Becoming an astronaut has been one of my childhood dreams. Staring at the stars on a clear moonless night made that aspiration grow even stronger but when we moved to the city, the bright city lights and heavy pollution made the majesty of the night sky impossible to see. Suddenly, the great Milky Way Galaxy became impossible to behold and all I can see were a few hundred stars. Even a clear moonless night in the best urban park would block the beautiful view of the vast star-studded night sky.
Thankfully, there still are some spots in the U.S. where you can enjoy the view of the night sky with all the billions of stars in it. These places have made certain measures to preserve their nightscape and make stargazing possible for those who would love to experience this awe-striking activity.
Camping is one of the activities where stargazing can be enjoyed. It’s a great opportunity that one can enjoy while reconnecting to mother nature. The fresh breeze of pure air combined with the beautiful view of the sky towering mountains and even wild animals nearby makes the experience truly one of a kind. Below is a list of eight places which we recommend if you want to experience nature at its finest. These places are on the list because of their remote or elevated location, special night sky regulations or simply because they are tucked within undeveloped land. Others offer some thrilling activities that are great for camping making them perfect for those who love to explore the great outdoors!
1. Badlands National Park, South Dakota
If you’re looking for a place to spend some time in during the summer then the Cedar Pass Campground would be perfect. Friday through Monday nights is designated for Night Sky Viewing. Right after the ranger program in the evening, you’re free to continue on and just enjoy the majestic view of the stars. There are telescopes that are going to be provided and the campground itself has 96 level campsites that offer some awe-inspiring view. Over 7,500 stars can be enjoyed on a clear night. Milky Way’s clarity is also visible from the location itself. Other heavenly bodies that can be seen are planets, moons, nebulae, star clusters and many more!
2. Galloway Forest Park, Scotland
The remoteness of this place has made it a recipient of one of the only four “Dark Sky Parks” distinction in the western world. Galloway Forest Park is the largest in Scotland. It covers over 185,000 acres of land with only a few buildings making it easier to view a wider expanse of the sky and up to 7,000 stars. In this place, one’s naked eye can also observe the Andromeda Galaxy and enjoy the Aurora Borealis which is said to disappear in 12 years or so. Some form of unregulated camping is allowed with five bothies or small unlocked structures around the area which can be used by anyone.
3. Joshua Tree National Park, California
Setting up your tent on one of the giant granite rocks formed by nature is one of the things that you can do when you choose to camp in the Jumbo Rocks Campground of the Joshua Tree National Park. The place is located 1,000 feet higher compared to the other locations in the park. This means that you can enjoy a spectacular view of Southern California, especially at night. Stargazing is also possible and the first Night Sky Festival hosted by the park starts in October though camping is available any time of the year when you want to.
4. The Atacama Desert, Chile
This place can be lonely and dangerous. There are no marks and signs that can help you find your way after getting off the road. Every fun and enjoyable experience always comes with some risks so if you really want to see one of the most gorgeous dark sky spots in the world then you shouldn’t let any of those risks stop you. Go on a camping and stargazing trip in the Atacama Desert and you’ll surely love every aspect of it! You’ll be able to pitch a tent under a great canopy of majestic stars. You can also visit Paranal Observatory, one of the most famous observatories in the world. Being a very dry place so remember to bring enough water. Clouds and pollution are very minimal in this place making it great for stargazing.
5. Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park, New Zealand
A rugged land of ice with a total of 19 peaks that rises up to 9,800 feet (one of it is New Zealand’s tallest, Aoraki/Mount Cook). Situated around a mile and a half from Aoraki/Mount Cook village is the White Horse Hill Campground which is one of the best places in the country to do stargazing while camping at the same time. The absence of cities and small towns nearby makes the night sky glow with stars at night. You’ll also love the view of the surrounding mountain ranges during the day.
6. Mauna Kea, Hawaii
You’ll need to secure a permit for camping in Mauna Kea State Park and application is allowed for no more than 30 days in advance but it’s going to be one of the greatest adventures you’ll have if you choose this to be your next destination. One of the world’s largest astronomical observatory is located in Big Island which is also known as the home of a dormant volcano that’s 13,803 feet high. Free programs are done in the night at the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy. Pollution is absent because of the thick (2,000 feet) well just below the summit that works by isolating the upper atmosphere from the maritime air that’s moist and mixed with pollutants. This results in a sky that’s pure, dry, and free from pollution and is perfect for stargazing during the night.
7. Yangtze River Valley, China
Did you know that China still has some spots where you can enjoy stargazing? Even with its world-renowned air pollution, the sleeping giant has still got an ace in its deck of cards. The Yangtze River Valley is one of these places where you can see some of the clearest night skies. The river is also ideal for those who would love to go on a cruise. China is also home to one of the world’s first astronomical observatories built in the 15th century in Beijing. The spot is not too far from the Yangtze River Valley.
8. Kiruna, Sweden
The last one on this list is Camp Ripan found in Kiruna, Sweden. The place has got its own room designated for stargazing. Caravans and tents also have their own sites within the area. Kiruna is close to the border of Finland and Norway and is a very popular destination for those who would love to witness the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). There’s also an option for sleeping inside an igloo when you visit Kiruna during the winter season. There are many space research centers in this place because of the lack of pollution in the atmosphere and its remoteness.