A Guide to International Dark-Sky Association National Parks

Find the best places in the country to spot the Milky Way Galaxy.

Unless you live in, around or near the desert wastelands of the western United States, it is pretty hard to find a place to really see the stars and the Milky Way at night because of all the light pollution. That is not actually the case though, there are dozens of places certified by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) as being perfect for seeing the cosmos in all its mystical wonder.

The IDA is a conservation program that promotes the stewardship of the night sky. They work with communities and local governments to help reduce light pollution by introducing new lighting practices and set up reserves within parks and rural areas to ensure that light pollution does not encroach on the night’s sky. Through this stewardship, IDA has amassed a roster of locations across the United States (and internationally) that are certified as Dark Sky Places that allow an uninhibited view of the night’s sky with no light pollution.

If you are interested in finding a Dark Sky location near you, go to the IDA website where you can search by country, state or zip code to find the one nearest you and start exploring. Or, keep reading to check out a list of all of the United States National Parks that are part of the International Dark-Sky Association.

Photo by João Sampaio

National Parks with Dark-Sky Designation

  • Arches National Park, Utah
  • Big Bend National Park, Texas
  • Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
  • Canyonlands National Park, Utah
  • Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
  • Death Valley National Park, California
  • Glacier National Park, Montana
  • Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
  • Great Basin National Park, Nevada
  • Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
  • Joshua Tree National Park, California
  • Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky
  • Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
  • Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
  • Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota
  • Zion National Park, Utah

There are also so many other national historical sites, national monuments, and more that are quailified as International Dark-Sky areas. Head to darksky.org for the complete list and an interactive map. Or if you would like to join the IDA and start your quest of stewardship and changing your community around you, you can find all of that information at their home page.

Editor’s Note: A version of this story previously appeared on treadmagazine.com in April 2018.