What do you typically have in mind when you think of a vacation? A trip to the mountains, with all of their beauty and majesty? The hustle and bustle of a busy city?
But did you know that there is one location where you can experience all the benefits of these different types of trips while also taking in the stunning and awe-inspiring view of some of the most beautiful sights our night sky offers?
Colorado’s night sky is one of the most spectacular in the United States. With so many national parks, dark skies, sanctuaries, and observatories, it’s hard to know where to start!
In this article, you get
An introduction to the 35 best places to stargaze in Colorado
A free Google Map showing you the best stargazing Colorado offers
A chance to spot a UFO
A look at the Colorado night sky
By the end of this article, you’ll be able to plan your next Rocky Mountain road trip.
Let’s dive right in.
INTERNATIONAL DARK SKY PLACES
The International Dark-Sky Association has certified 10 Dark Sky Places in Colorado.
These Colorado dark sky sites are locations where there is minimal light pollution. To learn more about why preserving dark skies is essential, you can read my article Light Pollution Effects.
While not every spot on my list is a certified Dark Sky Place, you’ll agree they’re the top places for star gazing in Colorado.
BEST STARGAZING IN COLORADO
I’ve alphabetized the list to make it easy for you to reference.
You’ll be able to plan your trip based on each spot’s location on the free Google Map.
Here are my recommended sites in alphabetical order.
If you’re new to stargazing, read my article What Do You Need To Go Stargazing?
BLACK CANYON OF THE GUNNISON NATIONAL PARK
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is in the Gunnison River Gorge, which is a very dark and remote location.
There are very few light pollution sources in the area, making it ideal for observing the night sky. The International Dark-Sky Association certified Black Canyon as an International Dark Sky Park in 2015.
The park has two designated stargazing areas, perfect for viewing the Milky Way and other constellations. There you can ponder what the Milky Way orbits.
The first area is at the South Rim Visitor Center. This location has excellent night sky views, and you can use their telescopes.
The second area is at the North Rim Campground. This spot is a bit more secluded than the South Rim Visitor Center. It’s a great option if you’re looking for a more intimate stargazing experience.
The park hosts a multi-day Astronomy Festival every year. These events frequently happen during the summer but may vary according to the week of the month and daily park hours.
Park rangers and volunteers collaborate with Black Canyon Astronomical Society members to provide free astronomy programs.
Are you tired of your usual night out?
Visit the Chamberlin Observatory. The Denver Astronomical Society hosts events here every Tuesday and Thursday evening.
You’ll get a fascinating multimedia presentation from one of their lecturers followed by a peek through their 20-inch refractor telescope, weather permitting.
Monthly, the Denver Astronomical Society hosts a mini-star party starting on the lawn of the observatory. Experts are there to answer questions about speakers’ equipment or help you find what you want to see in your telescope.
You can meet other amateur stargazers with telescopes.
CHIMNEY ROCK NATIONAL MONUMENT
Chimney Rock National Monument, located in southern Colorado, is home to some of the darkest skies in the state, making it an ideal spot for observing the stars. In addition, the high altitude and lack of light pollution make for excellent viewing conditions.
You can take a ranger-led stargazing program, go on a night hike, or gaze up at the sky from one of the many scenic overlooks.
Chimney Rock National Monument offers two programs to enjoy the night sky like the Puebloans did 1,000 years ago: The Stars & Galaxies Program and The Solar System Program.
COLORADO NATIONAL MONUMENT
Colorado National Monument is located in western Colorado, just east of Grand Junction. This area is known for its dark night skies and is a great place to stargaze.
There are several viewing areas within the monument, each with different amenities. The Saddlehorn Campground has an overlook where you can see the Milky Way galaxy stretching across the sky.
COMANCHE NATIONAL GRASSLAND
Comanche National Grassland is located in southeastern Colorado, about two hours from Denver. It covers over 1.2 million acres of land and is home to various wildlife, including bison, elk, pronghorn, and prairie dogs.
The Comanche National Grassland is an ideal location to view the night sky with the naked eye. No light pollution exists, so the stars are bright and clear.
Crestone is an excellent spot for stargazing in Colorado. The small town is in the San Luis Valley, one of the state’s darkest locations.
The International Dark Sky Association designated Crestone an International Dark Sky Community in 2021.
