The 6 Best Campgrounds for Stargazing in the U.S. from Outside elessard

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Planning an adventure takes you only so far. Eventually you just need to get behind the wheel and go, especially when it comes to astrotourism. Here are the six best campgrounds to base your next stargazing adventure.

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Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison has to be seen to be believed. This unlikely gorge plunges more than 2,700 feet into the earth, forming a dramatic miles-long gash with sheer walls of marbled granite. But while it’s often called “the other Grand Canyon,” Black Canyon’s remote location makes it far less crowded—and much better for stargazing—than its celebrity neighbor to the south. Snag a site at the lesser-visited North Rim campground, which perches at the canyon’s edge and offers unparalleled views of the Milky Way.

The Milky Way visible over Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. (Photo: Getty Images)

Big Bend Ranch State Park, Texas

A 355,000-swath of rugged mountains and lush cactus gardens, Big Bend Ranch is Texas’s largest state park—and one the best spots in the country for remote camping beneath undiluted starlight. Head the park’s Interior District, which offers a number of primitive drive-up campsites. While the Milky Way glitters in the clear desert sky all summer long, August brings a special treat: the Perseids meteor shower, which peaks on August 12

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Cape Lookout National Seashore, North Carolina

Wild horses roam the shores of Cape Lookout, one of the most undeveloped stretches of coastline in the Southeast. This place is truly remote—to access car-camping sites on the beach, you’ll need a 4WD vehicle and an off-road beach driving permit. But with International Dark Sky status and more than 56 miles of shoreline to explore, it’s worth jumping through the extra hoops. Pitch a tent among the dunes, watch the sunset gild the Atlantic, and view the stars as they come out above the historic Cape Lookout Lighthouse. 

Buffalo National River, Arkansas

Surrounded by wilderness and surging with whitewater, the Buffalo is one of America’s wildest rivers. By day, it attracts kayakers and rafters. But by night, it attracts adventurers in search of the stars. Established an International Dark Sky Park in 2019, the Buffalo River’s pebbled banks are among the best places in the Ozarks to see planets, constellations, meteors, and other celestial events. Target the Ozark Campground for access to a quiet swimming hole and unobstructed views of the sky.

The sunrise over the Buffalo National River in Northern Arkansas. (Photo: Getty Images)

Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve, Idaho

The Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve is home of the darkest skies in the world. It’s also huge, encompassing the turquoise lakes and snow-streaked summits of the White Clouds Wilderness and the craggy jaws of the Sawtooth Mountains. To see the ridges silhouetted in starlight, grab a campsite along Redfish Lake. Be sure to keep your wishes at the ready: shooting stars abound.

Death Valley National Park, California

California’s deepest valley might be best known for its sweltering summer heat, but visit Death Valley National Park in fall or winter and you’ll be treated to cool nights, clear skies, and a heart-stopping celestial show. Grab a primitive site at Eureka Dunes Campground (only accessible with a high-clearance vehicle), and hike up into the dunes after sunset for a front-row seat.

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