Get Out There

Best Parks for Stargazing

There has been some crazy weather around the country recently! Yosemite broke a 54-year-old snow accumulation record by multiple inches closing off the park indefinitely to visitors.  

In all of my years here, this is the most snow that I’ve ever seen at one time,” said Scott Gediman, a spokesperson for Yosemite and ranger for 27 years. “This is the most any of us have ever seen.”

It’s possible, with the crazy weather around the country, that your weekend plans may have been disrupted. That can be extremely frustrating! We all want to get out and get away, and the weather keeps throwing us curveballs. With that in mind, we’re looking toward one of the most calming activities possible.

When was the last time you went stargazing? You can stargaze in your own backyard. But the stars can be hard to see if you live in a town or near a city. About 80 percent of people in North America can’t see the Milky Way from their homes. Getting away from light sources allows you to see more beautiful sights than you realized possible.

The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) fights to combat light pollution to help wildlife and people enjoy nature’s beauty more. Places like Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado changed their lighting systems to make sure they didn’t shine light upwards. Mesa Verde became the 100th International Dark Sky Park. The lighting system doesn’t eliminate light completely; it directs it correctly and ensures it’s used well.

Astrotourism is fun camping with a purpose. It’s not just about viewing the parks during the day. It’s about looking up at night. It also helps pull people away from overcrowded spots like the Grand Canyon.  

More people are becoming aware of our innate and deep-rooted connection with the night sky and acknowledging that connection is at risk of being lost forever if we do not take action to preserve it now,” said Ashley Wilson of the IDA. “There can be a balance between nature, our night skies and our modern way of life. We can keep our view and connection with the universe and contemplate our place in it as our ancestors have for millennia.”

You can check out this list to find an International Dark Sky Park near you. Not all of the best parks are attractive just for their sky. For instance, Lydon B. Johnson National Historical Park is the ranch where the 36th president spent his childhood. You can see his home, the “Texas White House complex,” and enjoy the gorgeous night sky! Anza Borrego Desert State Park features fantastic metal sculptures. Craters of the Moon will make you feel like you are on an alien landscape. They have so much to offer on the ground. Then you’ll look up and have your breath taken away.

Banner image: Ryan Hutton via Unsplash

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