There are a few different spots to check out in Crestone for stargazing. The Baca Grande Library has an excellent observation deck that offers unobstructed night sky views. The library also hosts regular astronomy programs.
The Crestone Needle is another excellent spot for stargazing. The 14,000-foot peak provides 360-degree views of the sky.
CURECANTI NATIONAL RECREATION AREA
Curecanti National Recreation Area is located in the heart of the Rockies, far away from light pollution. On a clear night, thousands of stars shine bright in the sky.
There are several great spots for stargazing in Curecanti National Recreation Area.
One of the best spots is at the summit of Blue Mesa Reservoir. From here, you have a 360-degree view of the night sky.
Another great spot is East Portal, where stars reflect in the water.
To make the most of your stargazing experience, visit one of the park’s astronomy programs. These programs offer presentations and activities that will help you learn more about the stars and constellations visible in the night sky.
As the newest International Dark Sky Park in Colorado, Curecanti National Recreation Area continues to build the Dark Sky portfolio across the State, serving as another admirable example of what can be done to protect the night sky.
Ruskin Hartley, Executive Director, International Dark Sky Association.
DINOSAUR NATIONAL MONUMENT
Dinosaur National Monument is located in northwest Colorado, about 3 hours from Denver. The monument is home to various landscapes, including canyons, rivers, and mountains.
There are several terrific vantage points for Dinosaur National Monument stargazing, including the overlook at Harper’s Corner and the Green River Overlook.
In the summertime, ranger-led programs are available to teach about the night sky at the Split Mountain Campground. Dinosaur National Monument is one of the best places to see the stars in Colorado.
ESTES PARK MEMORIAL OBSERVATORY
Dedicated volunteers run the observatory, maintain the equipment, and lead tours. They have several telescopes that you can use to view different celestial objects.
If you’re new to Estes Park stargazing, they offer free classes on astronomy basics so you can learn more about what you’re seeing.
Estes Park Observatory is a great place to enjoy the night sky, whether you’re a seasoned stargazer or just getting started. Stargazing Estes Park is a great place to start.
FLORISSANT FOSSIL BEDS NATIONAL MONUMENT
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is in Teller County, about 30 miles northwest of Colorado Springs.
It is home to a variety of plant and animal life, as well as an abundance of fossils. The fossil beds date back to the Eocene Epoch, making them some of the oldest in the world.
Stars, planets, and other celestial objects fill the night sky at Florissant Fossil Beds. Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument received International Dark Sky Park certification in 2021.
The Hornbek Homestead area is where you can enjoy the Colorado night skies after regular park hours.
GARDEN OF THE GODS
The Garden of the Gods is one of Colorado’s most popular spots, and offers the best star gazing in Colorado Springs.
Located in the heart of Colorado Springs, the Garden of the Gods is a beautiful park with plenty of wide open spaces perfect for stargazing.
The park is also home to some of the best views of Pikes Peak, making it a great spot to catch a glimpse of the night sky while stargazing Colorado Springs.
Colorado springs stargazing wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Garden of the Gods.
GOLDEN GATE CANYON STATE PARK
Colorado has a ton of fantastic parks that offer a vacation experience unlike anything else. Just 30 miles out of Denver, Golden Gate Canyon State Park is an excellent choice.
This park has twelve thousand acres with fishing, camping, and lodging to make your stay memorable. It’s also home to great stargazing spots like Promontory Ridge or Greenfield Meadow.
Grand Lake is a lakeside resort town just 12 miles from the Rocky Mountain National Park.
This lake is the largest in the state and receives minimal light pollution, creating an ideal setting for stargazing.
You’ll enjoy serene lake views, quaint cabins, and popular winter activities, such as ice skating under the starlit sky and skiing at Ski Granby Ranch at night.
GREAT SAND DUNES NATIONAL PARK AND PRESERVE
As one of the few national parks in the United States with a designated dark sky park status, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is the best place to stargaze in Colorado.
In 2019, the International Dark Sky Association certified Great Sand Dunes as an International Dark Sky Park.
The park is in the San Luis Valley of Colorado, about two hours from Denver. During the day, you can enjoy hiking, sand sledding, and picnicking in the dunes. At night, the clear skies offer incredible views of the stars.
The best time for stargazing at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is during the summer when there are fewer mosquitoes. However, even during the winter, the skies are still clear enough for great views of the stars. Be sure to dress warmly, though!
