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Enhance Your Nighttime Experience

Full moon snowshoe hike
Park ranger leads a full moon snowshoe hike. Photo by NPS/Kevin Poe.

Natural darkness is becoming rare. Across the nation outdoor lights have spilled carelessly into the night, causing light pollution. This wasted light casts a yellow glow across the night sky for hundreds of miles, drowning out the beautiful view of the stars. National parks harbor some of the last remaining portals of darkness in this country. The NPS has identified dark night skies as an important value and is pleased to share with you seven simple ways to enjoy natural darkness.

Conquer Your Fears

Most people are a bit uncomfortable in the dark. Try walking outside in a very dark area while keeping your flashlight in your pocket. But please be careful and give your eyes time to adjust to the low-light conditions.

Make a Night Vision Friendly Flashlight

By covering your flashlight with red cellophane or a red filter, you can prevent it from disrupting your night vision. Small flashlights work better than large ones.


Spend time looking through telescopes and learning about the cosmos with your local science center, astronomy club, or park ranger.

Go for a Moonlit Hike

The full moon provides ample light to see in most places. Let your eyes fully adjust. Be safe. A full moon hike will be a memorable experience.

Awaken Your Nocturnal Senses

Find a comfortable spot and look around. Allow your eyes 20 minutes to adjust, and you may be surprised how well you can see by starlight. Do objects appear farther? Listen. Do sounds seem louder at night?

Watch Nocturnal Wildlife

Many animals live their "days" at night. Look for wildlife such as owls, bats, deer, bobcats, or fireflies.

Be inspired

The night sky has been an inspiration for myth, literature, art, scientific discovery, and religion. Find your own way to connect with humankind's celestial companion. Revel in its beauty and wonder and, most of all, be inspired!

Last Updated: April 23, 2012