November 13, 2020
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.
Dazzling dots of light glitter and shimmer in the night skies, captivating all who look up to marvel at the majestic scene; whether you're by California's desert landscapes, rugged mountains, or sandy shorelines, an (inter)stellar stargazing experience awaits. So, why not take your date on a stargazing extravaganza? While taking online cooking classes, practicing yoga, or watching California-made Netflix shows can make staying at home sound enticing, ditch the indoor activities—before it gets too cold—in lieu of a spectacular celestial show. Whether you're all about the stars or studying the planets above, the state's starlit skies will leave you breathless.
The Best places to stargaze in California
Whether you're in search of the top spots for stargazing in San Diego's desertscapes or looking for twinkling sites to stargaze along the North Coast, there are plenty of places to experience all-star constellations (and discover new ones) throughout the Golden State. Here are the best places to go stargazing in California now.
The Best Places To Stargaze In Southern California
Borrego Springs is one of the few stargazing sites in California's Low Desert and is the perfect gateway to the state’s largest park: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. The area’s residents and local businesses have effectively kept light pollution to a minimum, avidly encouraging the park’s stellar nighttime spectacle. Anza-Borrego is home to some of the best California state park campgrounds, so you can set up camp under the night skies without having to sacrifice many amenities. The Borrego Palm Canyon Campground boasts a whopping 122 sites as well as hot showers, drinkable water, and restrooms, making it a top spot to pitch your tent. You can also drive your home on wheels to The Springs at Borrego RV Resort for a glamping-esque adventure well-suited for night-sky observation.
With one too many attractions scattered around the shores of the Salton Sea, you won't ever be bored when visiting this mysterious destination, especially if you plan on sticking around for the nighttime show. You don’t necessarily have to camp here to get a great glimpse at the night sky, but we highly recommend it; camping is permitted at the Salton Sea State Recreation Area between October and May. From the Corvina Beach Campground to the Mecca Beach Campground, the toughest decision you'll have to make during your trip is where to pitch your tent. There are plenty of quiet spots scattered up and down the shoreline. Many of them are equipped with concrete pads, which are perfect for setting up your scopes.
Located just two hours away from the Salton Sea, Corn Springs is a quiet and secluded destination that's easily accessible. The area sits at about 1,600 feet above sea level, but the grand Chuckwalla Mountains do a great job of blocking light (and noise) from neighboring cities and highways. With wide-open skies, brisk weather, and the occasional scorpion, this place makes for an unforgettable your stargazing experience. Head to the Corn Springs Campground—which offers nine campsites and top-notch amenities—for a front-row seat to the spectacle.
Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park—only an approximate two-hour drive away from L.A.—is by far one of the best places for stargazing near Los Angeles. The darker half of the world-renowned national park is located in the Low Desert, making it a prime locale for spotting constellations and shooting stars. With nine campground destinations, there’s room for everyone to watch the dazzling night sky shimmer above. (Just note that several campgrounds, including the popular Cottonwood Campground, are available on a first-come, first-served basis, so plan accordingly.)
Top Spots For Stargazing In Northern California
Situated along California's North Coast, the gorgeous town of Mendocino is all about the juxtaposition of the wilderness with the creature comforts of modern-day. For lovers of cozy lodging, book your room at the Little River Inn; the Stargazing Family Package surely doesn't disappoint. The program accommodates two night stays in a spectacular ocean-view room and as well as a stargazing kit (hot chocolate included) to set you off on the right foot.
To kick your stargazing game up a notch, head to the Mendocino National Forest, one of the best camping destinations in California. You'll find 14 campgrounds scattered throughout the forest; pitching a tent here is a piece of cake and is an ideal place for sleeping under the stars. For a lakeside camping extravaganza, head to the Howard Lake Campground to watch the stars shimmer above the still, clear waters.
Mountain lovers, Lake Tahoe is the place for you. With an elevation of 6,200 feet, the region's high altitude guarantees jet-black nights and a dazzling starlit sky. Primo stargazers can unfold their blanket anywhere near or around the lake. But for a supreme stargazing experience, join Clearly Tahoe for a nighttime paddle tour. In this guided, beginner-friendly excursion, you'll paddle across the lake at night, in a transparent kayak with LED lights glowing below. Watch the fish swim right under you, and don't forget to look up at the bright stars shining above you. Book your stay with RnR Vacation Rentals or rent a cabin for the weekend.
Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park
The majestic Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park is nestled within Shasta County and is only accessible by boat—talk about a remote destination. The state park is named for being the place “where the waters come together”: Big Lake, Tule River, Ja-She Creek, Lava Creek, and Fall River. Make your way to Ahjumawi Lava Springs in a powerboat, then pitch your tent (primitive camping is encouraged) amongst the fragrant pines, sagebrush-dotted slopes, and ancient lava flows. Thanks to the park's remoteness, the stargazing here is unparalleled. While gazing up at the stellar night sky, see if you can make out the silhouettes of Mount Shasta, Mount Lassen, and other nearby peaks.
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