19 Dark Sky Parks Where the Heavens Steal the Show

Kicking light pollution to the curb, these parks are dedicated to exceptional starry skies.

Dark silhouette of a human in the middle of a starry night sky and darkened hillsides

Mindaugas Vitkus / Unsplash

The splendors of a starry sky have been filling us with wonder since the dawn of civilization. Today, many of us look up into the nighttime heavens and are lucky to see just a handful of stars. “Hey, what are those twinkling things in the sky?” Oh yeah, stars.

The rampant and careless use of artificial light is destroying one of our most inspiring natural resources – the nighttime sky. While light pollution itself is reversible, its effects are deleterious and enduring. It not only denies us of one of the world's most profound spectacles, but it also threatens astronomy, disrupts ecosystems, affects human circadian rhythms, and wastes energy to the tune of $2.2 billion per year in the U.S. alone, according to the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA).

Fortunately, this fact hasn’t been lost on a growing number of people working to preserve our view of the heavens and all that comes with it. IDA, for example, has been striving to protect and preserve this natural resource for future generations. Part of their efforts to recognize those working on behalf of the wide dark yonder is their International Dark Sky Park program, in which they provide a certified designation to parks or other public land, “possessing exceptional starry skies and natural nocturnal habitat where light pollution is mitigated and natural darkness is valuable as an important educational, cultural, scenic, and natural resources.” Amen to that.

Dark, starry night sky and silhouette of mountain ridge
Lucas Jampietro / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

As of January 2015, there were 19 IDA-Designated Dark Sky Parks. While many of you are lucky to live in areas that would qualify as well, we thank our lucky stars for these parks that have put a priority on preserving our view of the wilderness above.

Here is the current list, may it continue to grow:

Big Bend National Park: Texas, USA
Chaco Culture National Historical Park: New Mexico, USA
Cherry Springs State Park: Pennsylvania, USA
Clayton Lake State Park: New Mexico, USA
Copper Breaks State Park: Texas, USA
Death Valley National Park: California, USA
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area: Texas, USA
Galloway Forest Park: Scotland, UK
Goldendale Observatory Park: Washington, USA
Hortobagy National Park: Hungary
Hovenweep National Monument: Utah-Colorado, USA
Mayland Community College Blue Ridge Observatory and Star Park: NC, USA
Natural Bridges National Monument: Utah, USA
Northumberland Park/Kielder Water Forest Park: Northumberland, England
Observatory Park: Ohio, USA
Oracle State Park: Arizona, USA
Parashant International Night Sky Province: Arizona, USA
The Headlands: Michigan, USA
Zselic National Landscape Protection Area: Hungary

Update: The list has grown and grown! As of July 17, 2018, there are SIXTY-TWO IDA-Designated Dark Sky Parks. See them all here.