Dark Sky Campgrounds

Dark sky campgrounds across the U.S. beckon campers with a passion for observing the stars. By taking steps to minimize artificial light pollution, these special places make it possible for campers to see constellations, comets and meteor showers unhindered.


A trio of southern Utah parks, for example, have joined forces to keep the night sky visible to visitors. By camping at Arches or Canyonlands National Parks or adjacent Dead Horse Point State Park and signing up for the ranger-led stargazing programs, you can see thousands of stars not visible to city dwellers.


A pair of Southern state parks have also embraced “dark sky” strategies that make observing the stars much easier for campers, as well as casual and professional astronomers. Pickett State Park, in northern Tennessee, welcomes campers to set up telescopes in their astronomy field, surrounded by nearly complete darkness, thanks to special “dark sky” lighting used throughout the park. Georgia’s Stephen C. Foster State Park, surrounded by Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, has earned the honor of “International Dark Sky Park,” thanks to the lack of light pollution in the swamp.


Need more ideas for campgrounds with the best stargazing possibilities? There are numerous campgrounds within a 15-minute drive of Headlands Dark Sky Park, in Mackinaw City, Michigan. Set up camp and then take your red-filtered flashlights, lawn chairs and passion for studying the heavens, and spend a night at the Headlands watching the stars. 


Another park with pristine night skies is in the Texas Panhandle Plains. Copper Breaks State Park is an International Dark Sky Park, near Quanah. The park offers ranger-led stargazing programs, or you can make your own magic, simply studying the stars above your campsite. 


While camping in California, there’s no better place for observers to watch the skies than in the vast darkness of Death Valley National Park. The park has been designated as a Dark Sky National Park, with minimal artificial light pollution. The campground at Furnace Creek, dedicated to dark sky practices, is the perfect base camp for attending the national park’s organized stargazing events or for your own astronomy excursions. 


A Southwestern wilderness spot, managed by the U.S. Forest Service, has also taken pains to keep light from interfering with stargazing and the nocturnal habits of birds and animals. Cosmic Campground, in Gila National Forest in New Mexico, has been designated an International Dark Sky Sanctuary, thanks to its 360-degree views and its distance from city lights. Campers will find a rustic campground there, with exceptional opportunities to view planets, constellations and other celestial phenomena.

Camp Near an Observatory

I’ll leave you with one more idea for making stargazing a part of your camping adventures. Camp near an observatory and take advantage of high-powered telescopes to view the stars during public presentations. One such place is Goldendale, Washington, where Brooks Memorial State Park pro-vides a campground only 15 miles from Goldendale Observatory State Park. This designated Dark Sky Park is home to one of the largest amateur-built telescopes in the world, a 24 ½-inch Cassegrain reflecting model that’s used for study as well as public stargazing events.

Whether our goal is to pass on our love of observing the stars to the children, or to carefully chart the constellations, America’s dark sky parks are the perfect excuse to go camping. Make plans soon to discover how bright the night skies can be when you choose an RV campground with prime stargazing opportunities.

List of international dark sky places.


Joe Laing

Joe is the marketing director for El Monte RV, a nationwide RV rental company. Joe has been on the road working within the travel industry for over 20 years and greatly enjoys exploring the outdoors. Joe has been camping across the U.S. from coast to coast and makes a point to stop at national landmarks along the way. He is also actively involved in numerous campground associations, including RVIA’s Go RVing committee, as well as travel industry associations. 

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7 Responses to “Dark Sky Campgrounds

  • Great Basin NP is another Dark Sky campground. It’s in Nevada just west of Utah. I attended an evening program with ranger who provided larger scopes. Camped in nearby town & drove into park for program.

  • Vicki Chandler
    3 years ago

    Marathon Motel and RV Park, in Marathon, Texas has amateur astronomers with a nice telescope. This was on the way to Big Bend National Park. We also stayed at the Maverick Ranch RV Park, in Lajitas, Texas,, which had a lights out at 9:00 pm policy for star gazing. This park is just outside of Big Bend. We were at both of these parks during the month of April last year and it was perfect.

  • Okefenokee Pastimes in Folkston, GA is also a dark park, they are working on their own dark sky certification. They are providing weekly Stargazing on Friday &Saturday nights for our Guests as well as the Public. Our facilities are also available for Star Parties and Outreach events (call the Office to schedule your event now). As many may know we are located in one of the darkest sky areas in the Southeast (no or little unnatural light pollution), we have decided that we would love to share one of the age old hobbies and offer an introduction to star gazing every Friday and Saturday night. With the dark skies in this beautiful part of GA it makes it possible, for all to gaze towards the stars and dream like so many other countless generations before have done. Admission for the approx 1-1/2hr is $5 per person to help offset the many thousands of dollars we have invested in the equipment and star facilities, each attendee will be emailed pictures taken at the end of the star gazing session for a permanent memory of what you saw that night courtesy of Pastimes Astrophotography (this is included in your admission charge, at no extra fee). For groups or those with their own equipment please call or email the office for your quote. We are working towards our own dark sky certification and will announce it when it happens. We will be accommodating those who are new to the hobby as well as amateur and professional star gazers, if you are interested in basic Astrophotography please bring your own equipment.

  • Don Hoffman
    3 years ago

    Two other National Parks certified as Dark Sky parks. Capitol Reef NP in Utah and Joshua Tree NP in Joshua Tree CA. We have attended programs at both parks and the dark sky viewing is awesome.
    At Capitol Reef, programs are held during the summer usually at the Gifford House which is located next to the Fruita campground. Either check the park website or call the visitors center.
    At Joshua Tree, there is a private observatory just outside the park entrance station from Twenty Nine Plams. We attended programs during the winter in January. I don’t recall the name of the group that runs the observatory. Call the visitors center at JTNP for information. Campgrounds are readily available in Twenty Nine Plams and JTNP.

  • Dark Sky RV Park in Kanab, UT offers up some of the darkest skies in Southern Utah! You can see the Milky Way just above, while you camp with billions of stars.

  • I am new to RVing after recently retiring, and want to get into a group to find out where I might find current information for 2022 events?

    • Georgianne Austin
      9 months ago

      Hi there!

      If you look under the “Community” tab in the menu above, you’ll see information on all the different event programs we have. Each event program has it’s own calendar of events for you to browse. (heads-up that many events coming in the next few months are already sold out)
      To be among the first to learn about new events being announced, you can sign up for each program’s email list. These tend to learn about new events a few days before the announcements make it to Member News (our members-only email newsletter we send bi-weekly).

      I hope this helps!

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