City lights can keep the night sky from ever being truly dark, but remote Capitol Reef country has some of the clearest and darkest night skies in the U.S. On a moonless night, you can gaze upward and see thousands of stars shining from the vast, black sky. With much of its landscape above 7,000 feet, low smog and light pollution, wide open fields, and small towns separated by stretches of open highway it’s no wonder Capitol Reef offers some of the best stargazing in the country.
It’s been said that two-thirds of the U.S. (and a fifth of the world’s population) can’t ever see the Milky Way. Maybe that’s why astro-tourism has boomed in this remote canyon country, bring stargazers from around the word. Capitol Reef’s high desert backcountry, with expansive stretches of pitch black sky lit only by thousands of tiny pinpoints of starlight, has become a great destination for adventurous stargazers. For the less daring, a short hike to the end of Sunset Point Trail is another way to observe Capitol Reef’s breathtakingly luminous night sky. Capitol Reef National Park also occasionally offers ranger-led astronomy programs and night hikes. Stargazing parties are popular both inside the park and in the surrounding small towns.
In 2010, the first star festival was held in Loa, Lyman, and Bicknell (now all of the Heritage Starfest events are centered in Bicknell). Astronomical groups and rangers within Capitol Reef National Park may supply telescopes and information for viewing the night sky. Other astro-toursists bring their own telescopes and binoculars. But with the sky so dark and so clear, usually all you need are your own two eyes to drink in the luminous night sky.
Check out the upcoming days in Capitol Reef Country for some clear night skies – LINK