5 Best Star Gazing Places in Utah
- Posted On
- Apr 11, 2018
- General Interest
State and National Parks
Dark skies are as rare as a happy political discussion for most of us urban- and suburban-dwelling citizens, but, lucky for you, Utah’s star gazing access is as quick as an hour away or as a much-needed 4-hour road trip away. Utah is kind that way–she likes to hand out cosmic extravaganzas night after night after night. Wherever you station yourself in the state, you can hop in a car and get away from the light pollution of your neighborhood like a proper luddite should. For all your starry intentions, here are Utah’s five best places to see heavenly bodies:
01. Near Salt Lake City: Antelope Island State Park
Antelope Island State Park is located just an hour north of Salt Lake City, and recently earned its Dark Sky certification. If you can’t spare much time to see the stars, this is a quick fix that will knock your socks off.
CONSTELLATIONS TO LOOK FOR: Draco, The Dragon (summer); Sirius (winter)
BEST VIEW POINT: Bridger Bay Campground
CAMPING: Bridger Bay Campground, White Rock Bay Campground
AVERAGE NIGHT TIME TEMPERATURES: 67°F (summer); 26°F (winter)
02. Charming Small Northern Utah Town: Oakley
Take a scenic drive east of Salt Lake City and Park City to the good ol’ town of Oakley where the 4th of July rodeo is legendary and the demolition derby is epic. This horse town is at the foot of the Uinta Mountains and has some of the best fishing in the west on the Weber River. You could easily make it a full day’s outing, ending with star gazing and a milkshake or cup of hot cocoa from the local diners: Polar King or Road Island Diner.
CONSTELLATIONS TO LOOK FOR: Ursa Major (summer); Perseus (winter)
BEST VIEW POINT: Recreation Complex, 4300 North SR 32
CAMPING: Smith & Morehouse Reservoir up Weber Canyon
AVERAGE NIGHT TIME TEMPERATURES: 48°F (summer); 13°F (winter)
03. Family Tradition: Bryce Canyon Annual Astronomy Festival
Every year Bryce Canyon hosts an Astronomy Festival near the summer solstice in June with the national park’s astronomy rangers and local astronomical societies. The festival lasts for three days, and you can view the dark sky certified park’s dazzling cosmos with experts to help you locate constellations and other features like nebulae, clusters, and shooting stars.
CONSTELLATIONS TO LOOK FOR: The Milky Way (summer)
BEST VIEW POINT: Mossy Cave Trail
CAMPING: North Campsite or Sunset Campsite
AVERAGE NIGHT TIME TEMPERATURE: 50°F (summer); 17°F (winter)
04. Remote Off-Roading: Hole in the Rock Road, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
It doesn’t get more remote than driving down this well-groomed dirt road in one of Utah’s most remote landscapes. You might as well grab a camping permit from the visitor center in Escalante because you’re going to want to stay out all night. The sky is teeming with so many stars you might even have a hard time finding the Big Dipper, but you won’t miss the Milky Way. And hike some gorgeous slot canyons while you’re at it.
CONSTELLATIONS TO LOOK FOR: Sagittarius (summer); Taurus (winter)
BEST VIEW POINT: Devils Garden
CAMPING: Dispersed camping allowed–make sure to get a permit
AVERAGE NIGHT TIME TEMPERATURE: 55°F (summer); 17°F (winter)
05. Crowd-Free National Park: Capitol Reef
Capitol Reef National Park is Utah’s national park darling: it’s grand and you won’t have to wait for an hour just to get into the park. And there’s fruit orchards for picking fresh fruit as well. Best of all, of course, is this park is Dark Sky certified and the rangers have their telescopes set up throughout the summer.
CONSTELLATIONS TO LOOK FOR: Bootes (summer); Orion (winter)
BEST VIEW POINT: Cohab Canyon
CAMPING: Backcountry camping with a permit
AVERAGE NIGHT TIME TEMPERATURE: 62°F (summer); 20°F (winter)