Colorado is a state known for its breathtaking camping destinations. But it’s not just the mountains, dunes, and forests that are beautiful here, it’s also the night sky. Colorado is one of the best places to soak up starlight and among the few places at our latitude where an Aurora Borealis can sometimes be seen. Additionally, this among many other reasons is why Colorado has embraced the Dark Sky initiative, dousing lights after dark to make it possible to see the stars above. This year, June is Dark Sky Month, just in time for the perfect camping season. You can discover the beauty of Colorado stars for yourself in one of the dozens of parks, towns, and landmark locations across the state where the stargazing is best.
This list is your ultimate guide to stargazing spots in Colorado. It makes it easy to find the stargazing locations closest to your Denver home.
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, Florissant
The Florissant Fossil Beds feature 14-foot wide petrified redwood tree stumps along with insect and shale fossils preserved 34 million years ago. Among this wonder, you can see the glorious night sky all around you. But you can also look through a telescope provided by the Colorado Springs Astronomical Society. They often set up camp and host events at the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument.
Great Sand Dunes National Park, Mosca
Not everyone knows that Colorado is home to a few legendary sand dunes in addition to mountains, forests, and fields. At the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Mosca, you can see the stars uninterrupted by trees or mountain lines and lay out on blankets on the soft sand to soak in the night sky. The high elevation and low population density make it particularly easy to keep the skies dark. Just watch out for nighttime wildlife.
Crestone is a beautiful Mountain town not far from the sand dunes that have long been a Dark Sky community. Residents are also known for living simply and spiritually, embracing the Rights of Nature doctrine and their love of the great outdoors. There are some wonderful dark sky viewing sites that the town will happily share with visitors.
Jackson Lake State Park, Orchard
1.5 hours Northeast of Denver is Jackson Lake State Park. This is where RVs often gather and douse their exterior lights to view the breathtaking sky. This is the closest Dark Sky zone to glowing Denver where you can sit on the sandy shores of Jackson Lake and enjoy the stars both high above and reflected in the water’s surface on a still night. The park also has an impressive Celestron telescope if you’re out to spy on planets.
Westcliffe and Silver Cliff
Westcliffe and Silver Cliff were Colorado’s first dedicated Dark Sky communities. An hour west of Pueblo, they are protected from city light pollution due to their location cradled between the Sangre de Cristo and Wet Mountain ranges. Additionally, discover the unbelievable views with the naked eye or hike up to the Smokey Jack Observatory on any summer weekend. This is where they host sky-viewing parties and share live images from the observatory telescope.
Dinosaur National Monument, Dinosaur
In West Colorado, you will find the Dinosaur National Monument. Sheltered by mountains with few towns nearby, Dinosaur is one of the darkest places in Colorado, even during non-Dark Sky months of the year. The Colorado Plateau offers ideal stargazing conditions with a high elevation and incredible sky exposure. It is sometimes even possible to see the International Space Station. You can also find Nigh Sky programs and viewing grounds at Mitten Park and the Split Mountain Campground.
Black Canyon at the Gunnison National Park, Gunnison
Gunnison is a great place for stargazing with two landmarks to visit. The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park has been a Dark Sky location since 2015. This is one of the most well-known stargazing locations in Colorado where you can see over 5,000 stars. You might even meet the Black Canyon Astronomical Society which hosts regular educational programs including the Black Canyon Astronomy Festival.
Curicanti National Recreation Area, Gunnison
The first National Recreation Area to become a Dark Sky Park, Curecanti is not only perfect for stargazing. It also has three vast reservoirs that reflect the night sky to the awe and wonder of summertime visitors. There is also a 30-foot telescope at the Gunnison Valley Observatory and a ranger-led astronomy program.
Mesa Verde National Park, Mesa Verde
Mesa Verde is home to famous ancient cliff dwellings but also focuses on preserving the beauty of the night sky. Many of the park’s landmarks are also ideal stargazing areas including the Morefield Campground and the Amphitheater. Sometimes, rangers will lead evening programs where visitors are guided to scenic stargazing points.
If you’re looking to see planets and meteors, head over to Norwood which sits at an elevation of 7,000 feet. The low humidity and high elevation create a superb viewing environment where the skies are rarely so clear and vivid. Locals often gather at the Busted Army Draw campground and the Miramonte Reservoir.
Nulca and Naturita
A half-hour drive from Norwood are the twin communities of Nulca and Naturita where dark skies are a shared passion. There are regular star parties and telescope workshops hosted by the West End Dark Sky Alliance.
Ridgway is an hour south of Black Canyon in the San Juan foothills. The town has only 1000 residents who all participate in Dark Sky measures to preserve the best views at Athletic Park and Top of the Pines Recreation Area.
Top of the Pines
If you’ve heard of Top of the Pines, it’s a gorgeous recreation area at a high elevation near Ridgeway. This is a local favorite place for stargazing, as well as outdoor Colorado weddings.
Slumgullion Center, Lake City
Slumgullion Center claims to be the most remote area in the lower 48 states. Located on 58 undeveloped acres near Lake City, there is no lighting and extremely limited developments in the area. Their goal is to preserve the space for future generations. It is an ideal location to embrace a Dark Sky drenched in stars.
Soak Up the Starscape All Over Colorado
Whether you are moving to Denver from far away or you are a Colorado native, Dark Sky Month in June is sure to be a breathtaking experience. Colorado has so many incredible locations to see the purity and wonder of the night sky and rediscover your love of the stars. For more great Denver and Colorado guides, or to find the perfect Denver home to start your Starscape adventures, contact me today.