The park offers free Ranger programs, mainly in the summer and fall and occasionally in the winter. For the best Colorado astrophotography experience, be sure to visit the Great Sand Dunes.
At an elevation of over 11,000 feet, Guanella Pass is one of the highest points in the state. And because no large cities are nearby, the sky is very dark.
There are also plenty of places to set up your telescope or camera.
The summit of Mount Bierstadt is a popular spot, but there are many other good places too. So whatever your level of experience, you’ll be able to find a location where you can get a great view of the night sky.
Horsetooth Reservoir is located west of Fort Collins and is a popular spot for camping, hiking, and fishing. Mountains surround the reservoir, making for great Colorado night sky views.
There are also several campgrounds nearby that offer dark skies for stargazing.
JACKSON LAKE STATE PARK
Situated in the northern part of the state, Jackson Lake State Park offers breathtaking night sky views.
The park has several designated stargazing areas and an astronomy program that allows visitors to use telescopes to look closely at the stars.
The park received its designation as an International Dark Sky Park in 2020. It’s the only Colorado State Park with this designation.
Loveland Pass is one of the most famous vistas along the Continental Divide. You’ll have no problem getting to this 11,000-foot pass because the two-lane road is fully paved and well-traveled.
MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK
Mesa Verde National Park is home to some of the darkest night skies in the state, making it an ideal spot for observing the stars. With its high elevation, arid climate, and sparse population, this region is well-known for its clear skies.
In 2021, Mesa Verde gained International Dark Sky Park certification.
The park also offers campgrounds and lodges, where visitors can spend the night from May to October. The Morefield Campground and Far View Lodge sometimes offer Ranger-led evening programs.
Several pullouts along the road offer expansive night sky views and remain open all night. Of the many overlooks along the park road, the best ones for stargazing are Geologic Overlook, Mancos Overlook, and Montezuma Valley Overlook.
Molas Lake is in the San Juan Mountains. Several campgrounds are nearby, so you can stay overnight and enjoy the stars all night! Because of the surrounding forests, there are no light pollution problems.
Monument Lake is located in the San Isabel National Forest and is surrounded by mountains, making it an excellent spot for camping and hiking. The dark skies make it perfect for seeing the stars and the Milky Way.
Mt. Evans is one of the best places in Colorado for stargazing. The high altitude and lack of light pollution make it an ideal spot for viewing the night sky.
Several observatories on Mt. Evans offer public viewings and many opportunities for amateur astronomers to set up their telescopes.
The clear night skies and abundance of stars will take your breath away.
NATURITA, NUCLA, AND NORWOOD
Nestled in the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado, the small towns of Naturita, Nucla, and Norwood offer some of the best stargazing in the state.
With an elevation of over 7,000 feet and minimal light pollution, this area is perfect for spotting constellations, planets, and meteors.
If you’re visiting during the summer, check out the San Juan Stargazing Festival, which takes place annually in July. During this festival, you can participate in astronomy workshops, night sky tours, and more.
PAINT MINES INTERPRETIVE PARK
Paint Mines Interpretive Park is located in a high desert area, away from light pollution. The park has several trails that wind through colorful rock formations.
The best time to visit the park is during the summer when the weather is warm. However, even during the winter, the skies are still clear enough for excellent stargazing.
PAWNEE NATIONAL GRASSLAND
Pawnee National Grassland is in northeastern Colorado, and it offers you a chance to see some of the state’s most spectacular views.
The grassland has minimal light pollution, so you can see a clear view of the stars. The grassland is home to various wildlife, including pronghorns, bison, and elk.
RED FEATHER LAKES
Red Feather Lakes is north of Rocky Mountain National Park and offer stunning night sky views. There are several camping sites around the lakes to enjoy the views for a few days.
RED ROCKS PARK AND AMPHITHEATRE
Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre is one of the best places to stargaze near Denver. Red Rocks is located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The theater provides a great night sky view for stargazing near Denver, and many nearby hiking trails offer great views.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
Nestled in the Rocky Mountains, Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the best places in Colorado for stargazing. There are several great spots for Rocky Mountain National Park stargazing.
One of the best spots for stargazing Rocky Mountain National Park is at Bear Lake. Bear Lake is a popular spot for stargazing because it has excellent night sky views, and it is easy to find a place to set up your telescope.
