Best Dark Sky Parks to Go Star Gazing in the US

By: Bryan Shelmon

Bryan Shelmon is a travel writer, living the digital nomad lifestyle as of the past 5+ years to immerse himself into the travel industry. Bryan has traveled to regions including the Americas, the Caribbean, Europe, and Southeast Asia. While traveling, he enjoys daily writing sessions with his favorite chai latte, attending local cultural events, and working on CULTURE art inspired by new places.

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November 28, 2023 | Adventure Experts, Pro Tips

The night isn’t as dark as you may think. Get away from the city lights and discover nights skies full of twinkling stars! Nothing makes you feel small like gazing up at the vast universe and dark sky parks in the US are the perfect destination to experience it.

The United States is home to more than five dozen official International Dark Sky Park—there’s less than 200 in the entire world! You can find many of these sites tucked in our national parks that allow nature’s beauty to shine brilliantly in the night.

See which US Dark Sky Parks are a must-visit and how to stay overnight for star gazing.


  1. Big Bend National Park
  2. Arches National Park
  3. Canyonlands National Park
  4. Bryce Canyon National Park
  5. Grand Canyon National Park
  6. Death Valley National Park
  7. Joshua Tree National Park
  8. Zion National Park

Best dark sky park for the darkest skies

Big Bend National Park

Male traveler star gazing in darkest skies in Big Bend National Park, Texas

Find Big Bend National Park on Google Maps

Texas is known for everything big. So, when you’re searching for the biggest, brightest stars in the night sky, look no further than the Lone Star State! Big Bend National Park covers more than 800,000 acres of protected land, with some areas ranking as a Class 1 for the darkest skies possible.

Did you know that the stars you see at night are millions of years old? It’s quite the thought when considering that you’re looking at the same stars as the dinosaurs whose fossils you’ll find scattered throughout Big Bend National Park.

When night falls, the sky entertains all who look up. Spot meteor showers shooting across the sky and find the corresponding constellation to your horoscope.

  • Best time of year to visit: October to April are the best months for star gazing in Big Bend National Park. The dry season has better weather for clear night skies.

Experience star gazing in Big Bend National Park on this Texas Big Bend National Park Hiking Tour.

Best dark sky park for night photography

Arches National Park

Night photography showing meteor and milky way near Delicate Arch in Moab, Utah

female hiker sitting near Delicate Arch in Utah, North America

Find Arches National Park on Google Maps

To see a star-studded night sky, hang around Arches National Park after-dark when all the tour groups and hikers have gone home for the day. It’s one of the best dark sky parks in the US to see the Milky Way.

The scenic terrain in Arches National Park becomes even more spectacular at night. Spot our galaxy peeking between unique rock formations and get perfect views to snap star gazing photos.

You can always find a spot for star gazing. Visit the Balanced Rock Picnic Area for views of the night sky above one of the park’s most iconic rocks. Panorama Point is a hotspot for photographers and where you’ll find ranger-led star gazing program meeting up. Also, the Garden of Eden Viewpoint if you prefer less crowds.

  • Best time of year to visit: Visitors can see the Milky Way in Arches National Park between April and October.

Experience star gazing in Arches National Park on the Utah National Parks Multi-Adventure Tour.

Best dark sky park for viewing with your naked eye

Canyonlands National Park

Hiking Girl sitting on the edge of the cliff on Elephant Hill Canyonlands Needles District Utah

Canyonlands with the night sky - for the best viewing with your naked eye

Find Canyonlands National Park on Google Maps

No telescopes are needed at Canyonlands National Park. The stars here are so vibrant that you can see them with your naked eye—just allow for a half hour to let your eyes adjust to the night sky. And these skies exhibit much more than just shimmering dots of light.

Visit during a new moon because the moonless night will always give the best view. You’ll lose count with more than 15,000 stars visible on a clear night. If you packed binoculars, you can magnify the night sky even more and spot Saturn’s rings and the Milky Way!

Overlooks are great for admiring the distinct rock formations during the day, but they also provide the best night sky views. Each of the four districts in Canyonlands offer views. Our favorites are at the Grand View Point Overlook, Needles Overlook, and at the iconic Mesa Arch.

  • Best time of year to visit: Visit during the summer months for the best star gazing.

Experience stargazing in Canyonlands National Park on the Utah Cataract Canyon Colorado River Rafter Tour.

Best dark sky park for night hikes

Bryce Canyon National Park

Group of hikers friends walking down the stairs and enjoying view of Zion National Park, USA

Find Bryce Canyon National Park on Google Maps

Bryce Canyon National Park is famous for its hoodoos, or spire-like rock formations towering up to 200-feet above the canyon floor. However, look much higher and you’ll see another famous sight the park is known for: stars! This park was certified as an International Dark Sky Park in 2019, but its night sky-viewing programs have been around for much longer. In fact, it was one of the first national parks with night hike tours and these tour guides know the perfect spots for star gazing all year long.

Night hikes in Bryce Canyon National Park are one of the best ways to see the wonders of the dark sky. Navigate the route with expert Astrology Rangers pointing out more than 7,500 stars, Jupiter, Venus, and the Milky Way. There’s even a winter full moon hike with snowshoes.

