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15 Best National Parks For Stargazing (USA & Canada)

stargazing milky way in joshua tree national park

If you’re looking to get away from the light pollution of your local area and get to where the night skies are dark, then consider taking a trip to a National Park.

What makes National Parks so great for stargazing is that they tend to cover a massive amount of square miles, meaning the potential for light pollution is minimal.

With more than 400 recognized U.S. National Parks, it can be overwhelming picking a spot for your dark skies adventure.

And that’s not even counting the national parks in Canada!

So, we asked around to see which parks other travelers and night sky enthusiasts recommend, both in the United States and Canada.

Check out their top National Park picks for seeing the night sky below and then grab your tent for a night of seeing the Milky Way.

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake is the best national park for stargazing.

Aside from the visitor center, there are very few lights, so it is easy to find an area with completely dark skies.

Simply drive a few miles away (in either direction) from the visitor center on the road that encircles the lake.

Then, pull over and enjoy incredible night skies.

Thanks to Christina Pate, Founder, Travels with Ted

Grand Canyon National Park

Although most people are drawn to Grand Canyon National Park to see the stunning canyon, not everyone knows that the Grand Canyon is also one of the best places you can go for some really amazing star gazing.

Grand Canyon National Park is a certified International Dark Sky Park and has taken measures to maintain the darkness of the skies over the park (such as retrofitting all the lamps in the park to reduce light pollution).

The park is open 24-hours a day, so you have plenty of time to take in that incredible night sky.

For the best chance of seeing the most stars, plan to stargaze at least 1.5 hours after sunset and more than 1.5 hours before sunrise.

Also avoid visiting when the moon is in its brightest phases.

When we visited the Grand Canyon, stargazing after the sun set on the canyon was one of our favorite experiences at the park.

Our children were amazed at the sheer number of stars you could see blanketing the sky compared to what we’re used to at home.

Thanks to Martha Villaroman, Founder, Go Places With Kids

Jasper National Park

In 2011, Jasper National Park was designated as a Dark Sky Preserve by the Royal Astronomical Society in Canada due to its limited light pollution that creates ideal conditions for dark sky viewing.

Jasper is the second largest Dark Sky Preserve in the World, and one of 17 that can be found in Canada.

Jasper is the most accessible Dark Sky Preserve as there’s a town within the limits of the preserve.

Thanks to Jami Savage, Travel Writer, Adventure Awaits

Banff National Park

Banff National Park takes the number 1 spot for my favourite stargazing locations.

Located in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, there’s nothing more magical than witnessing the silhouette of a mountain beneath a blanket of stars.

The best part? You don’t have to go far to find the best spots.

Some of my favourites include Moraine Lake, or Two Jack Lake, where you can quite literally drive up to these locations and stargaze from the comfort of your own car.

Driving over around dusk also provides a unique experience to see some wildlife, as these roads are known for frequent sightings of elk, bears, and even the elusive moose.

My suggestion? Bring lots of layers as the nights can become very chilly even in the summertime.

The northern lights are best seen in the winter months between October and May.

In addition to the northern lights, you’ll be astounded by the pitch-black skies revealing views of the milky way, neighboring planets, and more stars than you’d think is possible.

Thanks to Natasha Nanji, travel writer, Where’s Natasha; Connor Griffiths, Lifty Life

Big Bend National Park

After traveling much of North, Central, and South America, the best stargazing I have ever experienced is in Big Bend National Park, Texas.

Since you’re in desert far from any major city, there is nothing to obstruct your view, cloud cover is extremely rare, and there is no light pollution.

It’s also stunningly beautiful to hike during the day.

After a long day on the trails you can recover in natural hot springs along the Rio Grande.

The driest (and coolest) times to visit are the winter and spring months.

Thanks to Ryan Gleason, travel blogger, Ryan and Alex

Great Sand Dunes National Park

I think the best National Park for stargazing is Great Sand Dunes National Park near Mosca, Colorado.

The park’s namesake 750-foot sand dunes form in the remote San Luis Valley, which is ringed by rugged 14,000-foot peaks.

The mountains shield the area from light pollution making this one of the darkest skies available in any national park in the country.

The area is remote and far from cities or highways that commonly obscure night views.

In 2019 the park was named an International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association, recognizing it as one of the best places to stargaze in the world.

I personally recommend going during the summer and securing a backcountry permit.

This allows you to camp out anywhere on the sand dunes where you can sit and watch shooting stars fly over the mountains miles away from anyone else.

It’s a pretty unforgettable experience, even for an avid traveler.

Thanks to Alex Derr, The Next Summit

Zion National Park

Zion National Park is a spectacular place to stargaze, thanks to the limited light pollution nearby.

In fact, it’s the first place I’ve ever seen the Milky Way stretch completely from horizon to horizon.

Another bonus is that the rock canyons and other formations provide a spectacular backdrop to your stargazing, especially if you’re trying your hand at astrophotography.

One of the best places to stargaze is at the end of the Watchman trail- you can watch the spectacular sunset here and watch the incredible stars twinkle to life.

Thanks to Jessica Schmit, Uprooted Traveler

Voyageurs National Park

Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota is an absolutely fantastic spot for stargazing.

It is far away from any major cities, so light pollution is kept to an absolute minimum.

It’s also so far north that it is possible to see both the Milky Way and the Northern Lights, in addition to the many constellations, stars, moons, and planets.

There are so many campsites throughout the park that you will most certainly be spread out, with plenty of room to stargaze on your own.

Spend a summer night in an open tent for the best views.

There are also many overlooks and clearings both at the backcountry campsites, roadside pull-offs and along hiking trails with wide views of the open horizon.

