where to stargaze in phoenix, best stargazing arizona, dark sky parks arizona

The Best Dark Sky Parks for Stargazing in Arizona

The best places in the world for stargazing are designated “dark sky” locations. Arizona residents are lucky to have more than twenty of these places in the state! We explain what the term “dark sky” means and reveal the three best spots where you can go stargazing in Phoenix. 

Dark Sky Locations in Arizona

Wondering what a “dark sky” location is, and what’s good about it? International Dark Sky places are often remote and relatively free from light pollution, which makes them excellent places to stargaze. They’re also good for wildlife—nearly half of the species on Earth are nocturnal, and they rely on the cover of night to hunt, hide, nest, and mate. There’s even one bird species that references the stars at night as a means of navigation. City lights from towers can disrupt their migratory habits. 

These dark sky areas were named by DarkSky International, a company that provides tools and resources for individuals, policymakers, and industries who want to reduce light pollution. They educate people on how to use outdoor lighting that is healthy for the environment but that’s also functional and beautiful. Certifying and conserving starry sky parks is another big thing they do, and many of these places are in Arizona. 

Local astronomy clubs have captured many amazing shots of the night sky out at Hawley Lake. The lake is a destination visit for anyone who lives in Arizona. Located in the White Mountains of the Apache tribe, it’s open to visitors and adventure-seekers. You can spend an entire summer vacation enjoying horseback riding, hiking, fishing, archery, ziplining, paddling, and more. And every night can be finished with stargazing. 

Near Willcox, the Chiricahua National Monument area is another certified dark sky space. They have partnered in the past with the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association to bring the public an opportunity to view nebulae, galaxies, globular clusters, and more night sky objects through a telescope. And in 2019, the entire city of Cottonwood was designated as a dark sky location.

Where to Stargaze in Phoenix

If you live in the Phoenix area and want to stay a little closer to home, here are three great places within a two-hour drive of the city. 

1: Stoneman Lake 

Just over 100 miles north of Phoenix, Stoneman Lake is fabulous for catching the night sky views. It makes a great all-day trip, because the lake is great for hiking and spotting wildlife, and there’s a picnic area on the grounds with great scenery. Be warned, though! Don’t expect to see a big body of water—the lake dried up a few years ago and a large meadow has replaced much of it. Bring your bug spray! 

2: Saguaro National Park

Even though it’s located in an urban area just outside of Tucson, Saguaro National Park has received an official certification as a dark sky place. A local tip: the top of Wasson Peak is great for stargazing, but be mindful of the desert critters that come out at night, like scorpions and rattlesnakes. 

3: Lookout Mountain Preserve 

Only a half-hour drive from Phoenix, Lookout Mountain is a classic spot for watching the sun set and gazing at the stars. You can see the entire city from the top, and bonus: dogs are welcome! The hike to the peak is fairly short, but it can be a bit steep and difficult at spots, so be careful in the dark. 

Look to the Stars, But Plan for the Future

While you’re out gazing at the stars, contemplating life or enjoying a moment with your loved ones, your thoughts might turn existential. It’s easy to remember how precious life is when we’re looking up, holding the hand of someone dear to us. One of the best gifts you can give your children or grandchildren is to take care of your own end-of-life plans. Putting them off until later can unintentionally create a large burden for your family.

Phelps LaClair has offices across Arizona, and we are the state’s leading experts in estate planning. We have helped hundreds of families prepare for end-of-life issues. Let us help you to find peace of mind when it comes to the distribution of your estate. You don’t want your family to experience your death without a trust. To get started, contact us to schedule a free consultation today.




Image by Adam Derewecki from Pixabay on 5.21.2024 | used under the creative commons license

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