Wishing upon a star holds an especially magical connotation, which is why seeing the entire sky light up can be life-changing. (Or at least super cool.) So why not get out of the big city so you can really see the bright lights?

While the Northern Lights in Alaska might not be convenient, we’ve got 4 other brilliant suggestions (each a designated “Dark Sky Park,” as determined by the International Dark Sky Association) for stargazing locations. So get off the beaten path and prepare to get starry-eyed.

Death Valley National Park, CA

As the largest “Dark Sky” designated area at more than 8,500 miles, Death Valley comes alive at night. One of the best places to stargaze in Death Valley is at Harmony Borax Works, near the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, which is the park’s main visitor’s center.

How to get there: Furnace Creek is 30 miles from Death Valley Junction and 24 miles from Stovepipe Wells Village.

Cherry Springs State Park, PA

Look up! It’s a bird … it’s a plane … it’s … the Milky Way! Cherry Springs State Park is known as one of the best places on the eastern seaboard for stargazing. While campgrounds are available elsewhere in the park, the Night Sky Public Viewing Area is only for taking in the starry sights.

How to get there: Cherry Springs State Park is in on Pennsylvania Route 44 in Potter County, approximately 3 hours outside of Harrisburg, PA.

Clayton Lake State Park, NM

Look down for dinosaur tracks by day — there are more than 500 dinosaur fossils on the park’s trackway — and then up for an amazing light show come nighttime. The Clayton Lake State Park also has an observatory, which can be a great location for stargazing.

How to get there: Clayton Lake State Park is on New Mexico State Road 455, in the northeast corner of New Mexico, near the border that’s shared by Texas, Colorado, and Oklahoma.

Headlands International Dark Sky Park, MI

Enjoy 5 miles of hiking through old-growth forests in the Headlands International Dark Sky Park during the day. Then stay for the main event when night falls. This park has a one-mile paved Dark Sky Discovery Trail that takes you to the designated viewing area and is staffed by docents who can answer all your questions.

How to get there: The Headlands is located on the Straits of Mackinac, 3.8 miles west of downtown Mackinaw City.

Don’t get starstruck

Finding these parks can often take you pretty far off the beaten path. And that can cause wear and tear on your car. Here are 4 important things to keep in mind for a remote road trip:

  • Check your car before heading out, including your tires and all your fluids.
  • Pack an emergency kit to stash in your glove box just in case you end up stranded.
  • Fuel up before you leave civilization since it can be difficult to find a station in some areas — not to mention expensive. Here’s how to find the best bargains.
  • Drive defensively. Dark, windy roads can be hazardous. And forested parks can attract wildlife that could dart into the road, so drive as slowly as necessary and be alert to your surroundings.

Travel hacks | Destinations


about Cathie

Cathie Ericson writes about personal finance, real estate, health, lifestyle, and business topics. When she's not writing she loves to read, hike, and run. Find her @CathieEricson.