There’s something about camping and stargazing—they simply go well together, like campfires and s’mores. However, depending on where you go, you could either spot constellations, planets, and shooting stars—or you could see a sky washed out by light pollution.
Hipcamp, a company similar to Airbnb but for outdoor stays and camping experiences, recently launched a Dark Skies Map intending to help adventurers and amateur astronomers find campsites across the U.S. where the skies are darkest, and the stars shine the brightest.
The map overlays light pollution data from the International Dark-Sky Association onto the regions that include more than 340,000 U.S.-based campsites, RV parks, cabins, tree houses, and glamping sites housed within Hipcamp’s website, highlighting which areas offer unobstructed views of the cosmos.
“While a good rule of thumb is to select sites 20 to 30 miles outside of major metro areas, zooming into the map will show you exactly which sites are impacted by light pollution,” Charles Post, Hipcamp’s consulting ecologist, told AFAR. Post also noted that if you’re unsure when to book, the website’s Stargazing Calendar outlines major astrological events for the year, such as eclipses and meteor showers.
If you don’t want to book a campsite, you can still use the tool to find areas where the stars shine brightly. (Another option is to visit one of the designated International Dark Sky Parks, Places, Preserves, or Sanctuaries.)
If you do, here are a few stellar Hipcamp sites we recommend.
Canyon Trails Ranch Shepherd Wagons
Cost: From $95/night
Steps from Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, an archaeological site with the highest known density of Native American artifacts and architecture, Canyon Trails Ranch allows visitors to spend their morning exploring Puebloan ruins and their nights gazing at the galaxy above their covered wagon. There are two wagons; both have a full-size bed, a pull-out table, and built-in seat benches. Outside, guests can also access firepits, picnic tables, and a shower house and toilet area.
Hubble Hideout, Stargazing Cabin
Cost: From $66/night
On clear, cloudless nights, visitors to Hubble Hideout can see the Milky Way—without leaving their bed. A large skylight over the full-size bed makes it easy to stargaze. Hubble Hideout is about 30 minutes south of Grand Canyon National Park. Guests need to have a bit of an adventurous spirit—Hubble Hideout doesn’t provide bedding, and there isn’t running water—but we’d argue the views of the San Francisco peaks from the rocking chair on the deck make it worthwhile.
Just Average A-Frame
Cost: From $120/night
Roughly 1.5 hours outside of San Diego and 2.5 hours from Los Angeles, Just Average A-Frame is a simple but satisfying retreat that borders Anza Borrego Desert State Park. The cabin is equipped with a queen-size bed, and the property offers outhouses with composting toilets, showers, and communal cooking area.
Cost: From $210/night
At BaseCamp 37°, eight miles outside Kanab, Utah, campers have their choice of five glamping tents. Each has a king-size bed, a futon, and a private front porch. In addition to their tents, campers have access to a Guest Lodge (with showers, flush toilets, kitchen space, and hang-out areas), outdoor grills, and a firepit stocked with s’mores supplies. All in all, not a bad place to look for constellations and planets.
Cost: From $199/night
Another spot where guests aren’t exactly roughing it, Fulton’s Comet, near Mount San Jacinto State Park and Diamond Valley Lake, is a brand- new Airstream with a bed, full standing shower, a kitchen area, and a TV. More importantly for stargazers, however, is the fact that it sits atop a hill, allowing for sweeping views of the night sky.