February #conservationlands15 Social Media Takeover: Top 15 Places on National Conservation Lands for Night Sky Viewing
Today’s #conservationlands15 Top 15: Places on National Conservation Lands for Night Sky Viewing
The stars really do come out at night on BLM’s National Conservation Lands – and lots of them! Far from city lights, these landscapes offer some of the most outstanding viewing opportunities anywhere. Viewing night skies in some of these remote locations takes some planning. It’s important to contact the local BLM office (linked for each location) to obtain information on camping rules and current road conditions. Here are 15 of the best areas:
#1 Steese National Conservation Area: Drive out the Steese Highway for some of the best northern lights viewing anywhere. Don’t expect to see this amazing light show in summer – the midnight sun makes the sky too bright!
#2 Just beyond the glow of the City lights of Phoenix, the Sonoran Desert National Monument offers great dark skies to the south, where the milky arcs across the sky.
#3 The high elevations near Mount Trumbell and Mount Logan offer expansive vistas in the Grand Canyon Parashant National Monument whose outstanding night sky viewing opportunities have resulted in its “International Night Sky Province” designation.
#4 Several Wilderness Study Areas in the Eastern Sierra, including Slinkard (on Monitor Pass) and the Bodie Hills (near Bridgeport), are a world apart from California’s urban coastal areas and contain some of the darkest skies in the golden state.
#5 California Coastal National Monument: Although clear skies are difficult to predict along the fogbound coast, the Big Sur, Mendocino Coast and King Range Coast are all far from city lights so you can see stars over the ocean.
#6 Canyons of the Ancients National Monument: Its easy to contemplate how “the ancient ones” studied the stars in this vast desert landscape near the four corners. Contact the Anasazi Heritage Center for ideas on camping/viewing locations.
#7 Alpine Loop: This BLM backcountry byway runs near the Uncompagre Wilderness and both Handies Peak and Redcloud Peak Wilderness Study Areas. The thin air at 11,000 feet seems to make the stars here appear extra crisp.
#8 Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area: Just a stone’s throw from Boise, this area is truly on the edge of civilization. Overlooks along the north rim of the Snake River Canyon offer great viewing of the dark skies to the south.
#9 Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument and Wild and Scenic River: Nothing is more relaxing than floating down a river and sleeping under the stars here in Big Sky Country at night.
#10 Black Rock Desert High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trail National Conservation Area: Just avoid the last week of August when Burning Man lights up the playa, and you’ll be treated to some of the darkest skies in the U.S.
#11 Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument and Wild and Scenic River: Vast volcanic tablelands above the narrow gorge of the river and crisp high elevation rocky mountain skies offer excellent viewing opportunities.
#12 Steens Mountain Wilderness: Southeast Oregon’s highest peak offers hiking, camping and a scenic drive to the high elevation viewing areas.
#13 Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument: From spectacular Grand Staircase of cliffs and terraces to the wonders of the Escalante River canyons, the monument offers nearly 1.9 million acres to starwatch and explore.
#14 Juniper Dunes Wilderness: Enjoy the open skies and rolling dunes here in the southeast part of the state.
#15 South Pass – California-Oregon-Pony Express and Mormon Emigrant Trails: Its easy to imagine the feeling of vastness that the emigrants found here in the mid-1800s as they rested under the stars before hitching up the oxen to continue their arduous trek.
Photo by Bob Wick, BLM.