including an astronomers-in-residence and annual Star Party, you can learn about what you see during your visit.

    Where to stay: The Grand Canyon is relatively secluded (the nearest major airport, Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, is nearly 230 miles away). While there aren’t a ton of local hotels to choose from, Under Canvas offers incredible glamping facilities inside the park itself. Tents are outfitted with West Elm furnishings, while amenities and activities include an on-site garden, gourmet dining, and yoga classes, to name a few.

    Stay here
  2. 2. Death Valley National Park, CA

    Death Valley National Park is the largest Dark Sky National Park, and its location that’s convenient to major airports yet still secluded (about 110 miles from Las Vegas and 200 miles from Los Angeles) makes it ideal for short, fun-filled getaways. Thanks to the dark skies and low levels of light pollution, stargazing is popular year-round.

    Where to stay: The Inn at Death Valley offers mountain vistas and expansive grounds—complete with lush palms and blossoming bougainvillea—plus upscale accommodations. Take some time to unwind by the sparkling, spring-fed swimming pool.

    Stay here
  3. 3. Mauna Kea, HI

    Mauna Kea, which is Hawaiian for “white mountain,” is a dormant volcano located at the highest point of Hawaii’s Big Island, at just over 13,800 feet above sea level. That height makes it an ideal place to stargaze. Plus, since Mauna Kea is near the equator, you’ll be treated to a glimmering array of stars from both the northern and southern hemispheres. At the summit, you’ll find the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy Visitor Information Station, which provides telescopes and staff-led stargazing sessions every evening. While this experience is free, several other companies offer nighttime tours and guided stargazing excursions (see here and here).

    Where to stay: Mauna Lani is about a 90-minute drive from Mauna Kea. Here, guests can expect spacious, contemporary accommodations, plus five on-site bars and restaurants. On-site activities include tennis, lei making, snorkeling, self-guided hiking, ukulele lessons, surging, and beachfront yoga.

    Stay here
  4. 4. Glacier National Park, MT

    Situated amid Montana’s Rocky Mountains, this 1,583-square-mile park is picturesque with its glacier-carved peaks, clear-blue waters, and stunning wildlife. Come nighttime, the International Dark Sky Park transforms into an even more magical oasis where you can admire countless stars , plus several constellations and planets—with or without binoculars. The park’s St. Mary Observatory is complete with a 20-inch telescope and two 55-inch monitors for extra close-up views. In the springtime, you may be able spot northern lights above Lake McDonald.

    Where to stay: Lake McDonald Lodge, which dates back to 1913, is nestled about 10 miles inside Glacier National Park. Its chalet-style design and lakefront location add charm to the property with 82 rustic guest rooms and cabins, which are are equipped with modern conveniences like Wi-Fi, phones, alarm clocks, and hairdryers. Guests can also choose from three restaurants and several on-site activities, such as horseback riding, and ranger programming.

    Stay here
  5. 5. Max Patch, NC

    Max Patch is located along the Appalachian Trail. Its 4,629-foot-tall summit offers panoramic, postcard-worthy vistas of the surrounding foliage. Come nighttime, the skies glisten with stars, the moon, and the Milky Way. Plus, it’s an easy half-mile trek to the top, which makes it an excellent option for hikers of all ages and experience levels.

    Where to stay: Flanked by the Blue Ridge Mountains, The Omni Grove Park Inn in nearby Asheville (about 50 miles) is best known for its massive spa, which spans more than 60,000 feet. Highlights include several swimming pools, steam rooms, and waterfalls, along with a wide array of treatments options. Other features include a golf course, a 50,000-square-foot sports complex, and ten restaurants.

    Stay here
  6. 6. Denali National Park, AK

    Alaska’s Denali National Park spans a whopping six million acres, including North America’s tallest peak, the 20,310-foot-tall Denali. At night, you may catch a glimpse of the Milky Way—along with thousands of stars—thanks to the area’s low light pollution. You may also be able to spot the aurora borealis, which is sometimes visible thanks to the park’s northern latitude.

    Where to stay: The Denali Cabins, which are located about eight miles from the park entrance, make the perfect home base for exploring the destination. The tranquil surroundings, on-site pub, and outdoor hot tubs are all added bonuses.

    Stay here
  7. 7. Arches National Park, UT

    Arches National Park is another International Dark Sky Park. While you can opt to stargaze solo, the park also offers ranger-led stargazing tours and informational events. While there, you’ll be able to view countless stars with the naked eye, but with binoculars, you may be able to see Saturn.

    Where to stay: Sorrel River Ranch in Moab offers rustic-chic accommodations complete with private porches, fireplaces, and, of course, pristine views. The 240-acre property, which is located along the banks of the Colorado River, also features an on-site spa, along with a variety of outdoor activities (think: horseback riding, lawn games, and bonfires).

    Stay here
  8. 8. Pikes Peak, CO

    Pikes Peak in Pike National Forest is less than 20 miles west of Colorado Springs, but it feels much further from city life. Its summit is more than 14,000 feet tall, which makes it an ideal place for stargazing, with the high elevation making you feel close to bright stars and constellations.

    Where to stay: Garden of the Gods Resort overlooks Garden of the Gods National Park and offers a spa and wellness center (complete with salt rooms and custom treatment offerings), a 27-hole golf course, and several swimming pools. Resort programming includes pickleball, tennis, and yoga.

    Stay here
  9. 9. Crater Lake, OR

    Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park boasts some of the darkest night skies in America, thanks to its isolated location (about four hours from Portland, OR) and essentially untouched surroundings. You’ll also be able to spot several planets—including Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn—in the distance while you’re there. Be sure to bring along your camera to capture awe-inspiring snaps of the Milky Way as it glistens over the lake.

    Where to stay: Due to Crater Lake’s remote location, you won’t find a ton of lodging options nearby. The elegant Winchester Inn is about a two-hour drive away and offers charming accommodations. The quaint bed-and-breakfast is a great choice for those in search of R&R.

    Stay here
  10. 10. Acadia National Park, ME

    Despite its (somewhat) close proximity to major cities like Boston and Portland, Acadia National Park offers clear skies that make for exceptional stargazing. While summertime is prime season for spotting the Milky Way, you can also visit in the winter for a chance to catch the northern lights. Ranger-led programming and educational activities are also available throughout the summer and fall months. Every autumn, the park hosts the Acadia Night Sky Festival, where visitors can attend workshops, star parties, and speaker events

    Where to Stay: Balance Rock Inn in Bar Harbor is a quick four-minute drive from the park. The boutique property has 27 elegantly appointed rooms and an on-site eatery. The real showstopper, though, is the sweeping ocean views.

    Stay here

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