Stop by the Bryce Canyon National Park visitors center to watch an Astrology Night presentation. It also hosts the Astronomy Festival in the summer with full moon hikes, telescope viewing sessions, and more.

  • Best time of year to visit: Attend special night time hiking programs held between May and September.

Experience star gazing in Bryce Canyon National Park on the Utah Bryce Canyon & Zion National Parks Hiking Tour.

Request a free adventure travel catalog from MT Sobek
Request a free adventure travel catalog from MT Sobek!

Best dark sky park for its variety of viewing spots

Grand Canyon National Park

family of hikers female and male on a trip to Grand Canyon National Park

best viewing spots in Grand Canyon National Park adventure

Find Grand Canyon National Park on Google Maps

The awe-inspiring views overlooking the Grand Canyon have inspired everyone from artists to photographers. Combine star gazing with views over one of the Seven Wonders of the World and you’ve got a recipe for a scenic night!

The skies over the Grand Canyon have witnessed otherworld phenomenon. Visitors can spot star clusters, double stars, nebulae, planets, and more. The stars overhead light up the canyon just enough to appreciate nature’s beauty—on Earth and outer space!

The stars are most visible 90 minutes after sunset, so get in position at top overlooks sites for the best view. Moran Point, Mather Point, Lipon Point, Desert View, and Bright Angel Point are a few of the best spots. However, simply hiking anywhere on the Rim Trail will give you a great view.

The Grand Canyon National Park hosts programing offering a chance to see the night sky and learn about the stars. Attend constellation talks hosted at the South Rim Visitor Center or participate in the Star Party every June.

  • Best time of year to visit: The Grand Canyon is open 24 hours, so anytime is great for star gazing in this park. Summer is the best time to participate in star gazing activities.

Experience star gazing in the Grand Canyon with the Arizona Utah Grand Canyon, Bryce & Zion Private Adventure Tour.

Request a free adventure travel catalog from MT Sobek
Request a free adventure travel catalog from MT Sobek

Best dark sky park for nighttime viewing activities

Death Valley National Park

star gazing for nighttime in Death Valley National Park in California

Find Death Valley National Park on Google Maps

Ironic to its name, night time is when Death Valley National Parks comes alive! We’re all about adventure and this park gives you plenty of activities while enjoying views of stars in the sky. So, whether you’re looking to relax or get active, it’s a dark sky park that lets you tailor your experience.

Death Valley National Park is part of the Nevada Astro-tourism route. The remote wilderness landscape is ideal for star gazing. The level grounds of the Badwater Basin salt flats make it easy to spot stars near the horizon. And the elevation of Zabriskie Point means you’ll have unobstructed views of the sky.

Join ranger programs or go on a self-guided trip to popular viewing spots, including the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes and Ubehebe Crater. Other popular activities in the park include night photography, full moon night hikes, and the annual Death Valley Dark Sky Festival every spring.

  • Best time of year to visit: Winter is the best time to star gaze. This park is known for extreme temperatures and can reach 100°F even at night! Winter has cooler temperatures and also when you’ll find seasonal ranger programs.

Experience star gazing in Death Valley National Park on the California Joshua Tree & Death Valley Hiking Tour.

Best dark sky park for beginner star gazers

Joshua Tree National Park

nighttime star gazing of Joshua Tree National Park in California

Find Joshua Tree National Park on Google Maps

Joshua Tree National Park takes the guesswork out of stargazing. You can always count on tons of stars blanketing the sky. If you’re new to star gazing, this park is a great way to start your adventure into this nocturnal pastime.

Located more than 300 miles from the nearest major city of Phoenix, this park benefits from having virtually no light pollution. It established designated stargazing areas to see sights including shooting stars, planets, and the Milky Way core.

Don’t know what you’re looking at? Joshua Tree National Park. Provides a Sky Guide App to aid in spotting constellations or locating the North Star.

  • Best time of year to visit: You can see lots of stars from March to September. June and July are the best months to see the Milky Way, visible with your naked eye.

Experience stargazing in Joshua Tree National Park on the California Joshua Tree & Death Valley Hiking Tour.

Best dark sky park for the most scenic night views

Zion National Park

night viewing in Zion National Park, one of Utah's Mighty 5 national parks in North America

Find Zion National Park on Google Maps

Zion National Park was the last of the Utah ‘Mighty 5’ national parks designated as an International Dark Sky Park. And better late than never because stargazers have gathered here long before becoming an official site.

View astral bodies suspended in the night sky above the park’s rugged landscape. Stars shine bright into the depths of canyons. And constellations peek from behind towering cliffs.

Hike one mile on the Canyon Overlook trail for a panoramic view. Get an elevated view from Zion Ponderosa Ranch. And even right outside the Visitor Center offers a great view of the many stars and planets that cross the sky.

  • Best time of year to visit: Visit Zion National Park during the spring or fall months for the best dark sky viewing.

Experience Zion National Park on the Utah National Parks Multi-Adventure Tour.

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