For the more information about natural sounds and night skies in the National Park Service, please visit

Exploring Night Skies

Children stargaze
In some parks, stargazing is the most popular ranger-led activity.

The Organic Act of 1916 directs the National Park Service to— "conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations." While scenery has been traditionally thought of as being geologic curiosities, distant vistas, and sublime landscapes, it also includes the night sky. Many of the last dark skies in the country lie over our national parks. As over-lit skies become the norm, the public is seeking out star-filled skies.

Many visitors are surprised to witness such a beautiful sight at night, perhaps having never seen an unfettered view of a starry sky. Others may come to parks specifically to enjoy stargazing through telescopes, walking among a natural nighttime scene, or camping beneath the stars.

A park ranger can not only connect you to the plants, animals, and geology of a park, but also guide you through the night sky. Several national parks have regular stargazing programs or night appreciation events. Examples include the bat flight breakfast at Carlsbad Caverns NP, star parties or moonlight hikes at Bryce Canyon NP, telescope viewing at Rocky Mountain NP, and the observatory at Chaco Culture NHP.

Be sure to check out these other great stargazing tips!

To see what a dark sky can look like, see Rate Your Night Sky

Last Updated: April 23, 2012