One of the most essential things that help create the “perfect camp night” is the view of star-studded skies. A good bonfire going, good food, the company of family and friends and clear skies filled with stars make a great recipe for the best camping experience.
However, it’s getting harder and harder to find camping spots that truly have clear, star-studded skies nowadays due to pollution and man’s use of artificial lighting. But don’t worry – there are still plenty of sites you can visit to enjoy the night sky during your outdoor trips.
We’ve listed them below, but first things first.. You don’t really need to bring anything to enjoy a night under the stars, but to make the most out of the experience, you can carry with you a few simple items.
If you don’t have these, no need to buy – you can borrow from family or friends back home!
Here are some things to bring to make your star- gazing experience more memorable:
- Binoculars – A very useful tool to have when you’re outdoors, binoculars are also great for observing the night sky, especially for beginners. If you’ve got extra space in your luggage (or a big fan of astronomy!), you can opt to bring a telescope for a much clearer view. Don’t forget important accessories like a dew shield, filters and lenses!
- Red Light – Experts recommend bringing a red flashlight to provide visibility while your eyes are adapted to the dark. This will help you see finer details in the sky while looking through binoculars or a telescope. On the other hand, when you’re done observing, white light will be useful for cleanup afterwards.
- Laser Pointer – A lase pointer can be useful for pointing out objects in the sky, especially when you’re observing with a group. However, be sure to follow rules or laws of the area of your campsite regarding laser pointers.
- Star Charts or Maps – Navigate the night sky easier and identify stars and other celestial objects by using charts or maps. You can use paper or digital ones – there are plenty of star map smartphone apps available.
- Things of comfort – Bring your camping chair or a beach blanket to sit on while star gazing. Bring extra snacks and drinks and a music player to make the night more fun and festive!
Now that you know what to bring, it’s time to choose the location that will work perfectly for you!
Joshua Tree National Park (California)
Located in Southern California, the beautiful park is named after the uniquely twisted Joshua trees that are native to the area. Characterized by dessert landscapes and rugged rock formations, the park is best known to be a premiere star gazing hotspot.
The area has low levels of light pollution and low humidity, resulting to clear, jet black night skies – perfect for observing stars. In fact, according to recent research, about 29 percent of the park’s visitors specifically visit to star gaze. Not only that, Joshua Tree National Park also offers Night Sky Programs, a fun activity to add while you camp there!
The national park has 9 campgrounds, each offering amenities such as bathrooms, fire grates and tables.
For more information, visit the Joshua Tree National Park website.
Haleakala National Park (Hawaii)
The vast 25,000 acre area of subtropical rainforests and volcanic landscape is what make up Haleakala National Park, located in the southern part of Maui in Hawaii. The Haleakala summit, which is over 10,000 feet, is considered to be a world-class spot for star gazing and is said to be one of the best in the country.
The park headquarters offer a free star map and the dive shops rent out binoculars, so you won’t need to bring or purchase your own. Haleakala National Park is home to 3 iconic 1930’s era redwood cabins plus 2 wilderness campgrounds.
If you want to learn more about this national park, visit their website.
Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah)
Did you know that on a clear, moonless night, you can spot 7,500 to 10,000 stars at this park?
Located in the southern part of Utah, Bryce Canyon National Park is noted for its beautiful naturally-formed mazes, spires and pinnacles (due to limestones, mudstones and sandstones that eroded together over time). But it is top spot for star gazing.
If you’re a beginner or just need some assistance, this is the place for you – a group called the Dark Rangers run a nightly Night Sky Program showcasing celestial shows (through multimedia presentations), offering assistance, guided trips and free use of over 40 telescopes all throughout the park. Bryce Canyon also hosts an annual astronomy festival.
There are 2 campgrounds in the park, namely the Sunset Campgrounds and the Bryce Canyon National Park North.
If you want to know more about camping or star gazing in Bryce Canyon National Park, head on over to their website.
Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)
One of the country’s most popular national parks is also one of its top star gazing hot spots. Head on over to the trails located in the park’s north and south rims, away from Grand Canyon Village. The sky at night are studded with stars. On a moonless night, you can often see meteor showers or the Milky Way.
You can borrow a free telescope from the Grand Canyon Lodge or Visitor Centers and grab a free star map from one of the gift shops. The Grand Canyon Star Party is celebrated at the park annually, usually mid-year in June.
There are numerous campgrounds in Grand Canyon National Park, the most popular being the Mather Campground and Trailer Village, both of which are located in Grand Canyon Village.
For more information on where to camp out at this park, visit their website.
Big Bend National Park (Texas)
Star gazing is so good at this park that you don’t need binoculars or a telescope to see the show! Located in Texas, Big Bend National Park is an International Dark Sky Park. On a clear night, you will be able to spot over 2,000 stars, Antares (a red star from the constellation of Scorpio) and the Andromeda Galaxy (which is 2 million light years away!)
You can choose to set up camp in one of the park’s 3 campgrounds – Cottonwood, Chisos Basin or the Rio Grande Village (which has a site that offers full RV hook-ups).
If you want to know more about Big Bend National Park, visit their website.
So pack your camping gear and get ready for some unforgettable nights under starry, starry skies!
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