National parks are a huge part of American life. They offer a chance to reconnect with nature, something that has taken on increased significance with the need to social distance from others. Luckily, not only are the parks in the the US vast in size, they are also plentiful in number.
Many Americans particularly enjoy heading out into the wild and sleeping under the stars – but where should you go to combine these incredible spaces with a touch of constellation spotting? Our guide to the top five stargazing spots in the US takes into account factors like accessibility, number of visitors and, most importantly, light pollution.
Rating best on the Bortle Scale – which measures how bright the night sky is – as well as lowest on the artificial-light rating, this massive park comes out top of our list. Even though it covers several states, including Utah, Nevada and Oregon, the Great Basin doesn’t see as much traffic as other national parks. This means you’re unlikely to run into many other visitors on a trip here.
Check out our guide to other great outdoor spots in Nevada.
Texas has always been popular with those searching for the ultimate outdoor experience, with hiking and camping particularly easy thanks to the warm climate and easily accessible parks. Big Bend National Park is the largest protected area of Chihuahuan Desert topography and ecology in the United States, and boasts an entire mountain range within its borders. What this all means for stargazers is very little light pollution and a lot of excellent vantage points.
If roughing it isn’t your vibe, then why not try these luxurious glamping experiences in Texas?
Devastating wildfires have impacted much of California’s forests in recent months, but many of the famous redwood trees are still standing. Combining a number of smaller parks under the umbrella of Redwood National and State Parks, California has a real treasure when it comes to unassuming outdoor space here. Unlike our previous entries, you’ll often look up here and find spectacular light shows framed by the tops of some of the continent’s tallest trees. It means you’ll get some dramatic pictures in return for hunting down the best viewing spots.
California has an incredible selection of unique camping experiences, from converted trailers to outdoor safari tents. Here’s our guide to some of the best to book right now.
It’s back to the wilderness with this remote park in the northern state of Washington. The number of annual visitors here is incredibly low, making it peaceful as well as a haven for birds and animals of all varieties. Low light pollution and cold temperatures add to the sense of isolation here, which in turn adds to the excellent stargazing conditions.
Given how remote some areas of the state can be, make sure you pick a well-known spot to spend the night. Here’s our pick of the best camping sites in Washington.
Close to the border with Canada, Voyageurs National Park is in Minnesota, also known as the State of 10,000 Lakes. With a moniker like that, it’s easy to see why the outdoors is such an integral part of the way of life here. Locals are used to making the most of the great terrain for camping and fishing trips, and as all photographers know, nothing improves an already stunning vista like a reflective pool of water.
If you have a hankering for stargazing elsewhere in the US, take a look at our general guide for other great spots across the country.