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Amazing Stargazing Across Colorado

Best Stargazing Parks in Colorado | PorchLight Real Estate Group

Out of This World

Gazing up at the night sky can reveal the vast beauty of our universe. Whether stargazing is a hobby complete with your own telescope or simply a fascination with what lies beyond, finding the perfect spot to enjoy a sky full of stars is essential. Fortunately, Colorado is known to have some of the best locations in the world for stargazing, each offering unique and breathtaking views.

In fact, our state has ten stargazing locations that are designated as International Dark-Sky Parks by an actual, official organization known as DarkSky International. Their mission is to restore the nighttime environment and protect communities and wildlife from light pollution.

Along with stringent criteria that must be fulfilled, here's what they're looking for in a Dark-Sky Park:

An International Dark Sky Park (IDSP) is a land possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment, and that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, and/or cultural heritage resources, and/or for public enjoyment. The land may be publicly owned, or privately owned, provided that the landowner(s) consent to the right of permanent, ongoing public access to specific areas included in the IDA designation.

So, what are the criteria? The park must provide ample space and nighttime access to those wishing to view the stars. They must also implement a comprehensive, lighting management plan to prevent artificial light from interfering with your stargazing enjoyment. For example, lighting must be dim and not produce a glare or skyglow. The Milky Way must be easily visible even if you don't have a telescope or other equipment.

Additionally, these parks must demonstrate a commitment to public education about the importance of dark skies. This includes hosting public events, programs, and initiatives to raise awareness about light pollution and its impacts on wildlife, human health, and our ability to observe the night sky. The parks also need to maintain ongoing efforts to preserve and protect the night sky for future generations.

Now that you know just how committed these locations are to providing the perfect setting for stargazing, grab your telescope if you have one, pack a blanket (and snacks), and get ready to experience the extra celestial right here in Colorado.

Best Places for Stargazing in Colorado

Let's start with the list of designated, International Dark-Sky Parks. These are the ten official locations with prime stargazing along with the ability to learn more through various night sky programs. Be sure to check out each park's website to see what's offered. 

Hovenweep National Monument

  • Hovenweep National Monument is located on land in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah, between Cortez, Colorado and Blanding, Utah on the Cajon Mesa of the Great Sage Plain.
  • Open sunrise to sunset daily, stargazing and exploring the night sky is allowed from the visitor center parking lot and campground only. Rangers also present stargazing programs in spring and summer.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is in western Colorado. It surrounds part of a deep, steep-walled gorge carved through Precambrian rock by the Gunnison River.
  • Park rangers, volunteers, and members of the Black Canyon Astronomical Society (BCAS) work together to provide talks, constellation tours, or night sky viewing with telescopes. The park also hosts a multi-day Astronomy Festival every year. 

Dinosaur National Monument

  • You can find this monument on the southeast flank of the Uinta Mountains on the border between Colorado and Utah at the confluence of the Green and Yampa rivers.
  • Dinosaur Monument has a designated spot for stargazing in the Split Mountain Campground, and in the summer, rangers hold stargazing programs. Check their calendar for upcoming dates.

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

  • This incredible park is located in southern Colorado in Saguache County and Alamosa County. The closest town to the park is Mosca, and Colorado Springs is about 2.5 hours away as well.
  • This is a popular spot to view the Milky Way Galaxy. If that's in your plans, check the forecast first to ensure clear skies. Then, to avoid the sun lightening the sky, plan to view the night sky at least 1.5 hours after sunset, or 1.5 hours before sunrise.

Jackson Lake State Park 

  • Located in the northeast area of Colorado, Jackson Lake State Park is a popular spot for camping, boating, fishing, and even has a swim beach. It's near the town of Orchard and about an hour east of Greeley. 
  • Already a popular spot for astronomy enthusiasts, park officials began making the infrastructure changes needed to become more dark-sky friendly in 2018. They eliminated, updated, and adjusted lighting across the park to meet the criteria needed for certification.

Lake Fork (Prev. Slumgullion) Earth & Sky Center

  • This 58-acre property is located in Hinsdale County at the toe of the Slumgullion Earthflow in Lake City, Colorado. 
  • Currently, the park is undeveloped with no lighting, and the Lake Fork Valley Conservancy hosts stargazing gatherings at Windy Point Overlook every Wednesday evening during the summer months.  

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

  • Located in Teller County and less than an hour west of Colorado Springs, this park is known for having some of the richest and most diverse fossil deposits in the world. 
  • Along with Night Sky Programs at the visitor center, the Hornbek Homestead area and parking lot are open to the public 24 hours a day, so you can enjoy unrestricted views of the night skies after regular park hours. 

Mesa Verde National Park

  • Mesa Verde National Park is located in southwest Colorado near the city of Cortez. It's known for its well-preserved Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings, most notably the huge Cliff Palace. 
  • For stargazing, ranger-led programs, and to spend the night (or enjoy a weekend getaway), the park offers Morefield Campground and Far View Lodge.
  • There are also numerous overlooks along the park road, including Geologic Overlook, Mancos Overlook, and the Montezuma Valley Overlook, as well as unnamed pullouts that provide expansive views and public access throughout the night.

Curecanti National Recreation Area

  • Located on the Western slope of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, Curecanti includes three reservoirs in the Upper Gunnison River Basin—Blue Mesa, Morrow Point, and Crystal. Along with stargazing, you can enjoy a wide range of water activities.
  • The surrounding mountains and mesas provide nighttime visitors with a protected view of the dark sky. You can also check out evening programs at the Elk Creek campground and visit the nearby Gunnison Valley Observatory for events. 

Top of the Pines in Ridgway

  • This 175-acre wilderness recreation area is located at the foot of the Sneffels Range in southwest Colorado and in close proximity to Ouray, Ridgway and Telluride.
  • No camping trip at TOP is complete without some stargazing! So, before you hit the sleeping bag, be sure to head out into the meadow to lose yourself in the silver shimmer of the Milky Way.

Even More Stargazing Spots

While these don't have an official designation, we've found these spots to provide great nighttime views. There are even a couple of campgrounds in the mix, so you can make it an entire stargazing getaway if you choose. 

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