Are you interested in stargazing in Utah and wondered, “Can you see the Milky Way at Zion?”
The quick answer is yes, you can see the Milky Way in Zion National Park. However, it’s a little more complicated. The best time to see the Milky Way is during the Milky Way Season. The Milky Way Season is when the galactic center is visible. The galactic center is the brightest part of the Milky Way. You must know the rise and set times for the galactic center at Zion.
In this article, you get
Tips for getting the best views of the night sky
The rise and set times for the Milky Way galactic center in Zion National Park
Information about Zion’s Dark Sky Resource
Recommendations for the best locations for stargazing in Zion
Tips for photographing the Milky Way
By the end of this article, you’ll have all the info you need to go stargazing and see the Milky Way at Zion.
Let’s dive right in.
CAN YOU SEE THE MILKY WAY AT ZION?
If you’re like me, you’re interested in exploring the night sky and getting a breathtaking view of the Milky Way.
You’re in luck!
Zion National Park is one of the best places to view the Milky Way.
Here, you’ll find little-to-no light pollution, meaning you can distinctly see the Milky Way band.
I’ll guide you through what to expect when visiting Zion and give you tips and tricks for getting the best views.
So, grab your camping gear and get ready for a fantastic experience!
OVERVIEW OF ZION NATIONAL PARK
Zion National Park is one of the most stunning places on earth.
Located in southern Utah, this incredible National Park is known for its towering sandstone cliffs, spectacular canyons, and diverse wildlife. The Park has more than 200 square miles of protected land and over 200 miles of trails.
Zion is an excellent spot if you like hiking, want to explore the unique terrain, or taking in some breathtaking views.
From the iconic Emerald Pools to the famous Narrows trail, you’ll experience some of the most incredible landscapes in the world.
And the best part is at night! You’ll be able to observe the Milky Way in all its glory!
WHAT IS THE MILKY WAY?
The Milky Way is our home galaxy.
It’s shaped like a spiral and is about 100,000 light-years in diameter. It’s filled with over 200 billion stars, dust, and gas.
When you look at the night sky, you look at this vast expanse of stars, planets, and other galaxies.
With little to no light pollution in Zion, you can see the Milky Way band in all its glory against the sandstone cliffs.
WHAT ARE THE BEST CONDITIONS TO SEE THE MILKY WAY IN ZION?
Here are some quick tips for getting the best view of the night sky:
- Plan to visit during the new moon phase when there is no moonlight competing with the stars
- Avoid areas that are highly lit up by artificial lights, as this will diminish your view of the night sky
- Be sure to double-check the weather forecast for clear skies
- If you want to take photos of the Milky Way, bring a camera with a wide aperture lens and a tripod to ensure maximum stability
WHEN IS MILKY WAY SEASON IN ZION NATIONAL PARK?
Timing your visit right is essential for catching the best views of the Milky Way. The best time of year for viewing the galaxy is Milky Way Season. At this time, the core of the Milky Way is visible at night.
I’ve listed below the monthly rise and set times of the Milky Way galactic center at Zion.
- January not visible
- February 4:13 am – 5:54 am
- March 3:23 am – 6:16 am
- April 1:21 am – 5:26 am
- May 11:23 pm – 4:40 am
- June 10:47 pm – 4:10 am
- July 10:42 pm – 4:10 am
- August 10:02 pm – 2:08 am
- September 9:10 pm – 0:06 am
- October 8:23 pm – 10:08 pm
- November 6:52 pm – 7:06 pm
- December not visible
RECONNECT WITH THE NIGHT SKY
Zion National Park is the perfect place to reconnect with the night sky!
It’s the ideal location to get away from the light pollution of everyday life and marvel at the Milky Way.
Zion is an International Dark Sky Park. It provides the ideal conditions to take in the starry sky. After dark, you can take in views of the Milky Way like you’ve never seen before.
Let your eyes adjust and look up. You will be amazed by what you can see in Zion National Park. If you’re looking for constellations, read my article Where is the Big Dipper in the Utah Sky?
THE BENEFITS OF STARGAZING
Stargazing brings a sense of awe and wonder, allowing you to reconnect with nature and appreciate the beauty of the world around you.
Not only is it a great way to relax and forget your daily worries, but it also provides an opportunity to learn more about astronomy and explore the fascinating universe beyond our planet.
When you take the time to observe the stars and planets, you gain a greater appreciation for science, nature, and our place in the universe.
DARK SKY RESOURCE
Zion National Park protects its dark sky resource for future generations by not lighting up the night. You will enjoy the stunning views of thousands of stars above the jagged silhouette of cliffs.
Light pollution is a growing problem in many areas, including Zion National Park. Due to the topography of Zion Canyon, the Park is particularly vulnerable to light pollution from surrounding communities and highways.
Zion has implemented several measures to reduce light pollution to protect this dark sky resource for future generations, such as limiting lighting in the Park to only necessary operations and using low-glare and low-light fixtures.
You can help by avoiding shining bright lights at night and using red lights, which are best for night vision.
GOOD LOCATIONS FOR VIEWING THE MILKY WAY AT ZION
Good locations for viewing the Milky Way at Zion include:
The Museum patio is the official night sky viewing area of Zion National Park.
It offers excellent views of Bridge Mountain and the East Temple at sunset, with a broader sky view for observing the stars. There is also a back patio with views of the Temples and Towers in the morning light.
The Pa’rus Trail is an easy, paved path that runs along the Virgin River and offers stunning views of the cliffs. It is also a good option for a night walk.
Just make sure to bring a reliable headlamp or flashlight! The trail is a great way to stay safe and avoid the busy road.
SOUTH AND WATCHMAN CAMPGROUNDS
South and Watchman Campgrounds offer stunning views of the red cliffs that glow even brighter at sunset. At night, these campgrounds provide a great view of the stars and the Milky Way, making them ideal locations for stargazing.
KOLOB CANYONS VIEWPOINT
The Kolob Canyons Viewpoint is on the west side of Zion National Park. It is also an excellent spot for stargazing, with the dark skies and the majestic cliffs of Kolob making for a memorable experience.
TIPS FOR TAKING GREAT PHOTOS OF THE NIGHT SKY
If you want to capture the beauty of the Milky Way in Zion, it is vital to have the right equipment and settings.
- It would be best if you used the widest lens available (e.g., 14mm)
- Set your camera’s aperture to its fastest setting (e.g., f/2.8)
- Set your ISO to its highest setting before introducing too much noise (e.g., 3200-6400)
- Set your shutter speed to 30 seconds. If you begin seeing star trails in your shots, shorten your shutter speed for the best results.
To create a good composition, head out into the Park for a few hours before dark to find the perfect spot. Once you are in position, take some time to adjust your settings and use a steady tripod so that your shots are not blurry or distorted.
Taking great photos of the night sky can be challenging, but it’s worth it when you get an opportunity to be in a place like Zion.
Thank you for reading my article “Can you see the Milky Way at Zion?”
In summary, the short answer is yes, you can see the Milky Way at Zion. Knowing the rise and set times of the Milky Way galactic center will help you plan the best time to visit.
For the best views of the Milky Way in Zion National Park, visit during a New Moon phase and scope out the location before it gets dark.
For an overview of the Dark Skies in Utah, read my article on the Utah Dark Sky Map.
To continue your journey, read my article Is Bryce Canyon Good for Stargazing?