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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Garner

Where is the Darkest Place in Colorado to See Stars?

Updated: Jul 17, 2023



Dark night over Colorado, US

Currently, Colorado has 15 of the 196 International Dark Sky Places worldwide, which are broken down into categories with varying certification requirements.

Last weekend, I had the amazing adventure of stargazing in Colorado Springs. The night sky illuminated by thousands upon thousands of stars is a truly awe-inspiring experience! With the help of a telescope, the amazing outer reaches of our Earth's Milky Way Galaxy could be revealed - making this an amazing and unforgettable moment. This will definitely be at the top of my list of greatest travel adventures that I've ever experienced to date! In the below post on my blog, I'll go into greater detail about my stargazing experience in Colorado Springs and how you can do it too!


Darkest Places in Colorado to See Stars


International Dark Sky Communities

Here is the list of municipalities adopting outdoor lighting ordinances and educating residents about the value of dark skies, often in rural areas with good stargazing already. Mark this list!

  • Westcliffe and Silver Cliff, 2015

  • Norwood, 2019

  • Ridgway, 2020

  • Crestone, 2021

  • Nucla and Naturita, 2021

International Dark Sky Parks

Public or privately owned protected spaces that offer dark-sky-friendly lighting and programs for visitors, enabling them to observe the Milky Way without a telescope

  • Hovenweep National Monument, 2014

  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, 2015

  • Dinosaur National Monument, 2019

  • Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, 2019

  • Jackson Lake State Park, 2020

  • Slumgullion Earth & Sky Discovery Center, 2020

  • Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, 2021

  • Mesa Verde National Park, 2021

  • Curecanti National Recreation Area, 2021

  • Top of the Pines, 2021


Westcliffe and Silver Cliff, Colorado, Darkest Place in Colorado for Stargazing

Located at an elevation of 8,000 feet in the Wet Mountain Valley of South-Central Colorado, Westcliffe and Silver Cliff are two small towns that have been described as “the darkest place in Colorado.” With virtually no sky glow from cities, these towns offer some of the best conditions for stargazing in the entire state. With its unique combination of altitude, clear skies and a lack of light pollution, this area is considered by many to be one of the best places to see stars in all their glory.


Westcliffe Stargazing Observatory

The observatory located on Mt. Blanca near Westcliffe is home to several telescopes capable of viewing distant galaxies and star clusters with spectacular clarity. The observatory is open for public tours twice a week, where visitors can enjoy some truly stunning views of the Milky Way. In addition to touring the facility itself, visitors also have access to an interactive 3D map showing over sixty thousand stars and galaxies – perfect for budding astronomers who want to explore deeper into the night sky!


Westcliffe Stargazing Dates

The best time for stargazing here is during the winter months when temperatures are cooler and skies are clearer. However, even during summer months you can expect plenty of stars due to the lack of light pollution in this part of Colorado. With no major cities nearby and only a few small towns scattered around it’s easy to find a spot away from any man-made lights so you can experience an incredibly dark sky filled with stars. If you’re lucky enough to visit in autumn you may also catch glimpses of some amazing shooting stars!


Those interested in getting more involved with astronomy can join groups like Friends Of The Observatory (FOTO) which meet regularly at Mt Blanca Observatory or attend special events like Astronomy Day which usually occurs every spring or fall depending on clear skies. FOTO members often host educational programs at local schools as well as help maintain various pieces of equipment used by amateur astronomers out on Mt Blanca observatory grounds. Whether you're just looking for a way to learn more about our universe or have spent years studying astronomy already there's something for everyone here!


Can You See the Milky Way in Colorado?

Every night, all around the world, people look up at the night sky and admire its beauty. In some places, however, the stars are hidden by light pollution; in others, they shine brighter than ever. Colorado is one such place—it offers some of the best views of the Milky Way that you can find in all of North America.


Boulder – Dark Sky Star Party

The Boulder Astronomy Club hosts monthly star parties that are open to the public. These star parties are held at two different locations—the University of Colorado Boulder campus and Marshall Mesa. At both locations, you can expect excellent views of the Milky Way along with some stunning views of other celestial bodies like galaxies and nebulas. And if you need a helping hand with your telescope or want an expert opinion on what you’re seeing through your eyepiece, there will be plenty of experts on hand who can help you out.


