Colorado is a state known for its natural beauty and diverse landscapes, from the majestic Rocky Mountains to the rolling plains of the eastern prairies. But did you know that Colorado is also home to some of the best dark sky locations in the country? These are places where the night sky is free from light pollution, allowing for stunning views of the stars, planets, and other celestial objects.
In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the best dark sky locations in Colorado, including both national and state parks with dark sky designations. We’ll also discuss the criteria used for selecting these top locations and provide key stats like elevation, sky quality ratings, and year of dark sky designation. Whether you’re an experienced astrophotographer or just starting out, you’re sure to find a location that will take your breath away.
Why Colorado is a Great Destination for Dark Sky Enthusiasts
Colorado’s high altitude and clear skies make it an ideal destination for dark sky enthusiasts. At higher elevations, the air is thinner and there is less atmospheric distortion, allowing for sharper and more detailed views of the night sky. Many of Colorado’s best dark sky locations are found in the mountains, where the altitude can exceed 10,000 feet.
In addition to its natural advantages, Colorado has also made efforts to preserve its natural darkness. Several communities and parks in the state have received dark sky designations from the International Dark-Sky Association, a non-profit organization that works to protect the night skies for present and future generations. These designations recognize the efforts of these communities and parks to reduce light pollution and promote responsible outdoor lighting.
Whether you’re looking for a remote wilderness area or a more accessible location near a city, Colorado has something to offer. From national parks to state parks to designated dark sky reserves, there are plenty of options to choose from. In the next section, we’ll take a closer look at some of the best dark sky locations in Colorado.
Top Dark Sky Locations in Colorado
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Located in western Colorado, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is known for its deep, narrow canyon and dramatic rock formations. But at night, the park’s remote location and lack of light pollution make it an ideal place for stargazing. The park has been designated an International Dark Sky Park , and rangers offer regular night sky programs for visitors.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in southern Colorado is another International Dark Sky Park . The park’s massive sand dunes and wide-open spaces provide a unique setting for stargazing. On clear nights, the Milky Way can be seen stretching across the sky, and the park’s high altitude and dry air make for excellent viewing conditions.
Dinosaur National Monument
Dinosaur National Monument, located on the border between Colorado and Utah, is another great destination for dark sky enthusiasts. The monument’s remote location and rugged terrain provide a stunning backdrop for stargazing. The park has been designated an International Dark Sky Park, and rangers offer regular night sky programs for visitors.
These are just a few of the many amazing dark sky locations in Colorado. Whether you’re an experienced astrophotographer or just starting out, you’re sure to find a location that will take your breath away.
Tips for Visiting Dark Sky Locations in Colorado
Visiting a dark sky location in Colorado can be an unforgettable experience, but it’s important to plan ahead to make the most of your trip. Here are some tips for visiting dark sky locations in Colorado:
Check the weather
Clear skies are essential for good stargazing, so be sure to check the weather forecast before heading out. Keep in mind that mountain weather can be unpredictable, so it’s always a good idea to have a backup plan.
Even in the summer, temperatures can drop significantly at night, especially at higher elevations. Be sure to dress in layers and bring warm clothing, including a hat and gloves.
Bring the right gear
In addition to warm clothing, you’ll want to bring along some basic stargazing gear. A red flashlight will help preserve your night vision, and a star chart or astronomy app can help you identify constellations and other celestial objects.
Minimize light pollution
To fully appreciate the beauty of a dark sky location, it’s important to minimize light pollution. Turn off any unnecessary lights and avoid using bright white lights. If you’re camping, choose a campsite away from any artificial light sources.
Respect the environment
Dark sky locations are often found in sensitive natural areas, so it’s important to follow Leave No Trace principles and respect the environment. Stay on designated trails, pack out all trash, and avoid disturbing wildlife.
When visiting a dark sky location, it’s important to take safety precautions. Let someone know where you’ll be and when you plan to return, and be aware of wildlife in the area. It’s also a good idea to bring along a first aid kit and other emergency supplies.
By following these tips, you’ll be well-prepared for an unforgettable stargazing experience in one of Colorado’s stunning dark sky locations.
Colorado is a state with a wealth of natural beauty, and its dark sky locations are no exception. From the rugged mountains to the rolling plains, there are plenty of places to experience the beauty of the night sky. Whether you’re an experienced astrophotographer or just starting out, Colorado has something to offer.
In this blog post, we’ve explored some of the best dark sky locations in Colorado and why this state is a great destination for dark sky enthusiasts. We’ve also shared some tips for visiting these locations and making the most of your stargazing experience. So why not pack your bags and head out to one of Colorado’s stunning dark sky locations? The stars are waiting for you.
How do I find dark sky locations in Colorado?
There are several resources available for finding dark sky locations in Colorado. The International Dark-Sky Association has a list of designated dark sky parks and communities in the state, and many national and state parks also offer stargazing opportunities. You can also use online maps and resources to find locations with low levels of light pollution.
What should I expect when visiting a dark sky location in Colorado?
When visiting a dark sky location in Colorado, you can expect to see stunning views of the night sky, including the Milky Way, planets, and other celestial objects. Be sure to dress warmly, as temperatures can drop significantly at night, especially at higher elevations. It’s also important to minimize light pollution by turning off unnecessary lights and using red flashlights.
How can I get involved in preserving natural darkness in Colorado?
There are several ways to get involved in preserving natural darkness in Colorado. You can support organizations like the International Dark-Sky Association, which works to protect the night skies for present and future generations. You can also advocate for responsible outdoor lighting in your community and participate in citizen science projects that help monitor light pollution.
What is the best time of year to visit a dark sky location in Colorado?
The best time of year to visit a dark sky location in Colorado depends on several factors, including weather conditions and personal preference. In general, late summer and early fall can be good times to visit, as the weather is often clear and dry. However, it’s always a good idea to check the weather forecast before heading out.
Do you have any tips for astrophotography in Colorado?
When it comes to astrophotography in Colorado, there are several things to keep in mind. First, be sure to choose a good location with minimal light pollution. Many of Colorado’s national and state parks offer excellent opportunities for astrophotography. It’s also important to have the right equipment, including a camera with manual settings and a tripod. Finally, be patient and experiment with different settings until you find what works best for you.
What equipment do you recommend for stargazing in Colorado?
When it comes to stargazing equipment, there are several options to choose from depending on your level of experience and interest. For beginners, a pair of binoculars or a small telescope can be a good starting point. More experienced stargazers may want to invest in a larger telescope with more advanced features. It’s also a good idea to bring along a red flashlight to preserve your night vision and a star chart or astronomy app to help identify constellations and other celestial objects.