8 Extraordinary Places to Stargaze in Colorado

We hear most often about Colorado vistas in the daytime—sunlight glinting off mountain peaks, fiery sunsets, snow-covered aspens—but equally stunning are Colorado’s nightscapes. Wilderness areas with low light pollution allow the Milky Way to show off its beauty, and Telluride festivarians at the annual Bluegrass Festival wait all year for the moonrise over Ballard Mountain, framing the iconic stage and Bluegrass music legends.


While you’re sure to find incredible star panoramas in most places that you camp away from civilization, there are a few particularly special places for stargazing in Colorado. Grab a blanket, warm clothing, and a thermos of hot chocolate, and sit back to watch Orion and other constellations dance across the Colorado night sky.


1. Chimney Rock National Monument

The Ancestral Puebloan people that settled the Chimney Rock region regarded the site with religious reverence. It was a place where they studied the cosmos and partially developed their advanced calendrical system. Every 18.6 years, the moon enters a phase called Major Lunar Standstill (MLS) for a period of three years, rising at the same point on the horizon each evening. During the MLS period, the moon rises directly between the two Chimney Rock pillars—a phenomenon so significant that the Ancestral Puebloans constructed their largest structure, the Great House Pueblo, in alignment with Chimney Rock. Stargazing at this special place connects you with the people who first sanctified this incredible place.

READ MORE: Chimney Rock Is A Favorite in Southern Colorado


2. Great Sand Dunes National Park

This unique National Park is located far from light pollution. Nightscapes are equally, if not more, stunning than day time panoramic vistas. Rangers lead regular night hikes and night events focused on stargazing and astronomy.


3. Paint Mines Interpretive Park

Follow in the footsteps of the ancient peoples of the prairie (evidence suggests that humans began coming to this relatively unknown park more than 9,000 years ago) and wander through the rocky spires, eroded gullies, and magnificent hoodoos located on the plains east of El Paso County.

READ MORE: Paint Mines Interpretive Park


4. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

This 30,750 acre National Park does no less than wow visitors who venture to its edges or into its depths. 2,700 foot sheer-walled cliffs tower over the Gunnison River below—two million years of rushing waters carved out the formidable canyon, exposing metamorphic rock from Earth’s Precambrian era (more than 540 million years ago).


5. Gunnison Valley Observatory

The Gunnison Valley Observatory opened for public viewing in June of 2008 and is now annually open Friday and Saturday nights from mid-June to mid-September for viewing, astronomy lectures, and special events.


6. Pawnee National Grassland

This 193,060-acre federally-protected space is known for its exceptional birding and wildlife viewing as well as historic frontier homesteading sites.


7. Maroon Bells

An extremely popular 1.8-mile trail leads to Crater Lake, at the base of these majestic peaks. Though short, the trail is rugged and rocky. This view is one of the most iconic vistas in the state of Colorado.

RELATED: Maroon Bells Through the Seasons


8. The Observatory at Alta Lakes

This backcountry hut is located 13 miles from Telluride, Colorado high in the San Juan Mountains. Recreation abounds in all seasons—from hiking to fishing, backcountry skiing to snowshoeing, the Observatory offers something for everyone in all seasons. Its out-of-bounds location also allows for unparalleled, high alpine stargazing.



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