The non-profit International Dark Sky Association (IDA) recognizes places around the world where the nighttime environment is preserved and protected from light pollution. In celebration of this non-profit organization's valiant efforts, we’ve picked the best IDA-certified parks in the USA for stargazing.
Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah
When the sun goes down in the Natural Bridges Natural Monument, all eyes are drawn to the sky
The Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah is known for having the second largest natural bridge in the world but when the sun goes down, all eyes are drawn to the sky. With nearly zero light pollution, it is among the darkest parks in the lower 48 states, making it perfect for stargazing. If you plan your visit during the summer, be sure to check out one of the park’s astronomy ranger programmes. Just over an hour's drive from the park you'll find Abajo Haven Guest Cabins, where each cabin is kitted out with a firepit and barbecue so that you can maximise your time under the starry sky.
Big Bend National Park in Texas
Big Bend National Park is one of the biggest and most remote national parks
Big Bend National Park is the largest protected area of the Chihauhuan Desert in the United States, as well as one of the biggest, most remote and least-visited national parks. Located on the border of western Texas and the Mexican state of Chihuahua, Big Bend has some of the darkest skies in North America. Stay at Lajitas Golf Resort, conveniently located just outside of the park.
Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico
Learn how traditional Chacoan astronomy practices combine with modern approaches
The Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico is an important archaeological area where you can find the densest concentration of Chacoan ruins – remnants of an ancient Native American culture – in the Southwest. In addition to preserving its archaeological wonders, the park supports the Chaco's Night Sky Initiative, which combines the astronomy practices of the Chacoan people with modern approaches. An hour and a half's drive from the park, the Best Western Plus the Four Corners Inn offers a complimentary continental breakfast.
Cherry Springs State Park in Pennsylvania
The park's Astronomy Field offers 360-degree views
Cherry Springs State Park sits 700 metres above sea level within the largest undeveloped part of Pennsylvania's Susquehannock State Forest. The park is open year-round and usually has between 60 and 85 nights when stargazing conditions are ideal. The best vantage point is the Astronomy Field, which offers unobstructed 360-degree views. Rough Cut Lodge is less than a 30-minute drive from Cherry Springs State Park and offers free on-site parking.
Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida
The park acts as a buffer against land development, protecting local wildlife and black skies
Famous for its biodiversity, Big Cypress National Preserve is home to a wide variety of wildlife including the Florida black bear and the elusive Florida panther. The preserve’s proximity to Miami, Naples and Fort Meyers makes it an important defensive wall against land development in Southern Florida, creating a buffer that protects both the local wildlife and the clear black skies. For the best views, head to the heart of the reserve where you can see the Milky Way light up the sky. Ivey House Bed & Breakfast is a 10-minute drive away and offfers canoe and kayak rentals as well as Florida Everglades tours.