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The 11 Best Places to Stargaze in Northern California

The 11 Best Places to Stargaze in Northern California

By California.com
April 30, 2021

As California mitigates health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic, some travel restrictions may remain in certain communities. Call the local and regional tourism offices to learn more about the restrictions in your intended destination. Thank you for reading, and stay safe.

The magic happens after sunset. Dreaming of gazing up at starry night skies? If so, head to Northern California where visitors are amazed at the unparalleled night aglow. Away from the bustle of the city, serene hilltops and sandy shores serve as some of the best places to stargaze in Northern California. Savor the nighttime marvels and head to these top NorCal destinations to admire the star-studded show.

The best places to stargaze in Northern California

Ever wanted to stargaze among giant trees? Make it happen at Calaveras Big Trees State Park, one of the best places to see the stars.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park

Located within the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Calaveras Big Trees State Park is one of the best places to stargaze in California. At nighttime, the giant sequoias give way to luminous stars. The underrated state park offers several campgrounds where you can admire the stellar night sky. Pitch a tent at the North Grove Campground, make a hot cup of tea, and take in the majestic scenery.

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Strawberry Hill

In the heart of Stow Lake lies Golden Gate Park’s hidden gem, Strawberry Hill. This isolated island boasts awe-inspiring views and is undoubtedly one of the best places for stargazing in the Bay Area. Watching the stars here is a romantic thing to do with your beaux. Don your hiking boots, pack your binoculars, and enjoy the night sky from this stargazing spot in the Bay Area

As the golden hour sets in Big Basin Redwoods State Park, lay out your blanket in an ideal spot to see the star-studded NorCal night sky.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Providing excellent stargazing opportunities, Big Basin Redwoods State Park is the place to be after sunset. As the oldest state park in California, Big Basin is home to the largest continuous stand of ancient coast redwoods located south of S.F. Hike any of the trails at this can’t-miss state park during the day, and as the golden hour sets, find the perfect spot to watch the stars twinkle in the clear and peaceful night sky. 

Incredible stargazing spots in the Bay Area

Named after real estate investor James Lick, the Lick Observatory is where the first new moon of Jupiter was discovered in 1892.

Lick Observatory 

Mount Hamilton in Santa Clara County is home to the Lick Observatory, an active research facility and the best place to stargaze in the Bay Area. With perfect conditions for viewing the night sky, the observatory allows you to learn about meteor showers and constellations, for an enhanced experience. As you expand your knowledge of the universe, prepare to see the night sky in full action at one of the best places to see the Milky Way in California.

Billy Goat Hill

You’ve probably seen the famous swing at Billy Goat Hill on your Instagram—it’s an iconic Bay Area photo op. But did you know that Billy Goat Hill is one of the best places to stargaze in Northern California? Besides featuring expansive panoramas of the City by the Bay, this urban green space boasts fantastic views of the S.F. night sky. Whether you’re watching the stars from the swing or by the picnic tables, this is one of the most unique things you can do in San Francisco

The best places to see the stars on the coast

Ask anyone and they'll tell you the best place to see the stars in Northern California is the iconic Pigeon Point Lighthouse.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Built in 1871, Pigeon Point Lighthouse is the tallest of its kind on the West Coast. The lighthouse was transformed into a hostel in the 1960s, and now, visitors have the chance to experience the surreal night sky. As one of the best places to see the stars in California, Pigeon Point Lighthouse places its bulbs facing downward to make the area a light pollution-free zone. There aren’t many places to stargaze from an oceanfront hot tub in a lighthouse, so don’t miss out on this one-of-a-kind experience. 

Point Reyes National Seashore

Looking for the best places to stargaze in the Bay Area? Look no further than Marin County’s Point Reyes National Seashore. Whenever you plan a weekend getaway to this coastal utopia, make sure to have stargazing on your itinerary.

The natural sanctuary is home to more than 1,500 species of plant and wildlife. Nocturnal animals come out to observe the night sky alongside visitors. For a unique stargazing experience, head over to Point Reyes National Seashore on May 4th to celebrate Star Wars Day by looking at the stellar night sky. 

Amazing places to stargaze near Tahoe

Emerald Bay State Park is the coolest place for outdoor fun. Come nighttime, the waters reflect the celestial bodies that appear in the sky.

Emerald Bay State Park

Who wouldn’t want to marvel at the night sky while chillin’ in an oasis of glimmering turquoise waters? Emerald Bay State Park is one of the most photographed places in Tahoe for good reason. During the day, the green-blue bay shimmers, inviting visitors to engage in a range of watersports. At night, the waters become calm and greet the incredible, star-studded sky. 

Lay out your blanket anywhere at Emerald Bay and prepare to have an unforgettable night. Take your stargazing experience to a whole another level with Clearly Tahoe’s paddle tours. Immerse yourself in the lucid night sky views from your clear-shelled kayak. If you’re still wondering about the best place to stargaze in California, this is it. 

Hope Valley

Among the many incredible things to do at Lake Tahoe, stargazing is definitely a must. Jet-black nights and clear skies are all you need at the best place to see the stars in California. This broad mountain valley in Alpine County offers star-studded solitude on the Carson River banks. Immerse yourself in the infinite night sky with a warm drink to keep you company. Don’t forget to pack extra blankets—Hope Valley gets pretty chilly at night. 

Wonderful stargazing spots near Mendocino

A fancy hotel room, ocean views, and a stargazing kit to marvel at the night sky—we're already sold. Photo courtesy of Little River Inn.

Little River Inn

Whoever said that stargazing and a luxurious North Coast vacation aren’t mutually exclusive clearly hasn’t been to Little River Inn. The hotel on the Mendocino Coast allows visitors to experience the beauty of the ocean and the night sky.

Little River Inn offers guests a stargazing package that includes staying two nights in a traditional ocean view room. You also get to borrow the inn’s stargazing kit—binoculars, star map, guide, and flashlight. Get ready to snuggle in a cozy blanket and revel in the stunning night sky while sipping on hot cocoa.

Mendocino National Forest

Want to experience nighttime marvels surrounded by lakes and lush forests? Mendocino National Forest has got you covered. One of the best places to see the Milky Way in California, Mendocino National Forest astonishes visitors with stunning vantage points. Offering excellent visibility, this forest in the Golden State features night skies filled with twinkling stars and nebula clusters. We don’t know about you, but we’re heading over right away.

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