The pandemic has encouraged people to rediscover the outdoors, and camping in and around National Parks is among the favorite activities. Besides splendid surroundings, these natural refuges give travelers an opportunity to observe something increasingly rare: the night sky without pollution.
In 2022, nighttime sights are becoming a big travel trend online, with popular stargazing locations seeing a significant increase in visitors. Over 10,000 people worldwide search every month for ‘stargazing near me.’
Next Vacay commissioned a new study that reveals the top Instagrammable destinations to sleep under the stars in 2022 — based on Instagram hashtags, air pollution levels, overall star visibility, and more.
“People have been amazed by the stars since the beginning of humankind, so it’s no surprise that we have seen demand for ‘stargazing events near me’ double in the past year,” said Naveen Dittakavi, founder of Next Vacay.
Unfortunately, air pollution and other multiple factors make it difficult to stargaze in big cities like New York or Los Angeles, where seeing vast numbers of stars is almost impossible. “National parks usually have ideal conditions for stargazing, like dry and clean air and a seemingly never-ending skyline that’s hardly ever obstructed,” said Dittakavi.
To give an idea of the best stargazing spots in the United States, here are the top five most popular star-gazing places on Instagram.
#1- The best time for a stargazing adventure in Zion National Park in Utah is during spring or fall, with fewer crowds than in the summer months. The night sky explodes with stars above the sandstone cliffs. (1,300,577 photos under the hashtag on Instagram.)
#2- Glacier National Park in Montana is internationally recognized as a Dark Sky Park, with minimum light pollution. Peering through a 20-inch telescope, you can be mesmerized by high-resolution views of planets, galaxies, and constellations. During the winter months when the skies get darker, travelers have a better chance of spotting the northern lights. (950,356 photos under the hashtag on Instagram.)
#3- With elevations from 7,860 feet to 14,259 feet, Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado offers some of the country’s best stargazing opportunities. The best time to stargaze is on crisp, clear winter nights or during a new moon. (693,127 photos under the hashtag on Instagram.)
#4- Designated an International Dark Sky Park, Arches National Park in Utah, is best visited during winter, when the air is generally clearest. Famous for over 2,000 natural sandstone arches and massive balanced red rocks, this natural wonder offers some of the darkest, most breathtaking star-filled night sky views in the Southwest. . (612,815 photos under the hashtag on Instagram.)
#5- Acadia National Park in Maine is known for its great night skies, breathtaking views, and pristine lakes, and is one of the best national parks for stargazing in the eastern United States. Visit Acadia National Park from September through early October to avoid the summer crowds, cold temperatures, and cloudy skies. (522,517 photos under the hashtag on Instagram.)
Rounding out the top 15 most popular night time sites to stargaze and camp under the stars on Instagram are: Crater Lake National Park, Oregon; Grand Canyon National Park. Arizona; Death Valley National Park, California; Canyonlands National Park, Utah; North Cascades National Park, Washington; Mauna Kea, Hawaii; Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah; Big Bend National Park, Texas; Badlands National Park, South Dakota; Denali National Park, Alaska.
(For more info on U.S. national parks, beyond stargazing, listen to Episode #5 of my award-winning travel podcast, Places I Remember with Lea Lane. Follow the podcast wherever you listen, or at my website.)