Red Rock & Dark Skies: Stargazing the National Parks
National parks keep getting better after dark.
Serene sanctuaries of natural darkness dominate this Utah corridor after the sun goes down. Hit the road for a celestial feast of awesome sights, sounds and skies. Whether you’re a first-time traveler or have experienced red rock before, pay attention to how it comes alive under a dark night sky. This road trip through southwest Utah takes you to four of Utah’s best places to see the Milky Way — Capitol Reef National Park, Kodachrome Basin State Park, Bryce Canyon National Park and Cedar Breaks National Monument. (Please see note below for spring travel).
Three of these dark sky locations are certified International Dark Sky Parks, certified by the International Dark-Sky Association (Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef and Cedar Breaks). Take advantage of star parties for optimal viewing and ranger-led interpretations to guide you through the night sky. You'll also pass through Utah's first International Dark Sky Community, Torrey, at the gateway to Capitol Reef.
The highlight of this four-day trip is the nighttime, and each night will have you staring at the heavens and filled with awe. While this itinerary has some of the most popular daytime experiences, it's also like nothing you've ever done before. Do everything you'd normally do — hike, climb, hang out — but when the stars come out, you won't be going to bed.
If you’re planning this trip in the summer, the Milky Way will be as spectacular as ever. During New Moons, the sky will be at its darkest and the stars will really shine, in Utah, one of the best places to see the Milky Way.
Embrace the spirit of Astro Tourism as you escape from the city lights and commotion. There’s a big, beautiful dark sky out here for the viewing and the dark sky locations to treasure this astral adventure are suggested below. Discover more about stargazing in Utah and find tips on what to pack or when and where to stargaze.
Note: If visiting in the spring, the road to Cedar Breaks National Monument, at 10,000 feet above sea level, may still be closed for the winter. To extend this trip, consider adding a day in the beginning for a stop at the IDA-accredited International Dark Sky Park Goblin Valley State Park.