Hiking might be first and foremost a way to hang out with, but it can also be a great way to experience the stars if you plan it right. You won’t see the stars through a canopy of trees, though. Here are a few great hikes to try that’ll have you captivated by the night sky.
Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania
With 82 acres of trails to choose from, Cherry Springs State Park is one of the East Coast’s premier hiking destinations; but it truly becomes a gem when the sun goes down. That’s because it’s one of the darkest regions in the country east of the Mississippi. The International Dark-Sky Association certified it as one of the best places to watch the stars, so be sure to plan out a prime camping spot ahead of time to take them all in.
Chimneys Trail, Big Bend National Park, Texas
Though Big Bend is a spectacular hike all year long, the winter months tend to be low on clouds and big on vibrant bright skies full of stars. Throw on a sweater and hit Chimneys Trail to check out one of the most popular stargazing spots in the country. Since the rocky desert of Texas is noticeably lacking in trees in favor of dry rocks and long stretches of dirt, there’s not much here to block your view.
Racetrack Playa, Death Valley National Park, California
Death Valley is not a hike we’d recommend for beginners, but experienced trail-seekers will be fascinated by the strange juxtaposition of the scaly desert floor and the brilliant night sky. The famous sailing stones here might creep up and try to scare you at night, but you’ll probably be too busy staring upward to notice. The area around Racetrack Playa is barren, wide and there are no designated paths, so be sure to keep track of your location and not become confused by the sprawling stars.
South Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon, Arizona
Most of Arizona provides some pretty dazzling views of the night sky, but no trail more so than the South Kaibab Trail along the Grand Canyon. In fact, there are two spots you have to see if you’re going to hike here at night. The first, Ooh-Aah Point, has excellent views of the sunset while the second at Skeleton Point offers up a 360-degree overlook of the canyon and the universe.
Natural Bridges National Park, Utah
Not only is Natural Bridges National Park one of the darkest places in the US, thus perfect for stargazing, it’s also one of the darkest places in the world. It has next to zero light pollution after sunset so you’ll want to bring along a headlamp to light your way, depending on how bright the moon might be. There are three natural rock formations in the shape of bridges here, but the best views are at Owachomo, the easiest one to hike to.
Denali National Park, Alaska
It should come as no surprise that one of the darkest regions of the country lies within the state with the most remote wilderness around. Alaska’s Denali National Park offers unparalleled views of the sky and, occasionally, serves as an excellent spot to witness the Aurora Borealis. There are numerous hiking trails to choose from here and with such long winter nights you could find yourself gazing at the stars for hours before finding sleep.
Mauna Kea, Hawaii
There are plenty of summits to be found in Hawaii, but the favorite among stargazers is definitely Mauna Kea. You can head out on a private tour or foot it to the top yourself, but whichever you choose rest assured you’ll be treated to some of the best nighttime views in the world. The summit is so far away from the city and the mountain so high in elevation that light barely touches the most remote regions of Mauna Kea, providing you with unobstructed views of constellations you probably didn’t know exist.