You wouldn’t think Utah’s parks and monuments could get any more beautiful than during a serene sunrise, or maybe a spectacular sunset. But truly in-the-know travellers will wait until after the sunset has subsided – and the day crowd has packed up and headed home – for the most dazzling display of all: thousands of stars shining in pitch-black skies, as far as the eye can see.
Utah’s Dark Sky Parks are increasingly at the top of to-do lists for many visitors to the state. And no wonder. While big cities and bright lights have their charms, Utah’s relatively low population density means that vast wide open spaces far outweigh cities and towns. The result is a star-gazer’s delight.
In fact, Utah has the highest concentration of the finest dark skies in the world, according to the list of International Dark Sky Places compiled by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA).
Here are some of the best Dark Sky Parks in Utah:
Two of Utah’s ‘Mighty 5’ National Parks – Arches National Park, and Canyonlands National Park – are favourites for star-seekers. In Canyonlands, there’s even the option for multi-day stargazing expeditions. Among the state parks, Dead Horse Point State Park is notable for being the first Utah State Park to receive the IDA certification. There’s also Goblin Valley State Park and Goosenecks State Park. Dark sky activities include night hikes, telescope programs and constellation tours. Rounding out the list in the southeast are Hovenweep National Monument, Rainbow Bridge National Monument, and Natural Bridges National Monument. Renowned for its dedication to zero light pollution, the remote and wonderful Natural Bridges National Monument was the very first Dark Sky Park in the world.
Two more of Utah’s ‘Mighty 5’ – Bryce National Park, and Capitol Reef National Park – are top picks for star-gazing in the southwestern part of the state. On a crystal clear night, upwards of 7,500 stars can be seen at Bryce, home to one of the oldest astronomy programs in the U.S. Bryce also has its own Astronomy Festival. In nearby Fishlake National Forest, stargaze at Fremont Indian State Park. At an elevation of 10,000 feet, feel closer to the stars at Cedar Breaks National Monument. Also in the southwest, check out Kodachrome Basin State Park, where on a clear night, the Milky Way can be seen in all its exquisite glory with the eyes.
Some of the best night sights in northern Utah can be seen at Dinosaur National Monument, a designated International Dark Sky Park. Steinaker State Park is a nearby Dark Sky Park. With Salt Lake City as your basecamp, visit any of the following IDA designated places in less than a two-hour drive: East Canyon State Park, Antelope Island State Park, Jordanelle State Park, North Fork Park, Rockport State Park, and Timpanogos Cave National Monument.
For more information check out VisitUtah.com/stars.