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The 11 Best Places to Stargaze in Southern California
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The 11 Best Places to Stargaze in Southern California

If you’re looking for the best places to stargaze in Southern California, it’s your lucky day—SoCal has no shortage of nighttime marvels.

California.com

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6 min read

April 24, 2021

When was the last time you left the city to catch a glimpse of the stellar California night sky? It’s hard to resist a one-of-a-kind experience to view these celestial bodies. Shimmering glitter illuminates summer nights, inviting all for an evening admiring the stars. Rugged mountains, desert landscapes, and sandy shorelines serve as the backdrop to your divine experience.

If you’re looking for the best places to stargaze in Southern California, it’s your lucky day—Southern California has no shortage of nighttime marvels.  

The Best Place to See Stars in Southern California

Located in the High Desert, Joshua Tree National Park is one of the best places in Southern California to marvel at the night sky.

Joshua Tree National Park

Astronomers get their starry kicks at Joshua Tree National Park—one of the best places to stargaze in California. The High Desert elevations alone are a reason to visit, but the absence of city lights makes the night sky even more striking. At night, this 790,636-acre wonderland turns into a marvelous site. 

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The Oasis Visitor Center offers a wide variety of ranger-led night-sky programs guaranteed to take your breath away. To make the most of your stargazing experience visit on a moonless night—you’ll discover that the darkest skies boast the brightest stars. 

Cottonwood Campground—one of the best desert camping spots in the state—makes for the perfect stargazing venue under the sky. Your rustic experience here is only enhanced at nighttime. Pack a warm blanket, make yourself a cup of tea, and just admire the serene scene above you.

The Griffith Observatory is not only one of the best in the United States, but it's also one of the most accessible places for stargazing in SoCal.

Griffith Observatory 

Established in 1935, the Griffith Observatory is as iconic as the Hollywood Sign. If you’re having trouble choosing between all the romantic things to do in California, why not take your date to where the La La Land dance scene was filmed? Sure, you might not waltz through the starry sky like Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, but the unfolding views will be just as good.

Here, the night sky shines the brightest compared to anywhere else in L.A. Every month, the observatory boasts free nightly viewings through its 12-inch Zeiss refracting telescope. And, fun fact—more people have looked through this telescope than any other one in the world. 

Templin Highway

Escape the glaring city lights at the idyllic Templin Highway, one of the best places to see the stars in California. Not only is stargazing here incredible, but it’s also accessible—it’s only a 45-minute drive from Downtown Los Angeles

Templin Highway is worlds away from the city glow. Park your car, turn the headlights off, and watch the night sky light up. The Orion Nebula, the Pleiades star cluster, and countless other starry companions reward you with a night to remember.

The Best Places to Stargaze in San Diego

Don't miss the next “Stars in the Park” event hosted by the San Diego Astronomy Association in the one and only Balboa Park.

Balboa Park

Yes, you read that right. Balboa Park is one of the best places to stargaze in San Diego, and you don’t even have to drive far to experience it. Feast your eyes on the infinite night sky the first Wednesday of every month. The San Diego Astronomy Association sets up around 10 telescopes for public use, giving you a closer glance into the sky’s universal beauty. The best time to visit is in August—you get to peek at the total solar eclipse. 

On overcast evenings, pack your binoculars and marvel at the moon, which is encrusted by craters and maria. The ever-moving gem might require slightly repositioning your binoculars, but the shimmering lights are sure to be remembered. 

Julian

Did you know that Julian is one of the best places to see the Milky Way in California? The best part is that you get to see the stunning sky at the coziest place in town. 

The astronomy-themed Observer’s Inn invites visitors to one-hour guided sky tours right at its marvelous rooftop. The charming bed-and-breakfast boasts three research-grade telescopes, perfect for those who like to mix in a little learning with relaxation. Star clusters and nebulae put you in a hazy daze as hot cocoa warms up your soul.

The Best Places to Stargaze in Death Valley

Since light pollution isn't a factor, Badwater Basin is the ultimate spot to capture beautiful photos of the magnificent night sky.

Badwater Basin

Boasting a black-velvet canvas of twinkling stars, Death Valley National Park takes Golden State glamping to a whole other level. At nighttime, the national park becomes the best place to see the stars in California

Death Valley flaunts Milky Way views that never cease to amaze. Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America, is a surreal tract of salt crystals. Stargazing here is perhaps the most mind-boggling experience you’ll ever have. See the universe the way people did a hundred years ago, under one of the darkest skies in the United States. 

Immerse yourself in Death Valley National Park's remote wilderness and feast your eyes on the star-studded night sky that takes your breath away.

Zabriskie Point

The shimmering arc of the Milky Way stretches high in the sky at Zabriskie Point—possibly the best place to stargaze in Death Valley. As the colored rock formations darken, set out your blanket, take out the snacks, and enjoy the incredible cosmos above with your beaux. 

The undulating badlands of Zabriskie make the galaxy extend so high that it almost touches the zenith—literally. Observe the universe directly overhead and snap cool shots while you’re at it.

The Best Places to Stargaze near Los Angeles

Adjust your telescope to see a large variety of celestial objects at Mount Wilson Observatory. There's no better place for stargazing in Los Angeles!

Mount Wilson 

When in doubt, head over to Mount Wilson for top-notch stargazing. Rent a 100-inch telescope at the stunning Mt. Wilson Observatory (open under normal circumstances) and look for prime stargazing spots for the night. The mountain blocks out most of the lighting coming from the San Gabriel Valley. 

When solo road-tripping, the Angeles Crest Highway features several spots for seeing the stars. The highway turnouts are one of the best places to stargaze in Los Angeles, especially the ones that stretch east.

Topanga State Park 

The towering Santa Monica Mountains boast remarkably dark skies—the skies will capture your heart and you’ll want to move there forever. The farther you go from L.A., the darker the skies become; upon reaching Topanga State Park, you’ve discovered your meteor-watching paradise.

It’s no surprise that Topanga State Park is the best place to see the stars in Southern California—the place is undisturbed by urban city lights. While the underrated state park closes at sunset, star-chasers can still scout a good spot for viewing the night sky by the entrance. Bring your own stargazing kit and look up; the entire area radiates flashing streaks of constellations.

Everyone knows the Antelope Valley is the best place to see the official state flower. But did you know that it's also a prime stargazing spot?

Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve

Nestled out in the desert wilderness, Antelope Valley California Poppy Preserve is an obvious pick for L.A. stargazers. As one of the most beautiful places to see wildflowers, the poppy preserve doesn’t disappoint when it comes to stargazing in SoCal. 

Antelope Valley’s sea of poppies is shielded by mountainous peaks. The Antelope Valley Astronomy Club holds monthly gatherings and provides unique stargazing experiences. Indulge in your inner astronomer at this beautiful reserve, showcasing the darkest nights imaginable.

Mount Pinos Summit 

At 8,831 feet, Mount Pinos is the highest peak in Los Padres National Forest. A forest of pine trees covers its slopes and summit, making it one of the best places for stargazing in California.

Chula Vista Campground, Mount Pinos’ most popular viewing area, boasts clear night skies to see the stars. Stock up on snacks, warm clothing, and look at the sky. The celestial wonders will take care of the rest.

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