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The 15 Best Places to Stargaze in California

The 15 Best Places to Stargaze in California

Does the Golden State truly shine brighter after sundown? Find out for yourself by checking out the best places to stargaze in California.


5 min read

April 19, 2021

The Golden State’s sunny weather and shimmering coastline aren’t the only natural features worth swooning over. In fact, the skies here put on a dazzling show almost every night. If you drive to the best places to see the stars in California, you’ll catch the night sky in all its celestial glory. 

Does the Golden State truly shine brighter after sundown? Find out for yourself by checking out the best places to stargaze in California.

The best places to see the stars in California

Did you know that Death Valley is a “Gold Tier” Dark Sky Park? The park's stunning dark skies welcome stargazing enthusiasts year-round.

1. Death Valley National park

The best place to stargaze in Death Valley is literally anywhere you like. Watching the twinkling skies here is a national park experience worth adding to your bucket list. The hottest, driest, and lowest of all national parks in the country is one of the best places to see the Milky Way in California—it surrounds you by absolute darkness and solitude with the stars.

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2. Yosemite National Park

Unobstructed clear views of the sky are crucial for top-notch stargazing, and Yosemite National Park offers exactly that. Whether you decide to book a luxurious glamping retreat or sign up for a specialized stargazing tour, Yosemite won’t disappoint as one of the best places to stargaze in California.

Set against the background of Mount Whitney in the High Sierra, the Alabama Hills boast gorgeous night skies; time to spot the Milky Way.

3. Alabama Hills

Alabama Hills may not be a well-known getaway spot, but it’s still an incredible place to go stargazing in California. This scenic destination has very low light pollution—you might even catch a glimpse of the Andromeda and Triangulum galaxies on a clear night.

The best place to see stars in Southern California

After sundown, it's time to pack up your car and drive to the fantastic Kelso Dunes to view the most breathtaking starry night.

4. Kelso Dune Field

The incredible Kelso Dunes is one of the most photographed spots in the Mojave Desert for good reason. As one of the best places to see stars in Southern California, the eolian sand deposit field offers you a first-class seat to the night sky. Just beware of the scorpions that creep out during hot summer nights.

Look out on a summer's day with eyes that recognize the stellar night sky in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

5. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park’s expansive landscape boasts brilliant and crystal clear night skies. Go from November through April to take part in the monthly moon and star watching programs at one of the best places for stargazing in California.

6. Palomar Observatory

While you won’t be watching the stars from the on-site observatory (which closes in the afternoon), the nearby state campsite is amazing nonetheless. The site comes equipped with special concrete pads made specifically for telescope usage and hosts a monthly “Explore the Stars” party from April through October. Take part in the event and share the experience with other eager Californians at the best place to stargaze in San Diego.

The night sky is never lonely at Salton Sea—the clear terrestrial stars are always lighting the path for the lucid moon.

7. Salton Sea

If you don’t feel like committing to a full camping or desert glamping trip, Salton Sea is the spot for you. The state recreation area—open 24 hours—is one of the top places to stargaze in Southern California. Quiet and dark spots are found up and down the shore; some of them offer concrete pads for your tripod or telescope.

Joshua Tree National Park is located in the High Desert. The desert's night skies never disappoint when it comes to stargazing.

8. Joshua tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park offers top-notch glamping experiences in SoCal. While you enjoy roasting marshmallows and sharing campfire stories, you’ll have the moon and stars watching over you in the most incredible way. If you’re looking for the best place to stargaze near Los Angeles, Joshua Tree is a little over two hours away.

9. Midland 

This desert ghost town has dark skies, concrete pads, and offers plenty of campsites. What more could we ask for in one of the greatest places to stargaze in Southern California? Feast your eyes on Midland's night skies sooner rather than later, and explore the ghost town for spooky adventures.

The best places to stargaze in Northern California

The iconic Lake Tahoe features up to 300 clear nights per year, so grab a cup of warm tea and just look up.

10. Lake Tahoe

The 6,200-foot altitude at Lake Tahoe means clear skies and jet black nights for incredible stargazing. Visit from June to October to take part in a one-of-a-kind Tahoe experience, Clearly Tahoe LED Night Tours. The stargazing tour allows you to watch the bright stars from your colorfully lit transparent kayaks. If kayaking at one of the best places to see stars in California is not a bucket list-worthy experience, we don’t know what is.

11. Benton Hot Springs

This little hot springs town has the advantage of being one of the best places to stargaze in Northern California—Benton Hot Springs is surrounded by miles of open sagebrush. Whether you decide to stargaze from your campsite or a hot tub in a hotel, the skies at this Mono County town won’t disappoint. 

12. Mendocino 

Mendocino is secluded enough to provide good chances of spotting nebula clusters and sparkling stars. Looking for romantic things to do? Any adventure-loving couple will love camping out at Mendocino Magic and getting a taste of one of the best places for stargazing in California. The 250-acre camping area has sites with varying amenities and prides itself on being a primo spot for stargazing in NorCal.

The best places to stargaze in the Bay Area

The historic Pigeon Point Lighthouse is one of the best places in the San Francisco Bay Area to go stargazing with your special someone.

13. Pigeon Point Lighthouse

If camping isn’t really your jam, you’re going to appreciate this historic lighthouse-turned-hostel. Just 50 miles south of San Francisco, Pigeon Point Lighthouse is one of the best places to stargaze in California. If you thought this stargazing hotspot can’t get any better, there’s an outdoor hot tub you can book and score double the relaxation points. Do we sense a romantic NorCal getaway in the works?

14. Marin Headlands

Thanks to the accessibility of this stargazing spot in the Bay Area, you don’t have to travel far to see illustrious constellations. There are plenty of places to pull out along the road, camp out in your car, and enjoy stunning views of the breathtaking night sky. Take your partner along to the best place to stargaze in the Bay Area and you have a cool outdoor date idea to spice up the romance.

15. Mount Diablo State Park

Located in the East Bay, Mount Diablo State Park is home to an observatory that boasts unbeatable views of the Bay. As one of the best places for stargazing in the Bay Area, this park is often frequented by amateur and professional photographers and astronomers. If you can’t take our word for how great this place is, the photographs speak for themselves.

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