Another excellent spot for stargazing is Sprague Lake. Sprague Lake is a large, open lake with great night sky views. It is also a popular spot for fishing, so you can enjoy the stars while you relax by the lake.
If you want to escape the crowds, there are plenty of remote spots in Rocky Mountain National Park where you can enjoy the stars peacefully.
Trail Ridge Road climbs above the tree line, giving you an unobstructed night sky view.
SLUMGULLION CENTER, LAKE CITY
Slumgullion Center is located in a remote area away from city lights. The center has several telescopes and staff members who are knowledgeable about astronomy. Visitors can also take part in educational programs and events.
SMOKEY JACK OBSERVATORY
The Smokey Jack Observatory is a world-class facility located in the San Juan Mountains. The observatory is home to various telescopes, including a 16-inch reflector telescope open to the public. You can also participate in astronomy programs and workshops.
The Sommers-Bausch Observatory is located right in the heart of Boulder, which means you don’t have to drive far to get there. Plus, it has some of the best telescopes in the state.
The observatory is open to the public on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Their evening programs are hosted by the Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences Department’s graduate students, and often faculty members, researchers, amateur astronomers, and undergraduate astronomy majors join in answering any questions you might have about astronomy.
During that time, you can look through the telescope and see some of the most amazing things in the night sky.
SOUTHERN COLORADO ASTRONOMICAL PARK
The Southern Colorado Astronomical Park is located in the southern part of the state, about 1 mile west of La Veta.
The park has two observatories that can host telescopes. There are also ports for power connections in each of the domes.
The park might be the perfect place for your next Colorado stargazing trip.
STARGAZER AND SUNLIGHT PEAK OBSERVATORIES
The Stargazer and Sunlight Peak Observatories are in Fort Collins at the Front Range Community College. They occasionally offer public stargazing programs on Friday nights. The observatories are not heated, so dress accordingly. Check their Facebook page for the latest events.
TOP OF THE PINES
Top of the Pines is a recreation area near Ridgway, designated an International Dark Sky Park in 2021. The park hosts summer astronomy week in August and maintains an annual schedule of other special events.
You may have heard of UFO sightings in Colorado.
The UFO Watchtower is a campground and observation platform with 360-degree views of the San Luis Valley, located north of Hooper.
It was built in 2000 to capitalize on UFO enthusiasts coming here for years. The tower’s remote location makes for an excellent stargazing spot.
FREE GOOGLE MAP OF THE BEST STARGAZING IN COLORADO
You can now access my free Google Map of the Best Stargazing in Colorado. It will help you to plan your next adventure.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
IS COLORADO GOOD FOR STARGAZING?
Yes, Colorado is an excellent place for stargazing. There are 10 designated Dark Sky Places in Colorado, including remote locations with fantastic night sky viewing.
WHEN CAN I SEE THE MILKY WAY?
You can see the Milky Way at any time throughout the year. The best time to see it is during the “Milky Way Season,” which lasts from February to October. During this time, the Milky Way Core is visible, the center of our galaxy.
To learn more, read my article Where can you see the Milky Way in Colorado?
sUmmary: Colorado Stargazing
Thank you for reading my article on the Best Stargazing in Colorado.
Now you need a moonless night sky, and you’re ready to go. So whether you’re a seasoned astronomer or a casual stargazer, get out there and enjoy the show!
If your road trip takes you to Utah, Arizona, and California, then read my articles Best Stargazing In Utah, including Moab, Best Stargazing In Arizona, and Best Places for Stargazing In California. For California specifically, read my articles on stargazing in Death Valley and Joshua Tree.
And if you’re heading to the Space Coast, then read my article Best Stargazing In Florida.
Finally, if by chance your travels take through Texas or Oklahoma, read my articles on the best time to visit Big Bend National Park for stargazing and the best stargazing in Oklahoma.
Read my other articles in my Best Stargazing in US series:
- Best stargazing in Arizona
- Best stargazing in California
- Best stargazing in Florida
- Best Hawaii Stargazing, especially on the Hawaiian Islands of Kauai, Oahu, and Maui
- Best stargazing in North Carolina
- Best stargazing in Ohio
- Best stargazing in Oklahoma
- Best stargazing in Oregon
- Best stargazing in Pennsylvania
- Best stargazing in Texas
- Best stargazing in Utah