Rocky Mountain National Park

This gorgeous park is one of the best places in Colorado for milky way gazing—especially during winter months when snowfall covers much of the landscape, creating a dark blanket that allows visitors to really appreciate the night sky. The higher elevation also helps because there is less atmospheric interference which means clearer skies and better visibility for stargazers. The park offers several guided programs throughout the year where visitors can learn more about astronomy and get tips on how to use their own telescopes or binoculars for optimal viewing conditions.


Black Canyon National Park

If you’re looking for a truly unique experience, head to Black Canyon National Park for some incredible stargazing opportunities. Here, visitors will find breathtaking views of not only stars but also ancient rock formations that have been carved by millions of years worth of water erosion from local rivers and streams. It’s definitely one of those places that has to be seen to be believed! In addition to its incredible vistas, Black Canyon National Park also offers several educational programs where visitors can learn about constellations and other astronomical phenomena as well as tips on how to use telescopes or binoculars safely and effectively while stargazing!


Believe Me! These Three Spots Are Great Places to Start Your Milky Way Gazing

Whether you’re an amateur astronomer or just looking for an awe-inspiring experience under the stars, these three spots are great places to start your constellation-hunting journey in Colorado. With pristine skies free from light pollution and plenty of expert advice available at each location, these sites provide fantastic opportunities for stargazers young and old alike!


The Best Time for Stargazing in Colorado

Stargazing in Colorado is an amazing adventure, and with the right planning you can get the most out of it. The best time for stargazing in Colorado is during the winter months between November and April, when the weather is clear and cooler. During these months it’s a great idea to prepper ahead by researching what type of light pollution to expect from nearby towns. Being aware of light-pollution is key for having amazing views of stars and constellations in Colorado. Furthermore, the thin high-altitude air in Colorado allows cosmic marvels to be seen more clearly than elsewhere at certain times. Overall, getting ready before taking off on your amazing starry sky mission will make all the difference: check out forecasts, do your research and plan ahead so you can have an amazing stargazing experience every time!


Packing for a Stargazing Night: What You Need to Bring

Whether you’re a seasoned astronomer or an amateur star gazer, getting the most out of your stargazing experience requires some preparation. From packing the right equipment to planning for the best time of night, here’s what you need to bring and wear for an amazing stargazing experience.


Equipment

The key to a great stargazing experience is having the right equipment. Telescopes are helpful but not always necessary; binoculars can be just as useful as they allow you to get up close and personal with stars and galaxies. Make sure that you bring along extra lens cleaning cloths and batteries too! Additionally, if you are setting up camp in a remote location, it is important to have a powerful flashlight for safely navigating around. A comfortable chair or blanket is also recommended so that you can relax as you look up at the stars.


Time & Season

Knowing when to go stargazing is essential in order to get the most out of your experience. The best time of day is after sunset, when there are no stray lights from the city or town nearby that could interfere with visibility. The perfect season will depend on where in the world you plan on stargazing—in winter months, it's best to head out earlier in the evening since nights tend to be longer during this time of year; while in summer months, late-night excursions work better as days are shorter. You should also make sure that there will be no clouds blocking your view by checking local weather forecasts ahead of time.


Clothing & Accessories

Stargazing should be comfortable and enjoyable, so make sure that you dress appropriately for whatever climate or weather conditions may arise during your outing. Wear layers if needed and bring along an extra jacket just in case—it can get quite chilly outside once nighttime falls! And don't forget about bringing insect repellent if needed—mosquitoes love outdoor adventures too! Finally, don't forget about packing snacks and drinks so that you can have energy throughout your evening under the stars!


These Are My Personal Tips

In order to make sure your night under the stars goes off without a hitch, remember these tips when preparing for your next stargazing adventure! Have all of your equipment ready (telescope/binoculars/flashlight) and check local weather forecasts ahead of time so that you know what kind of clothing and accessories will be necessary (snacks/drinks/layers). Also remember that early evenings tend to be better during winter months while later night excursions work well during summer months—and don’t forget bug spray either! With these tips in mind, now all that’s left is enjoying one beautiful starry night!


What Binoculars Are Best for Stargazing?


FYI, Prices and ratings are accurate as of time of writing.

Highlights: HIGH CONTRAST OPTICS, Delivers brilliant 3D images from 20yds to infinity without refocusing. Absorbs severe shock, impact and abuse without damage. Waterproof.

