Best Stargazing Spots in Colorado
Colorado is the pearl of the American West. Less famous worldwide than Arizona and its Grand Canyon, Nevada’s Las Vegas or California’s sandy beaches, and as such Colorado attracts fewer tourists to its borders. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t full of treasures. This is a state which offers a variety of incredible landscapes: mountains, canyons, deserts and sand dunes. There is so much to see and to do in the towns as well as in the countryside, but there is one thing that Colorado can offer like no other state can: stargazing spots.
Below are seven of the best stargazing spots in Colorado for you to discover on your America Holiday.
1. Rocky Mountain National Park
There are many amazing places here but the Rocky Mountain National Park, with its breathtaking landscapes and topography is creating a unique set up for travellers to have some of the best views of the night sky Colorado has to offer. All through the summer, visitors have the chance to go with rangers and volunteer astronomers to discover the best spots to gaze up at the inspiring sky above in the pitch darkness.
As part of these after-dark programs, travellers can join Astronomy in the Park evenings and the interesting Stories Behind the Moon and Stars. A whole set of events are also organized during the summer for stargazing fans such as the Rocky Mountain National Park Night Sky Festival. Get ready for three days of activities managed by the rangers in the daytime, with astronomical talks, shows and night-time viewings all on offer too.
2. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Head to the vast and open spaces of west Colorado to discover the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park near Montrose and Gunnison. It’s difficult not to feel overwhelmed when you see the depths of the canyon below. However, visitors who come here must look up rather than down and enjoy every moment, especially when admiring the mountainous landscapes, observing the varied wildlife, hiking in the lush forest and finally, gazing at the sumptuous night sky.
Since 2015, this national park is one of the International Dark Sky Parks which ranks it as one of the best places in the USA to look at the skies with fantastic landscapes and sceneries. Some of the local stargazing and astronomy groups are organizing stargazing events throughout the year in partnership with the Black Canyon Astronomical Society. The best way to enjoy the stars is to plan a camping trip. You can gaze at the stars alone or check out the park’s program for dates of guided astronomy tours and other events.
3. Great Sand Dunes National Park & Reserve
Located near Alamosa, the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Reserve is a magic place in the daytime with its landscapes and its sights, but at night you will feel as though you are on another planet. One of the fun things here is that local rangers will invite you to go for a self-guided exploration at night. The night-hike is the highlight of many trips in the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Reserve. Take a flashlight and explore the area in total darkness with the wildlife around the area such as owls and coyotes. You can find your own spot and simply enjoy the amazing skies with naked-eyes or bring your binoculars for a better view.
If the sky is more important to you than the sands, then organize your trip during a new moon. The park is also proposing a whole set of activities and guided programs during the summer. You will find all details at the visitor centre.
4. Colorado National Monument at Grand Junction
The Colorado National Monument is located outside of Grand Junction and is famous for its unique geological formations, bighorn sheep, outstanding scenery and the totally dark landscape on the new moon nights. These nights are really impressive and travellers should arrange to have the chance to experience the night and its skies.
The Western Colorado Astronomy Club organizes many events and shows in the park at the Saddlehorn Campground. The venue is open all year long, but it is better to check with the management to be sure that all facilities are available before making your booking.
Here are some useful tips when you are visiting the park:
- The temperature change can be quite extreme between day and night so bring some warm clothes and blankets when sitting under the skies.
- Carry a lot of drinking water when walking around the park.
- As in any other park, follow all safety measures given out by the rangers
As far away as you feel from civilization, the better it is to find some of the best stargazing sites to enjoy the milky way in Colorado. Grab your bags, pack the car and drive around to some amazing stargazing spots. In fact, a good old road trip is a great option when traveling through the United States as a whole and you will find some of the most beautiful and scenic roads when driving through Colorado too, as you will discover a new landscape at each turn.
The two main roads which should be on any road trip list are the Million Dollar Highway and Elk Loop. On the way out west to Utah, it is impressive to see the landscapes changing – driving through high mountains with green forests, grey rocks, then some much more eroded grounds before reaching the red rocks. The temperature is also all about change. Morning will be cold and around 5°C while the afternoon can reach 30°C in the desert areas. Once the sun is down, dress in warm clothing, grab a blanket, your hot cocoa and sit back to watch the Colorado night skies.
5. Molas Lake
The Million Dollar Highway will take you to Silverton and the San Juan Mountain. Reaching the banks of the Molas Lake, visitors can enjoy a quiet spot to watch the stars and the Milky Way without having hundreds of other people next to you. Daytime is also as impressive with the surrounding peaks piercing the sky, the Molas Lake at their feet creating an incredible mirror effect, and miles of trails that will take you around this amazing area.
6. Garden of the Gods Road
Located in Colorado Springs, the Garden of the Gods is still far enough from city lights that you can really enjoy the sky’s light-shows with the naked-eye or with your astronomical equipment. With the Pikes Peak in the background and the shaped boulders, you can discover some of the most beautiful stars when watching the skies in the Garden of the Gods Road.
Enjoy the nature of the centre of the USA as well as its fresh air before picking your spot, then lean back and watch the show of the constellations all night long. Once the sun comes up, you will realise that the views are just as beautiful in the daytime as they are at night, with the red rock formations contrasting with the blue sky. Last, but not least, are the astronomical observatories that you can find all around the state of Colorado, where they take stargazing very seriously.
These are great places to stop by if you are a stargazing fan as you will find specialists and telescopes used for research. Note that not all these observatories are all open to the public but you will always find some people to give you tips or discuss astronomy with you! Choose from:
- The USAF Academy Observatory, the Black Forest Observatory, the Pikes Peak Observatory and the Las Brisas Observatory in Colorado Springs
- The Chamberlin Observatory in Denver
- The Meyer-Womble Observatory at Mount Evans
- The Star Chaser Observatory in Sedalia
- The Star Haven Observatory in Strasburg
7. The Sommers-Bausch Observatory Boulder
The SBO is part of the University of Colorado and was built in 1953 and named after Elmer E. Sommers and Carl L. Bausch. Located on the Boulder campus, it is managed by the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences and offers an observational experience for students as well as training in astronomical observations and instrumentation. Get set up on the observation deck at the public events which are held on Friday evenings, when the skies are clear, with sessions with the students at 8pm. The evenings are held by local students and if you are lucky some of the professors too – as well as researchers who volunteer from time to time.
These public sessions last for about two hours depending on the condition of the skies and the numbers of guests and there is no fee for these public events. Yes, the stars are free; and you will be able to use a 24-inch telescope, tripod-mounted binoculars and smaller telescopes to look at the moon and spot the stars. Out there in the wild, where the air is pure, there is no pollution and the stunning Milky Way reveals its beauty just for you. This is an amazing experience for photos but what you capture will never even come close to the reality of being part of the scene.
From the famous Rocky Mountain National Park to quiet camping under the stars, you’ll enjoy magnificent views of mountains, nature, fascinating flora and fauna, picturesque rivers mingling with rolling landscapes, green hills and more. But it’s not just the daytime views that draw visitors to Colorado’s natural landscape. The stargazing spots that you’ll find here are one of the undeniable attractions of this American state.
Colorado’s breathtaking nature leaves travellers speechless year after year. This is a 100% adventure holiday surrounded by incredible natural beauty and if that’s your idea of a fun time, this is definitely the place for you to go. Uncover some of the most remote locations with the very best stargazing spots in Colorado and witness the night sky like never before. Start planning your America holiday today.