While winter skies are the clearest, you’ll be most comfortable during the summer.

Thanks to Samantha Meabon, Owner & Creator, PAonPause.com; Jennifer Melroy of National Park Obsessed

Great Basin National Park

The best national park for stargazing, at least in the lower 48, is Great Basin National Park in Nevada.

This park is an alpine oasis surrounded by desert, making for very little in the way of light pollution around it.

The best place to go is the Baker Archeological Site about a half-mile north of the visitor center.

Take a camp chair and just sit out to enjoy the stars as they come out.

Pretty soon, there will be more stars than blackness in the sky.

Thanks to Grant Sinclair, Wander-Filled Life; Steve Silberberg, Fitpacking; John Medina, Founder, John Medina Buys Houses

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park in California is one of the best spots in the country to stargaze.

The 3.4 million acres of remote desert landscape not only gives you unobstructed sky views, but also makes it one of the darkest spots in the US.

The best time to visit is between December and March when the temperatures are comfortable.

During this time there are also ranger-led night sky programs to learn more about the cosmos.

And if you are looking for the absolute best time to stargaze, be sure to plan your visit around the new moon.

This is when the moon is no longer visible, which makes the night sky even darker.

Thanks to Kimberley DeLauro, Founder of Ready Aim Travel; Ravi Parikh, CEO of RoverPass

Grand Teton National Park

The Grand Teton National Park is my absolute #1 pick for the best national park for stargazing.

I’ve never seen such velvety black skies that make stars stand out like diamonds.

It was like having a front-row seat to the universe — even without a large telescope.

Just stunning.

When my 17-year-old son Joaquin and I stayed in a rustic cabin inside the park, we were so enamored by the free show that we’d walk outside the cabin in the middle of the night just to enjoy the view.

And that was no easy feat, given all the hiking we did each day.

Thanks to Barbara DeLollis, travel writer, Travel Essential; Mark Wilcox, Founder, Camping Forge

Yellowstone National Park

Most national parks are good for stargazing–well the ones away from cities and too many roads.

But my two favorites are Joshua Tree (where I was in November of 2020) and Yellowstone (where I was in September of 2021).

Perhaps because of the surroundings, Yellowstone was even more spectacular.

That it was happenstance perhaps made it even more special.

We had resolved before beginning our several days in the park to not let traffic frustrate us.

If we got stuck behind someone doing 5 mph, we’d just enjoy the scenery that much longer.

Late one afternoon as we were attempting to exit the park, we got stuck in very bad traffic and instead of it taking an hour to get out of the park, it was going into a third hour and now past dark.

We decided to pull into a random parking lot where we could get far enough away from the road to be away from car lights and the longer we stood, leaning against the car and staring skyward, the more our eyes adjusted to see more and more stars and then constellations and meteors and satellites.

The surroundings and the luck of getting stuck in the park after dark made it even more special and we felt totally connected to the park and the universe.

Thanks to Walter G. Meyer, author

Joshua Tree National Park

Best national park for stargazing: Joshua Tree National Park is absolutely the best place for star gazing.

And not just because it officially recognized as an International Dark Sky Park by the IDA.

But it’s also because the dry desert air allows for more clear skies and than many other parks.

Joshua Tree so boasts an array of desert plants and cacti unique to the region.

There is no mistaking a Joshua Tree, especially when silhouetted by the night sky.

This makes Joshua Tree one of the best places for night sky viewing and photography.

Thanks to Steve Warren, Maps Over Coffee

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah is best known for its famous hoodoo rock formations that do the landscape.

Perhaps not as many people know about Bryce Canyon National Park is that it is the best stargazing spot in the National Park System.

Bryce Canyon National Park offers a wide selection of night sky programs where visitors can learn about the night sky and enjoy the fantastic stargazing.

Bryce Canyon National Park provides full moon hikes, special guest astronomers, and an astronomy festival with 50 telescopes that visitors can use.

Make sure if you visit to bring a water bottle and folding chair as you will want to stay for most of the night to fully enjoy the sights of the Milky Way Galaxy.

Thanks to Morgan Jarman, Nomadic Tortoise

Haleakala National Park

Visitors to Haleakalā National Park can enjoy one of the most mindblowing stargazing experiences on Earth.

On a volcanic mountain with an elevation of over 10,000 ft, you’ll be looking down at the clouds, so they won’t get in the way of your view of the cosmos.

The island of Maui, where Haleakalā is located, is also much less developed than Oahu, which is home to the city of Honolulu, so you also escape the light pollution of the city.

Up on the summit of Haleakalā you’ll enjoy the perfect conditions for the clearest and most vibrant views of the Milky Way, constellations, planets and galaxies.

It’s all there.

The stargazing on Haleakalā is so good that even the professionals are there, as it’s home to an astrophysical research facility known as “Science City”.

The geology of Haleakalā also adds a unique quality to its stargazing experience, with vast Mars-like red cinder deserts near the top, it feels like you’re on another planet.

Make sure to dress warm though, the air is thin up there and temperatures drop to below freezing on winter nights.

There’s also no food vendors so pack some snacks.

Feel like making an adventure of it?

Grab a camping pass to one of the 3 campsites on Haleakalā (Hōlua Campsite, Palikū Campsite and Hosmer Grove Campground).

If you stay the night make sure to wake up for Haleakalā’s famous sunrise, which iconic American author Mark Twain described as “the sublimest spectacle I ever witnessed.”

When you’re there make sure to treat the park with respect, it’s a sacred place in Hawaiian culture, so please pick up your trash, don’t take any rocks or cinder from the mountain and don’t be disruptive to the other guests.

Thanks to Michael Barker, Aloha Secrets

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