These Are The Best Places in the U.S. to Stargaze (and Camp Under the Stars)

published Apr 25, 2022
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Whether you’re not quite ready to travel in crowded spaces or simply prefer the peace and quiet of the great outdoors, you might be thinking about the best places to go where you can truly disconnect and camp under the stars. In honor of National Park Week this month — the presidentially proclaimed celebration runs between April 16 to 24 — the travel experts at Next Vacay have commissioned a study that reveals the top Instagrammable destinations to sleep under the stars in 2022 based on Instagram hashtags, air pollution levels, overall star visibility, and more.

Sharing their findings with Apartment Therapy, the Next Vacay pros noted that stargazing tourism has been on the rise in recent years, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has only added to the growing popularity of glowing night time destinations. With more than 10,000 people worldwide searching for “stargazing near me” each month, it’s clear that sleeping under the stars is one of the most coveted travel experiences these days.

As for how the researchers compiled their list, they told AT that they analyzed 60 of the most popular U.S. national parks and ranked them based on the number of hashtags on Instagram, from most to least popular. They also added the air pollution level in each national park, which can impact stargazing opportunities. A low light pollution score is better for stargazing than a high one. The less light pollution there is, the more radiant the stars appear.

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Curious about the top places to spot the stars in the U.S.? According to the data, Utah’s Zion National Park, takes the number one spot as the top stargazing hotspot in 2022, racking up 1,300,577 hashtagged photos on Instagram over the past year. Not only does the park offer some of the most picturesque canyon views in the country, but the sandstone cliffs seemingly come alive at night, making for an unmatched stargazing experience. Though summer is the most popular time of year to visit, the Next Vacay pros recommend the lower crowd levels during spring and fall.

Rounding out the list is the Glacier National Park in Montana, which is internationally recognized as a Dark Sky Park — meaning that its nocturnal environment is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment. With a 20-inch telescope, travelers can enjoy high-resolution views of planets, galaxies, and constellations, with the researchers noting that the best time to stargaze at the park is during the winter months when the skies get darker, making it easier for visitors to spot the famed northern lights.

Third on the list is Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, which includes elevations from 7,860 feet to 14,259 feet — prime stargazing possibilities. Though this park offers premium night sky views any time of year, it’s especially worth timing a visit on a crisp, clear winter night or during a new moon, when views will be best.

Other locations making the list include Arches National Park in Utah, Acadia National Park in Maine, Crater Lake National Park in Oregon, Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, Death Valley National Park in California, Canyonlands National Park in Utah, and North Cascades National Park in Washington.