Picture yourself lounging near a campfire as the world starts to darken around your crackling flames. If it’s dark enough, you might spot the Milky Way. And if you’re in an International Dark Sky Park, the depth and brilliance of the starry sky might just blow your mind.
The International Dark Sky Association awards this designation to places that are — you guessed it — extremely dark, with optimal conditions for star gazing. They are protected from development and light pollution so that astronomy lovers and campers can continue to enjoy the star-filled skies.
Camping in these parks is the best way to enjoy the night into the darkest hours.
Sleep Under the Milky Way at These 6 Campgrounds
If you enjoy star-gazing while camping, you’re going to want to check these out.
While many will advise you to avoid Antelope Island State Park during the summer months due to an outrageous amount of mosquitos, a breathtaking sky awaits those who do visit. (And if you wait until fall, you won’t have to deal with so many bugs.) The park offers secluded backcountry hiking and sandy island beaches. You’ll likely spot free-ranging bison, especially if you come during the annual roundup in late October.
Bridger Bay Campground, White Rock Bay Campground, and Ladyfinger Campground are all exceptionally dark places to sleep within the park.
2. Monument Lake Campground, Big Cypress National Preserve
This swampy region on Florida’s Southwest coast will offer an enchanting soundtrack to your night sky viewing, with a huge diversity of wildlife calling the water and trees home.
3. North Rim Campground, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Up to 15,000 stars appear in the dark skies above the craggy spires and trenches of the Black Canyon of The Gunnison. The Gunnison River has spent two million years carving out this striking chasm. The rock walls will entice you to gaze up during the day, and the stars will astound you at night.
The sites at North Rim Campground overlook the canyon, and are close enough to hike straight down from the opening of your tent. One reviewer, Hannah K., says, “An exceptional camping experience for our family. We go every summer and camp for about 10 days. Weather is superb and the trout is plentiful.”
4. Furnace Creek, Death Valley National Park
Death Valley is one of the lowest points on Earth, and also it’s also home to one of the most brilliant night skies. In this bizarre park of extremes, you can watch the setting sun transform the colors of rolling sand dunes and vast, desolate desert. Furnace Creek Campground is close to the visitor center, bike paths, and hiking trails, so it’s convenient, but still shockingly dark.
5. Devils Garden Campground, Arches National Park
There’s nothing quite like the sandstone arches and formations of Arches National Park in Utah. And when the clouds and moon are hidden, the stars set against the red desert backdrop is phenomenal. The Dyrt reviewer, Mariah B., says “The campground feels immersed in the red rock of the park and felt private enough from the other camp sites. By the way, the stars are incredible.”
6. Craters of the Moon Lava Flow Campground, Craters of the Moon National Monument
This relatively primitive campground in the middle of Idaho has 51 campsites available on a first come first serve basis. With no hookups, showers, or waste water dump, this campground is as close to nature you can get in a developed area. Corinna B., a Dyrt reviewer, says, “It’s a national park, so there’s a great interpretive center and a junior ranger program with an awesome badge (space-themed).”
If you’ve had enough of the light pollution and want some peace, quiet, and a stellar view of the night sky, check out one of these campgrounds, or head over to the Dark Sky website to find a certified dark sky closer to home.
Our national partner, Ledlenser, has been awarding regional contest winners with the MH2 headlamp all summer long. You’ll want to embrace the darkness for star gazing, but it’s always helpful to have a dependable light source once you’re tucking into your tent at night. There’s still time to win your own Ledlenser MH2 by adding campground reviews and photos on The Dyrt!