Dark Sky Parks
Of the more than 60 certified or in-process International Dark Sky Parks and Communities that are part of a catalog of the finest dark skies in the world, the highest concentration are in Utah, including two national parks, four state parks, four national monuments and one dark sky community. Utah is also at the heart of a dense cluster of certified parks called The Great Western Starry Way from New Mexico to Montana, and half are in Utah.
Perched near the edge of a sandstone abyss in Southern Utah, watch as the setting sun casts shadows that stretch for miles across vast landscapes or create sharp contrast between deep canyons and towering pinnacles as one slips into darkness and the other reaches for the few remaining rays of light shattered by the jagged horizon. Meanwhile, in Northern Utah, the Basin and Range staggers multiple horizons from west to east; there is almost no bad place to observe the sunset from the Wasatch Range. Learn more about stargazing in Utah
Owachomo Bridge at Natural Bridges National Monument.
Milky Way rising over Cedar Breaks National Monument.
Temple of the Moon at Capitol Reef National Park.
A lonely tent in Canyonlands National Park below pristine dark skies.
A natural bridge beneath a dark sky at Bryce Canyon National Park.
Arches National Park
Double Arch with a dark sky backdrop.
Antelope Island State Park boasts incredible dark skies despite its proximity to Salt Lake City. Photo: Dan Ransom
Steinaker State Park
A Star Party at Steinaker State Park. Photo: Bettymaya Foott
Dead Horse Point State Park
Stars over Dead Horse Point State Park. Photo: Sandra Salvas
Dead Horse Point State Park
Step out from the comfort of your yurt for stargazing.
Certified Dark Sky Places
Canyonlands National Park
Wave after wave of deep canyons, towering mesas, pinnacles, cliffs and spires stretch across 527 square miles. Canyonlands National Park is home to many different types of travel experiences, from sublime solitude in the more remote stretches of the park to moderate hikes through the Needles district to the opportunity to create your own version of one of the West’s most photographed landforms, Mesa Arch.
Dead Horse Point State Park
Dead Horse Point State Park was the first Utah State Park to achieve IDA certification. Except in winter, the park offers multiple evening events each month, such as night hikes, telescope programs and constellation tours. Even in poor weather conditions, multimedia astronomy talks can be held inside the visitor center.
Natural Bridges National Monument
Natural Bridges National Monument was the world's first “Dark Sky Park” due to its remoteness and dedication to zero light pollution. The park’s visitor center, exhibits and campground are open year-round.
Hovenweep National Monument
This monument is off the beaten path but worth the journey. Hovenweep, the Ute Indian word meaning ‘deserted valley,’ stands as a sentinel of Ancestral Puebloan ruins in a landscape of sage and juniper. If you want to view dark skies amid ancient buildings this is the place to stargaze.
Rainbow Bridge National Monument
Rainbow Bridge National Monument is the first International Dark Sky Sanctuary in the National Park Service. The monument itself can only be accessed only by boat on Lake Powell or by backpacking from Navajo Mountain, but the entire Glen Canyon National Recreation Area boasts dark skies.
Capitol Reef National Park
Utah’s hidden gem of a national park, Capitol Reef, is almost like a planet unto itself. Here you get a real feel for what the earth might have been like millions of years before life appeared, when nothing existed but earth and sky. Stay up for night skies in a land like no other. Pair your visit with a visit to Torrey, a certified Dark Sky Community.
Goblin Valley State Park
Goblin Valley State Park is unlike any other place in the world — and a place that captures and stretches the imagination, challenging you with its geologic whimsy. Free of any significant sources of light pollution, Goblin Valley is home to one of the clearest, darkest night skies in the world. Open daily until 10:00 p.m. and home to 24 campsites and two yurts for overnight guests.
Cedar Breaks National Monument
Far from any metro light pollution and high in altitude makes sleeping under the stars at Cedar Breaks National Monument's updated campground first class. Rangers holds stargazing programs throughout the summer months.
Located just eight miles from the west entrance of Capitol Reef National Park, Torrey is an idyllic little tree-lined, high-elevation town on the Capitol Reef Country Scenic Byway (S.R. 24) surrounded by rose-colored cliffs and green meadows. The town came together to protect its night skies by improving outdoor lighting ordinances and retrofitting dark-sky compliant outdoor lighting to minimize light pollution and strengthen the town’s already close relationship with nature, place and the universe.
Antelope Island State Park
Antelope Island beckons you to stargaze from the salty remnants of an ancient lake. The closest certified park to Salt Lake City, Antelope Island offers fantastic sunset viewing from Buffalo Point and Frary Peak. Plan a quick escape from the city for a weekend camping trip that combines bison sightings, sunset hikes and incredible dark skies for astrophotography or getting lost in.
North Fork Park of Ogden Valley
The vibrant city of Ogden is a major hub toward the north end of Utah’s urban corridor. Just over the ridge line in the peaceful Ogden Valley lies a sprawling county park so ideally tucked away in a canyon the International Dark Sky Association added the park to its list of bronze-tier International Dark Sky Parks. Ogden is also home to another great planetarium in Utah–the Ott Planetarium at Weber University, which is “generally closed to the public” but open for special free events and by reservation. (Read: A Closer Look at North Fork Park)
Steinaker State Park
Steinaker State Park is the fourth Utah state park to receive dark sky designation and an ideal place for remote adventure. A reservoir nestled between Ashley National Forest and Dinosaur National Monument, there is no shortage of four-season beauty and exploration. Overnight in Vernal or the heated cabin and campgrounds at Steinaker State Park.
More Dark Skies
These aren’t certified Dark Sky Parks but are still great places to explore the night sky. In addition, the University of Utah’s Willard L. Eccles Observatory is sometimes open to the public, and its telescope offers views of celestial sights not visible with the naked eye. Learn more about planetariums and astronomy in Utah
Bryce Canyon National Park
Far from the light pollution of civilization, and protected by a special force of park rangers and volunteer Utah astronomy enthusiasts, Bryce Canyon is known as the last grand sanctuary of natural darkness and has one of the nation’s oldest astronomy programs. For families visiting from the city, staying up for the star show is quite a reward. During moonless and clear nights, 7,500 stars will welcome you to their domain. Bryce Canyon also has an annual Astronomy Festival.
Dinosaur National Monument
At the Dinosaur Quarry near Jensen, Utah, interact with the 149-million-year-old fossils that give Dinosaur National Monument its name. Beyond the Quarry, explore a full array of rich history, scenic splendor and starry skies, all connected by trails and rivers in the monument’s extensive backcountry. For camping families, the monument has a designated spot where they hold night sky programs near the Split Mountain Campground. Check the park schedule for ranger-led programs.