Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rockies is the world’s second largest dark sky preserve, and they celebrate this fact every October with the Dark Sky Festival. Stargazing is optimal every other month of the year too. Stop by the visitor center in Jasper, as it has on-site telescopes. Tourism Jasper has a top ten list of the best places to stargaze in the national park, which includes Medicine Lake, Maligne Canyon and Lake, Columbia Icefields, and Pyramid Lake.
Travel + Leisure have proclaimed Osoyoos as Canada’s stargazing destination, thanks to a stay at the town’s Observatory Bed and Breakfast. Osoyoos lies south of the Okanagan Valley, beside the United States border. It is home to Canada’s only desert and dark skies that are perfect for viewing planets, stars, and galaxies on a daily basis. Beginning and experienced astronomers visit Osoyoos every August to attend the Mount Kobau Star Party too. The stargazing is even better from on top of the mountain.
Garibaldi Provincial Park lies between Squamish and Whistler, off the Sea to Sky Highway in British Columbia. It has over 90 kilometers (56 miles) of hiking trails, making it a popular destination for adventurers year-round. The park is also home to beautiful lakes, several towering peaks, and various campgrounds. From these campsites at night (especially Elfin Lakes as pictured below), expect to see stunning views of the night sky.
Every year, certain Ontario Parks host summer stargazing parties during the Perseid meteor shower (mid-July to late August annually). In parks such as Charleston Lake Provincial Park, where there is minimal light pollution, people can see between 50 and 100 meteors per hour when the skies are clear. Located about two hours south of Ottawa, the party at Charleston Lake also usually involves a visit from a renowned astronomer, who is on hand to answer questions and help visitors see through the available telescopes.
Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan is actually the darkest Dark Sky Preserve in Canada. This title means it may just be the best place to stargaze in the country. Parks Canada recommends three car-accessible stargazing locations in the national park: Two Trees Trail, Frenchman Valley Campground, and Rock Creek Campground. Grasslands National Park is 907 square kilometers (350 square miles) and has a West Block and East Block, the latter of which provides optimal stargazing opportunities.
The world’s largest dark sky preserve, Wood Buffalo National Park is a fantastic place to see the Milky Way, constellations, and the Northern Lights. Visiting in late August and September is recommended; the nights are longer than other times of the year, but the temperature is still warm. December, January, and February are also months with crystal clear skies (but colder temperatures). Like its counterpart, Jasper National Park, Wood Buffalo also hosts a Dark Sky Festival every August.
In 2004, the Northern Bruce Peninsula proclaimed itself a Dark Sky Community. The Bruce Peninsula Tourist Association says: “With very little light pollution, our sky is the perfect backdrop for seeing the Milky Way. Star clusters such as the Pleiades, meteor showers, comets, and one of the best displays of Northern Lights in southern Ontario are all part of our heavenly sky.” Some of the best stargazing locations include Fathom Five National Marine Park, and Lion’s Head, which is where the Bruce Peninsula Biosphere Association hosts Bayside Astronomy nights during the summer.
Located in both Alberta and Saskatchewan, Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park was Alberta’s first dark sky preserve. It’s a great stargazing option thanks to its high elevation and lack of light pollution. Visit the Cypress Hills Observatory, which is found on the Saskatchewan side. In August, stargazing enthusiasts visit the park from across North America for the Summer Star Party, hosted by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. With several organized events during the day and night, it’s known as one of Canada’s largest stargazing events.
Quebec’s Mont Mégantic National Park is the heart of the first International Dark Sky Reserve, named by the International Dark-Sky Association. Learn more and have the best stargazing experience by visiting the national park’s ASTROLab and Observatory. The ASTROLab also organizes an annual Astronomy Festival and hosts Perseid Evenings during the meteor shower. The evening includes telescopes, presentations, and musical ambiance.
Kejimkujik National Park became a Dark Sky Preserve (and the first in Nova Scotia) in 2010. It is home to a purpose-built First Nations Sky Circle. During the summer, the national park has astronomy and interpretation programs available, where people can learn more about the night sky’s significance in Mi’kmaw history and culture. They also have Dark Sky Kits available for rent from the visitor center, Dark Sky Weekends twice a year, and an Outdoor Ampitheatre.