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Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota
Photograph: Unplash/Under Lucky Stars

The darkest, clearest places to stargaze in the U.S.

Look up. These mind-blowing places to stargaze in the U.S. offer uninterrupted views of the sparkling night sky.

Written by
Sarah Medina
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For most of us, stargazing is a rare occurence. We know what we need—low light pollution and dark, clear skies—but those are hard to come by in cities. Which is why, when we have the chance to road trip out of the city and into one of the best national parks in the U.S., we always take the time to look up. But not every national park is equal when it comes to the best places to stargaze in the U.S. While stargazing in Maui or Joshua Tree are popular destinations, you'll find the clearest skies in less-traveled forests in places like Nevada, Texas and Washington. In fact, a new guide released by star map company Under Lucky Stars ranked the national parks with the best stargazing spots in the States taking into account light pollution, number of visitors and accessibility. So find your binoculars and pack the car—it's time to see some stars. 

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Best places to stargaze in the U.S.

Located near the Mexican border in southwest Texas, Big Bend's massive surface area and little to no light pollution makes it one of the best spots to stargaze in the country. Make yourself comfortable among the cacti—Big Bend is the largest protected area of Chihuahuan Desert topography and ecology in the United States—as you behold the stars, or find a spot in the Chisos mountain range to get an even better vantage point.

Canyonlands's countless canyons and fantastically formed buttes carved by the Colorado River and its tributaries make it a popular destination for adventure-seekers in the Southwest. With panoramic views of more than 337,000 acres of desert landscape, it's also one of the best national parks to gaze at the stars. Canyonlands boasts one of the darkest skies in the USA with by less than 0.002 artificial light! 

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This northern Minnesota park located close to the Canadian border is already known for its stunning forestry and lakes. Throw in the facts that the park welcomes just 232,974 yearly visitors and has low light pollution, and you have one of the best places to stargaze in the Midwest. Voyageurs is a maze of interconnected water highways, so plan ahead for this by bringing your own watercraft or reserving one in advance for solo-floating under the stars. 

Northern California's Lassen Volcanic is criss-crossed by a beautiful network of stunning lakes and trails, but the real showstopper is the park's namesake volcanoes and their jagged peaks littered around the park. Even more amazing?  The stunning scenery mirrored in the night sky thanks to extremely low light pollution. We can't give a better reason than that to stargaze in this gorgoeus park. 

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Great Basin National Park is huge—it covers much of Nevada, Oregon and Utah and even pokes into sections of California, Idaho and Wyoming—so it may come as no surprise that you're bound to find some unpolluted areas in this great expanse of land. Best of all, the park only sees about 131,802 visitors per year, which means you likely won't be disturbed by anyone else as you turn towards the heavens. 

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Home to the tallest dunes in North America, the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado covers a range of terrains to explore, from wetlands and alpine to tundra and grasslands. With low light pollution and an average 527,546 visitors a year, you'll be able to see everything in the sky at night, including shooting stars. Experience a truly starry sky on moonless nights, or a surreal walk on the dunes under bright full moonlight. 

With 704,512 annual visitors, Crater Lake is one of the more popular parks in this list—but its namesake body of water make it all worth it. Crater Lake was formed 7,700 years ago, when a violent eruption triggered the collapse of a tall peak. It's now the deepest lake in the USA and one of the most pristine on earth with a jewel-toned blue color and ridiculously clear water. The lake also provides the perfect backdrop to reflect the glistening stars in the sky. 

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Just east of El Paso, Guadalupe Mountains takes up 86,368 acres of the Lone Star State. Famed for having three major ecosystems located within in the park (as well as protecting the world's most extensive Permian fossil reef and the four highest peaks in Texas), Guadalupe Mountains offers plenty to see at both day and night. But you're here for night. With just 188,883 visitors a year, the park offers one of the best opportunities in the country for clear, uninterrupted alone time with the stars above. 

California's coast is a nature-lover's Eden, with gorgeous beaches, redwoods and parks up and down the Pacific. The best spot to stargaze, though, is Redwood National and State Parks (RNSP)—which consists of Redwood National Park, Del Norte Coast, Jedediah Smith, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Parks. The combined RNSP spans 139,000 acres and features old-growth temperate rainforests, very low light pollution and a yearly footfall of only 504,722 visitors—a great combination to see the stars with little interruption. 

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