Dark-sky locations within the Southwest | Snowbirds


What a reduction that cooler temperatures are lastly right here. It’s a welcome change of seasons and an ideal probability to comfortably discover the most effective dark-sky locations within the Southwest. Whether you’re headed to the sunny Southern California coast or gathering with winter Texans on the Gulf Coast, the most well-liked winter snowbird journeys are sometimes stuffed with stargazing below crystal-clear skies.

A Short List of the Best Dark Sky Destinations within the Southwest

The Southwestern desert has inky-black starry skies all yr. But for those who’re a climate wimp like me, exploring them in fall and winter is way more interesting. As an astronomy fan, I take pleasure in planning our travels across the International Dark-Sky Association’s Dark Sky Site Directory. It’s an incredible useful resource for finding North America’s darkest skies and likewise features a listing of dozens of Dark Sky Parks close to common winter snowbird locations. My favourite locations in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas embody:

Arizona: Saguaro National Park

A saguaro cactus juts into a sky with thick bans of stars.

The Milky Way over Saguaro National Park. Getty Images

If you disguise from winter in Arizona, take a break out of your regular spot and head south to Organ Pipe National Monument. Located two hours west of Tucson, Organ Pipe will not be solely an International Dark Sky Park, however can be an International Biosphere Reserve. The twin designation signifies that together with a peaceable keep beneath Southern Arizona’s darkest skies, you may as well expertise one of many few intact, undeveloped slices of the Sonoran Desert ecosystem. It’s a two-for-one deal that takes your breath away with the starriest skies at evening and untouched desert surroundings by day. There’s a country, RV-friendly campground contained in the monument, however Ajo Heights RV Park presents full-hookup comforts simply minutes from the park entrance.

California: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Time laps shot of stars circling the sky over the desert.

Time-lapse {photograph} over Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Getty Images

Few snowbird locations are higher than California. Despite the numerous vibrant lights obliterating the evening sky in huge cities like Los Angeles, the state has a surprisingly giant variety of darkish sky locations for RVers. One of my favorites is situated south of Palm Springs at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Many snowbirds flock there throughout the spring wildflower season, however California’s largest state park can be an incredible spot for cool, comfy stargazing in fall and winter. The park makes essentially the most of its Dark Sky Park designation. During snowbird season from December to March, park rangers regularly host evening sky star events that provide you with loads of methods to dive deeper into astronomy and our place within the universe. There’s a country RV-friendly campground contained in the park, however I really like staying in consolation at The Springs At Borrego RV Resort & Golf Course. It’s an opulent residence base simply minutes from the park entrance. Closer to Ocotillo Wells within the Anza-Borrego Desert, Leapin Lizard RV Ranch additionally treats visitors to beautiful views of the Milky Way and surrounding stars. The park has 75 fenced acres for roaming.

New Mexico: The Cosmic Campground

A thick band of stars dramatically crosses the sky at a diagonal angle.

The thick band of the Milky Way over New Mexico. Getty Images

If you’re flying south for winter by way of New Mexico, take a brief detour to the Cosmic Campground International Dark Sky Sanctuary within the Gila National Forest. This particular RV-friendly boondocking spot is one in every of solely 14 licensed International Dark Sky Sanctuaries worldwide. Located about 1.5 hours north of Silver City, you gained’t even should journey far to take pleasure in one of many few locations on the planet with exceptionally darkish, starry nights. Since the campground has no shade bushes, fall and winter are nice occasions to go to. What’s even higher is that you simply don’t want a reservation for this first-come, first-served campground with just a few conveniences like degree parking for big RVs, picnic tables, hearth rings, vault bogs and concrete telescope statement pads that make it simple to arrange your stargazing tools and examine the nightly present.

Texas: Big Bend National Park & Surrounding Area

Stars twinkle over a rock outcropping in the desert.

The Sphinx formation at evening in Big Bend National Park. Getty Images

In all our travels within the USA, I’ve by no means camped below darker skies than alongside the Rio Grande River. Located midway between the obtrusive lights of El Paso and San Antonio, the Big Bend Region is likely one of the greatest locations for a one-of-a-kind celestial expertise. Whether you’re fortunate sufficient to attain a campsite reservation inside Big Bend National Park or go for the opposite rustic campgrounds simply outdoors, the lengthy drive to get to this a part of the nation is all the time well worth the effort. Just don’t go with no tank stuffed with gasoline, all of the groceries you’ll want and a willingness to float. You could or could not have hookups, and it’s nearly sure that you simply’ll be with out dependable mobile or web connectivity in most areas. If you’re searching for extra trendy conveniences, simply park about an hour north on the Lost Alaskan RV Park in Alpine.

How to Make the Most of Dark Sky RV Destinations

Enjoying the most effective darkish sky locations within the Southwest requires slightly etiquette for those who’re round different observers, and a few frequent sense once you’re alone or in a bunch.

A young man is sitting on the roof of a camper van during nighttime with a beautiful starry night sky above him.

Getty Images

  • Get to your stargazing vacation spot earlier than darkish. Whether you’re tenting out below the celebrities or headed to a star celebration gathering on foot, you don’t need automobile headlights to impede everybody’s evening imaginative and prescient, together with yours. Arriving earlier than darkish additionally offers your eyes time to naturally alter to the approaching darkness.
  • Use a crimson filter over your flashlight lens. You should purchase a flashlight designed for evening use, but it surely’s simply as simple to stop private mild air pollution by wrapping a sheet of crimson cellophane across the finish and securing it with a rubber band.
  • Ask others round you if it’s OK to make use of synthetic mild. Even a crimson flashlight can intrude with images and telescope statement.
  • Keep campfires to a minimal, for those who make them in any respect. Campfire smoke blots out twinkly stars simply as a lot as a flashlight. You’ll get a clearer image of evening skies with no campfire.
  • Watch out for wildlife. Whether you’re taking a hike or tenting out, loads of nocturnal critters are in your neighborhood. Scorpions and snakes come out at evening, so maintain an in depth eye in your arms, ft, youngsters and pets.

You’ll by no means search for on the evening sky the identical manner when you get a style of the Southwest darkish sky locations. If your interior astronomer is craving to come back out, the web site Go Astronomy is a superb useful resource to be taught extra concerning the world’s oldest science of stargazing.



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