Colorado might be known for the wide-sweeping mountain views, but there is more than one way to take in great scenery. If you grew up west of the Mississippi River you might not know this, but yes, you can actually see stars in the sky. Lots of them. And Colorado is one of the best places in the United States for stargazing, as long as you can get some distance between you and Denver.
Light pollution is the #1 reason that you can’t look up at the night sky and see a blanket of stars. The Front Range might be famously crowded, but Colorado is vast. You just have to be willing to go. Here is where to start.
1. MONUMENT LAKE
It’s hard to be near Interstate 25 and still avoid light pollution, but Monument Lake is far enough south to do the trick. The area has fantastic camping and remarkable views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Sweeping views of the mountains and stars make this a great place to stay up late.
2. BLACK CANYON OF THE GUNNISON NATIONAL PARK
Black Canyon of the Gunnison is the only national park in Colorado to receive International Dark Sky certification. There is fantastic hiking, camping and climbing in Colorado’s least visited national park, and the dark skies just might be its most unique feature.
3. MT. EVANS
If you’re looking for a quick trip near the city, Mt. Evans is a great option. There’s a good reason that an observatory sits at the peak. While it does suffer from a moderate amount of light pollution from nearby towns, it’s hard to beat the combination of drivability, proximity and sweeping views. The road is typically only open Memorial Day to Labor Day, but there is usually very little traffic after sundown.
4. THE OBSERVATORY AT ALTA LAKES
The ultimate Colorado hut for stargazers. When your cabin has colloquially become known as “the Observatory” you know that the views are breathtaking. Approximately 13 miles from Telluride, the hut is a rare treat that sits at 11,000 ft. Now THAT is high alpine stargazing.
5. GREAT SAND DUNES NATIONAL PARK
While the dunes don’t share the International Dark Sky designation that Black Canyon of the Gunnison has, there are few places that offer comparable nightscapes. Sweeping views of the mountains and the dunes provide the perfect background for dark sky viewing. Just make sure you keep the sand out of your camera.
6. ALMOST ALL OF COLORADO WEST OF THE CONTINENTAL DIVIDE
You can fit the entire state of Massachusetts into the northwest portion of Colorado north of Interstate 70. It’s easy to forget how massive Colorado truly is. There are places to hide. If you want to find a great stargazing spot, you’re only limited by your imagination and willingness to avoid the population centers. So pack up the car and hit the road. Beautiful starry nights await.
7. SILVER CLIFF & WESTCLIFFE
There are some very special places where seeing bright stars doesn’t necessarily mean avoiding all civilization. These two towns were the first in Colorado to be designated as International Dark Sky communities after enacting strict outdoor lighting ordinances. Head to the hills near either town to catch some stars, and you’ll still be within a short distance of a great burger.
About the Author
Jimmy is the founder and owner of Feral Mountain Co. When he is not exploring the hinterland of Colorado he can usually be found at one of his favorite Berkeley neighborhood watering holes with Sophie the shopdog.
Follow Jimmy on Instagram at@theadventuresoffunk.
About the Photographer
Johnathan is a photographer from Breckenridge, Colorado. Born and raised in Colorado on his family farm, his love for nature and the outdoors runs deep. Through the use of his camera, he hopes to show others the beautiful places he visits as well as inspire them to find their inner explorer.