Helpful review: "I purchased these for work purposes. I’m in law enforcement assigned to a narcotics team. I’ve used about everything in binoculars and I can honestly say these have far superior clarity. Like nothing else compares clarity. I perform duties from helicopters, boats and other vehicles and these binoculars are the perfect power and objective lens. When my teammates lives are on the line, I trust Steiner’s 7x50 Marine binoculars. Edward Jauch

Get it from Amazon now: $275.55 -$374.99 & FREE Returns


Trending review: "I don't have a lot of experience comparing these to other marine binos, but i can compare them to other hunting binos like the 10x42 Bushnell Trophy (~$100) I bot for elk hunting. Those are roof prism vs these Bushnells (like most marine) are porro prism. This summer I pledge to take them both on the boat and test them side by side for clarity, although not really fair compairng $100 vs $300 optics. The $ are n the glass, and while neither is high end item both are excellent value. Interesting that I do find the Bushnell's better at color definition when hunting vs the Steiners on the water, but that might be just me projecting. To really compare side by side I would have the take the Steiner's elk hunting and that's not going to happen due to weight. Maybe I will try a side by side in CO when glassing this year in Oct. I use these while fishing LI Sound mostly to see other boats, bunker balls and shore features. I fish a 22" Grady. If I had a bigger boat or ran Charters I would prob step up to the Navigator or Commander Series after checking them out,. But as I found out through research on hunting bino's and spotting scopes, every step up in price brings an increase in quality, but at a decreased rate. The $300 I paid for these is definitely worth it over the $100 cheap set I lost overboard, and the various small binos' and monoculars I was using in 2018,
Very good entry level marine choice. They are all the bino I need on LI sound considering wave action is not ocean level, always in sight of shore and nice clarity out to 500 yards is the primary use. Not to say they don't do a good job at long range for 7x50, but it's tough on a boat that is pitching in 3' ft chop to get more than a glimpse without risking a headache.Low light (early morn and dusk) they are excellent. The 50mm objective lens is great for these situations.I like the glass, and although had only one season they took a normal boat beating - being dropped, salt water on len's and body, etc. I expect them to last years.If you are looking for a good marine bino I highly recoomend these for the $. Unless you have a specific need to more magnification, 7x50 is a great choice for on the water use as any higher and you will have trouble fixing on target and keeping without excellent hand eye coordination and risk of a quick head and eye ache." - J Risner

Get it from Amazon now: $275.55 -$374.99 & FREE Returns


Reassuring review: "I live on a hilltop and if someone burns a pile of cedar, these binoculars allow me to get a better look and it’s risk to my property. They are heavy, and steady in your hands. The quality of the glasses are just what you’d expect from a German firm. You just cannot go wrong with a quality product like this one." - Jerbo

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Highlights: 8x magnification and a 362ft wide field of view. Delivers sharp and briliant 3D images. flexible silicon lens to absorb severe shock.

Helpful review: "I upgraded my gear from a Nikon 9X25CF and bought the Steiner 8X30 Military-Marine. I needed binoculars that could focus on fast moving objects without constantly having to adjust the center-focus-wheel. I am impressed with the auto-focus feature which works great from 20yard to infinity. If you're trying to observe objects that are closer than 20 yards, then these binoculars are not for you. The optics are bright and clear over the entire field of view. I take them out for hunting, camping, boating, hiking, target shooting, beach and travel. Built to military specs, they are tough and excellent in all environments and climates. There is plenty of eye-relief and the cups roll back to accommodate those who wear glasses. You get what you pay for. Highly recommend. GZLZ

Get it from Amazon now: $184.86 -$509.99 & FREE Returns


Trending review: "Well They're Steiner's & that says it All! You can't go wrong with these! I brought these for my Daughter, & can't wait to hear her Surprise! These are just Clear as can be, even at Dusk you'll get a Crisp View! Light to carry around. I'll be buying at least 2 more as Gifts. I also own a pair of 7x50 Steiner's. Remember You get what you pay for, and for me that means Steiner. Update 4-7-20: I just received a second pair of the 8x30's. These are Really Good Folks! Get a Pair you won't be Sorry! They make Great Gifts!" - Michael D.

Get it from Amazon now: $184.86 -$509.99 & FREE Returns


Reassuring review: "I used this brand of binoculars as a forward observer in the Army. I always wanted to own a pair, but it was out of my budget as a young soldier. I've been out of the service and I have a long hiking trip coming up. I spent $50 on a cheap set of binoculars last week and I immediately regretted my decision. I took them back and used this as an excuse to get a pair of Steiner binoculars. I am more than happy. If they're good enough to call artillery fire, they're good enough for a hiking trip through the mountains. (keep in mind this is the civilian version 8x30, not with the Mills reticle. Same quality though)" - Gabe

Get it from Amazon now: $184.86 -$509.99 & FREE Returns


Highlights: Applied Ballistics Elite solver built in, on-board compass, XR fully multi-coated, HD lenses and dielectric phase-corrected prisms serve up clear and impressive views from dawn til dusk.

