As the global population has boomed over the years, as urban sprawls grow, and as formerly undeveloped areas become industrialized, light pollution has become an encroaching environmental concern. The International Dark Sky Association‘s stated mission is to “work to protect the night skies for present and future generations.” They seek out places around the world where nature is allowed to be free from artificial lighting and the night skies are untouched by the bright lights of civilization.
According to the association’s website, a “Dark Sky Park” can be public or private land so long as the landowner has agreed to protect the land from development and allow public access for nighttime sky-viewing. An IDA designated park (IDSP) promises the darkest, natural night skies open to the public. In these parks, professional and amateur sky-gazers alike are promised to view the stars on a clear night shining brightly without light pollution causing fade-out.
Here are four National Parks and one State Park where you can enjoy stargazing across the United States:
1. Big Bend National Park, Texas
Located along the famous Rio Grande River, Big Bend National Park in Texas is an International Dark Sky Park that boasts little to no light pollution. This makes for some of the brightest skies available to be viewed anywhere in the world. Visit this park to enjoy the unique desert landscapes near the Mexican border. This park is one of the most remote national parks, as well as the least visited. So, if getting away from crowds is your idea of a vacation, Big Bend National Park can offer you solitude even in peak daylight hours. In this vast, quiet park, you will be able to take in the bright night skies with tranquility.
2. Zion National Park, Utah
With its open skies, jagged rock formations, and plenty of natural wonder, Zion National Park is definitely worth a visit. This park boasts cliffs and canyons, and is home to a wide array of protected wildlife. The fascinating rock formations will be a feast for the eyes during the day while you wait for the light show of the stars come nightfall. It is a great choice for active families who can take advantage of hiking trails, horseback riding, and rock climbing. With all the activities available, be sure not to over-exert yourself and fall asleep before the spectacular starlight falls!
3. Glacier National Park, Montana
Head over to Montana for Glacier National Park if you’d like a chance to see the Northern Lights in the clearest of night skies. Considered America’s answer to the Swiss Alps, this is a popular tourist attraction for nature lovers. Due to its early heritage and scenic Alpine aesthetic, inhabitants have dotted the region with lovely Swiss style chalets. The many rustic lodges available to rent are great for family getaways in this special park. You might just see a mountain goat, or two.
4. Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota
Close to the Canadian border, making it easy access for our northern neighbors, is Voyageurs National Park, where you also have a chance to see Northern Lights in the sky. Named for the early French explorers who explored the region, Voyageurs National Park is known for both land and water activities. It is a popular destination for fishing by day and skygazing by night.
5. Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania
If you want to level up your astronomy credentials, then you will want to visit Cherry Springs State Park in Pennsylvania. The Astronomy Observation Field located there has 360º views, making it a must-see for all aspiring or professional astronomers. Located in Susquehannock State Forest, this park is truly special. Not only is it devoid of light pollution, but its high altitude above sea level means that the starry night skies are some of the brightest that can be found in the world.
Any of these parks are a great choice for your next vacation. Not only do they offer unique natural wonder during the day, but they will let you see the night skies in all their vivid glory at night.
About the Author
Taylor Thompson is a PR Specialist for American Paper Optics.
Featured image by David Babayan on Unsplash