The nonprofit International Dark Sky Association (IDA) recognizes places around the world where the night sky is preserved and protected from light pollution. These make for some of the best stargazing spots in the world. Here, we’ve collected the best IDA-certified parks for the most awesome stargazing in the US.
Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah
Owachomo Natural Bridge, Utah, United States
One of Utah’s claims to fame is the Natural Bridges National Monument – the second largest natural bridge in the world. But come sundown, it’s the sky that commands attention. Because this park has almost no light pollution it’s one of the darkest parks in the southern United States, and it’s perfect for stargazing. If you're planning to visit during the summer, make sure you check out one of the park’s ranger-led stargazing programmes to get the full experience. Or hire a car and head off for a night to remember under your own steam, finishing it all off at Abajo Haven Guest Cabins (an hour’s drive away), where each cabin comes with a fire pit and barbecue so that you can enjoy the night sky to the fullest.
Big Bend National Park in Texas
Big Bend National Park is one of the biggest and most remote national parks
Big Bend National Park is the largest protected area of the Chihuahuan Desert in the United States. Located on the border of western Texas and the Mexican state of Chihuahua, Big Bend has some of the darkest skies in North America. It’s also one of the biggest, most remote and least visited national parks, making it a great option for those wanting to avoid crowds. Book your room at Lajitas Golf Resort, which is conveniently located right outside the park.
Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico
Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico, United States
The Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico is an important archaeological area where you can find the densest concentration of Chacoan ruins – remnants of an ancient Native American culture – in the Southwest. In addition to preserving its archaeological wonders, the park supports the Chaco's Night Sky Initiative, which combines the astronomy practices of the Chacoan people with modern approaches. An hour and a half's drive from the park, the Best Western Plus the Four Corners Inn offers a complimentary continental breakfast.
Cherry Springs State Park in Pennsylvania
The park's Astronomy Field offers 360-degree views
Cherry Springs State Park sits 700 metres above sea level within the largest undeveloped part of Pennsylvania's Susquehannock State Forest. The park is open year-round and usually has between 60 and 85 nights when stargazing conditions are ideal. The best vantage point is the Astronomy Field, which offers unobstructed 360º views. Rough Cut Lodge is less than a 30-minute drive from Cherry Springs State Park and offers free on-site parking.
Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida
Everglades, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, United States
Big Cypress National Preserve is famous for its biodiversity and is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including Florida’s black bears and elusive panthers. This preserve’s proximity to Miami, Naples, and Fort Myers makes it an important defensive wall against land development in southern Florida, creating a buffer that protects both the wildlife and the clear black skies in the area. Go to the heart of the reserve for the best views – you might even catch the Milky Way illuminating the sky. Ivey House Bed & Breakfast is a 10-minute drive away, and offers canoe and kayak rentals as well as Florida Everglades tours.