Lay out a blanket after the sun goes down and see a clearer view of the universe at these designated dark-sky parks.
This week is International Dark Sky Week. National parks are some of the best places in the world to appreciate dark night skies because the National Park Service works to protect these places from the increasingly prevalent effects of light pollution.
These 18 national parks have all earned designations as International Dark Sky Parks. This distinction recognizes “an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment,” according to the International Dark-Sky Association.
Looking for vacation inspiration? Many of these parks have astronomy programs where people of all ages can learn more about the wonders of the night sky — and all of them have places to lay out a blanket and simply enjoy the darkness.
(Click the images to enlarge them.)
Big Bend National Park, Texas
Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Capulin Volcano National Monument, New Mexico
Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah
Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico
Craters of The Moon National Monument, Idaho
Death Valley National Park, California
Glacier National Park, Montana
(and Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada; together, these two parks make up Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, the first International Dark-Sky Park spanning an international border)
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, Arizona
Great Basin National Park, Nevada
Hovenweep National Monument, Colorado and Utah
Joshua Tree National Park, California
Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah
Additional U.S. dark-sky parks, not pictured
- Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado
- Obed Wild and Scenic River, Tennessee
Learn more about how you can fight light pollution and support dark skies on the International Dark-Sky Association website.
About the author
Jennifer Errick Managing Editor of Online Communications
Jennifer writes, edits, and moderates online content for NPCA.
- Obed Wild & Scenic River
- Natural Bridges National Monument
- Joshua Tree National Park
- Hovenweep National Monument
- Great Basin National Park
- Grand Canyon National Park
- Glacier National Park
- Death Valley National Park
- Craters Of The Moon National Monument & Preserve
- Chaco Culture National Historical Park
- Cedar Breaks National Monument
- Capulin Volcano National Monument
- Capitol Reef National Park
- Canyonlands National Park
- Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park
- Big Cypress National Preserve
- Big Bend National Park