A road trip is always one of the best ways to unwind from stress and rejuvenate yourself. With so many scenic routes throughout the country, you are sure to have a lot of fun on this exhilarating expedition, but you can also double the fun and drama by combining your road trip with stargazing. Stargazing is arguably one of the most stunning ways to look at the world from a different perspective. You just need to have the right equipment with you and favorable conditions in order to witness the wonders of the galaxy.
While stargazing can be enjoyed from almost anywhere in the world, the US is believed to comprise the majority of International Dark Sky Places that offer a stunning and mesmerizing view of the galaxy. Astrophiles especially never miss an opportunity to witness the galactic action, and given the number of Dark Sky Places in the US, they are definitely spoilt for choice. No matter if you are a beginner or aficionado, the keys to a successful stargazing road trip are to know where to go, things to pack, and how to approach this trip.
To make things slightly easier for you, we have created an easy guide on how to plan a stargazing road trip.
Picking your destination
Most International Dark Sky Places in the US overlap with those of national parks in the country. Considering these national parks are located far away from urban areas, these protected patches of nature witness less pollution level, which makes it easier to admire the spectacular galactic action. While remote locations definitely help, you don’t have to go off-grid to stargaze. Opt for a stargazing spot that is viable for you.
Things to look for in a spot
When it comes to picking a stargazing spot, you should keep certain things in your mind. The best views are sometimes obstructed by mountains, trees, and buildings; therefore, you should be very specific when it comes to establishing your target to get the best vantage point. Try to pick a destination that’s far away from traffic and buildings, it would be even better if you can take your telescope to the top of a hill. The higher the location, the better your chances of getting an unobstructed view.
Where to stay
You can never go wrong with the combination of camping and stargazing. The best way to be in the moment and completely immerse yourself in that particular moment is by sleeping under the stars. The majority of stargazing spots are located far away from hotels and civilization, making them ideal camping spots. Many national parks in the US offer on-site camping, they may not be as ideal as the ones that are in remote locations, but they also work fine.
The best time to go
In order to get the best views, it’s recommended to go stargazing at midnight. Aside from that, it’s better to avoid a bright moon as it can obstruct the view and try picking a location that is close to a new moon for optimal darkness. Even though winter nights offer longer hours of darkness, this is not the best time to get the best views of the galactic action. Summer, on the other hand, offers amazing viewing opportunities, therefore, you should go stargazing in summer.
Equipment to pack
The right equipment can change your entire stargazing experience; therefore, make sure to bring the right equipment with you. Your packing list must include the following equipment- stargazing gear, star charts or maps, apps, warm clothes, observation log, etc. Apart from these items, you can also bring things that feel essential to you and can help make your stargazing experience even better.