1. Joshua Tree National Park, California
If you can avoid stumbling into cacti, this national park (and a certified International Dark Sky Park) straddling the Mojave Desert and lower Colorado Desert is an iconic place to view the Milky Way for anyone living in the Greater Los Angeles area. Cottonwood Campground has the darkest skies.
2. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
It might be the Old Faithful geyser field and the colorful Grand Prismatic Spring that gets visitors to Yellowstone, but it’s often sparkling views of the Milky Way that make them return. Just north of those two popular sights is Madison Campground; the nearby Madison River is the perfect place to wait for galaxy-rise.
3. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Although not officially designated for its dark skies, Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah has been holding astronomy talks and hosting gatherings of amateur astronomers at its Visitors Center for decades. Its Astronomy & Night Sky Programs, and especially its Astronomy Rangers, are as legendary as its hoodoos.
4. Great Basin National Park, Nevada
Astrophotography is all about composition, and what better foreground for a Milky Way image that the Bristlecone pine groves of Nevada’s remote Great Basin National Park? It’s designated as an International Dark Sky Park, with key stargazing locations including the Baker Archaeological Site, Ranch Interpretive Site and Mather Overlook on the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive.
5. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Grand Canyon Conservancy (GCC) recently spent $1 million converting all light fixtures to be dark sky-friendly, which should give Grand Canyon’s five million annual visitors a great view. It’s now officially an International Dark Sky Park. Although it’s the South Rim’s populated area that’s been made dark sky-friendly, for really great views head to the remote Desert View or Lipan Point.
6. Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
Where the Great Plains meets the Badlands meets the Milky Way. More than 30 miles from the nearest large city, Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s northern section in particular is very dark. The Dakota Nights Astronomy Festival is held from Aug. 30 through Sept. 1, 2019 for an even better experience.
7. Acadia National Park, Maine
Welcome to Mount Desert Island on the Atlantic coast, home to Cadillac Mountain. The highest point on the east coast of the U.S., it’s the best place to see the Milky Way, though there are plenty of other spots in amateur astronomers’ favorite Acadia National Park.