Helpful review: "I decided to replace an aging pair of binoculars and to upgrade to rangefinder binoculars so i had less to carry in the field. Couldn’t get this binocular locally so ordered from Amazon. Not only are these binoculars amazing, the rangefinder feature is extremely easy to set up and use. For “icing on the cake” they arrived a day earlier than expected! Thank you!" - Amazon Customer

Get it from Amazon now: $1199 - $1999 & FREE Returns


Trending review: "Splurged for these prepping for a spring bear hunt that will involve a lot of glassing, paired with a sturdy tripod and the mount adapter. out of the box, easy to configure and very clear optics and magnification. Only concern and not enough to drop a star, construction is a soft-ish moldable plastic that may be degradable with oils or solvents - such as bug spray or other residue commonly found on hands." - Damon B

Get it from Amazon now: $1199 - $1999 & FREE Returns


Reassuring review: "Amazing value Excellent product! Highly recommended!!!! You won't find a better pair of Range finding binoculars with AP ballistics built-in for the money!" - Dave

Get it from Amazon now: $1199 - $1999 & FREE Returns

Highlights: 100% waterproof, Fog proof, & shockproof, Lightweight and rugged magnesium housing provides a positive grasp, Large, Tactile focus Dial is easy to find and Use, even with gloved hands

Helpful review: "I did a lot of research & comparison shopping prior to my purchase & it was with immense trepidation that i finally decided to go with a brand that i had previously never seen or heard of before. For me this was a serious investment that i was not going into foolishly because i do not have this kind of $$ to burn, it had to be a one shot attempt & KABOOM! Holy Moly! I cannot believe the quality! From the optics to the ergonomics, from the minute details like quick-release snaps to the soft case materials, from the non-slip coating to the "can't feel it" strap . . . this is a company that cannot possibly have any true competitors. I am literally Blown Away with the incredible attention to detail. I truly thought that honesty & quality had died long ago but obviously not with LEUPOLD. This BX-2 Alpine model has so impressed me that i am wanting to write their name in the sky. Very, very impressive! If you are afraid to spend the $$ on these TRUST ME, i would honestly have expected them to cost double this after close inspection. Truly a wonderful surprise!" - James Davis

Get it from Amazon now: $230.56 - $296.87 & FREE Returns


Trending review: "Leupold has done a great job designing and manufacturing a superior binocular. The price is right for lifetime glass. The adjustable eye relive is well done. Easy to "set" and not too heavy to use in may situations." - Pro Customer

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Reassuring review: "These are the new 2019 model. Compared to the Acadia’s, the Alpines are worth the $50 extra. Super clear and have a lightweight magnesium housing surrounded by a rubber jacket. Very rugged. Built for the outdoors." - Justin Melton

Get it from Amazon now: $230.56 - $296.87 & FREE Returns



My Journey into Dark Sky Community Colorado

As a passionate astronomer, I recently decided to join Dark Sky Community Colorado. This organization is all about protecting the night sky from light pollution, educating people on the importance of dark skies, and promoting environmentally responsible outdoor lighting practices. Joining this organization was a decision I did not take lightly, as it has been my dream to be part of a community that is dedicated to preserving our beautiful starry nights.


The mission of Dark Sky Community Colorado

The mission of Dark Sky Community Colorado is to preserve and protect dark skies through education and advocacy. This means that the organization works hard to reduce light pollution in order to create brighter starlit nights with less interference from artificial lights. To achieve this goal, they work with local communities and governments to help them implement better outdoor lighting laws and policies. Additionally, they hold educational events such as stargazing parties and lectures on light pollution so that people can learn more about preserving the night sky.


One thing I love about Dark Sky Community Colorado is their commitment to preserving our starry night skies for generations to come. They are working hard to educate people on the importance of reducing light pollution so that future generations can enjoy dark skies just like we do today. Additionally, they provide resources for people who want to make changes in their own communities or neighborhoods by providing information on how they can switch over to LED lighting or install motion-sensor lights instead of leaving regular outside lights on all night long.


Overall, joining Dark Sky Community Colorado has been an amazing experience so far!

I am proud that I have joined an organization that is dedicated to helping preserve our night skies for future generations while also educating people on how they can reduce their own light pollution at home.



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