Stars: they’re fiery balls of gas, but man are they nice to look at. Unfortunately, modern day luxuries like electricity light the sky into the latest hours of the night, making it hard for these beauties to compete (thanks, Thomas Edison). Ditch the light pollution and head over to these four spots to camp under the stars – and lots of them.
Natural Bridges National Monument
There’s plenty to love about this state park in Utah even while the sun’s still up. Inhabited by humans as early as 7000 BC, Natural Bridges National Monument is home to three natural bridges -- unique geographical formations caused by rivers carving into stone. Ten bucks will reserve you a spot at the park’s first-come, first-serve campsites where you’ll be in for a treat when night falls: as the country’s first International Dark Sky Park, Natural Bridges keeps light pollution to a bare minimum, meaning you’ll gaze up to see around 15,000 stars.
Death Valley National Park
The lowest point in North America, Death Valley National Park is also home to severe droughts and record heat. But visit in spring and you’ll find fields of wildflowers and oases born of winter rainstorms. When the sun goes down, park rangers and local astronomy programs host stargazing events where you can get up close and personal with all your favorite constellations using high-powered telescopes. And what a place to do it: just a few hour’s drive from LA, the dark skies at Death Valley are nothing short of awe-inspiring. Several campgrounds within the park, including Furnace Creek Campground, Texas Springs Campground, and Sunset Campground, offer places to pitch a tent or park your RV.
Cherry Springs State Park
As a metropolitan hotspot, the northeast sometimes leaves stargazers a little bit disappointed. That's where Cherry Springs State Park in Pennsylvania comes in, as the cure for bright sky blues in the top right corner of the country.
With 360-degree views, the heavens over Cherry Springs are teeming with stars in all directions. Star tours are offered from right next to the camping area in the park, which offers 30 rustic sites.
Denali National Park and Reserve
It’s a heck of a road trip, but if you find your way to Alaska, you won’t want to miss Denali National Park. Not only do long nights give you more hours to pack with prime stargazing, but the Northern Lights, a mind-blowing show of color by Mother Nature, loom in the sky above this enormous park. Because this spectacle is not visible during most of the summer, you’ll want to head to Denali in mid-august to early September, when temperatures are still tolerable and clear skies give you front row seats to the natural light show. Several small and large campgrounds throughout the park offer sites for tents and RV’s.
All it takes is a little adventuring for jaw-dropping views of the heavens. Hurry up, the road awaits!
Header via Flickr / Barney Moss