If you’re looking for an amazing place to settle down and stargaze, Colorado provides plenty of locations to choose from. Whether you lie under the heavens of the San Luis Valley, or get a little closer to the stars on the peak of a stately fourteener (a peak that stands above 14,000 feet), there is nothing like seeing constellations speckled across a clear Colorado sky.
Plenty of rest stops along County Road 38E near Fort Collins have picnic tables overlooking the reservoir below. Since not many cars pass by at night, you're offered an uninterrupted view of sparkling skies. If you’re in the mood for a bit of a hike with a fabulous ending, head to the top of Horsetooth Rock — a bizarre rock formation that resembles an actual horse's tooth — for a view of the city on one side and the rugged mountains, Horsetooth Reservoir and the stars on the other. Getting There: Located on County Road 38E past Taft Hill Road.
Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs is located far enough from city lights for a lucid view of nature's fireworks. The snow-capped white summit of Pikes Peak seems to glow in the dark, set against a backdrop of silhouetted boulders and some of the galaxy’s most beautiful stars. Take in deep breaths of fresh air, lean back and let the constellations captivate you. And when daylight breaks, take in views that are just as gorgeous as they are at night, as the striking red rock formations seem to pierce the blue sky. Getting There: Located just off I-25 at the Garden of the Gods Exit, 1805 N. 30th St., Colorado Springs, CO.
At the UFO Watchtower outside Alamosa, you are in for more than just stargazing. Locals claim the San Luis Valley is a hotspot for alien activity, and dozens of unexplained flying object sightings are rumored to have occurred at this locale since 2007. At the watchtower, there's little or no light competition obstructing your view — so it’s just you, the stars … and perhaps the occasional extraterrestrial flying by. The watchtower offers information on past “encounters” and theories behind the sightings. Come see for yourself. Maybe you’ll be one of the lucky ones. Getting There: Located at 2502 County Road 61, Hooper.
The rugged landscape of Curecanti, between Gunnison and Montrose, is a necessary beauty for everyone to experience. Come here on a clear night, and you’ll be certain to witness plenty of distant planets, stars and faint stardust — a glowing cloud of stars too far away to be separated by the naked eye. If the water is still, you may even catch a glimpse of the Milky Way in its reflection. Three sprawling reservoirs mark the heart of Curecanti, beginning with Colorado’s largest body of water (Blue Mesa Reservoir), followed by Morrow Point Reservoir at the entrance to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and the East Portal. A location as vast and unpopulated as this is a rarity. Getting There: Located at 102 Elk Creek, Gunnison.
Jackson Lake State Park near Fort Morgan is one of the most scenic places to watch the Colorado sky. With its large, glassy surface, the lake acts as the perfect mirror for the Milky Way. Known as “the oasis in the plains,” this park has been ranked as one of the top 15 park beaches by Reserve America. The peaceful silence of the evenings, the sandy beaches and the breathtaking view of the stars at Jackson Lake are enough to clear even the most occupied mind. Getting There: Located at 26363 County Road 3, Orchard.
Not only is this all-natural amphitheater in Morrison one of the world’s most desired music venues for bands, it’s also a beautiful place to spend an evening stargazing. With its panoramic view of the city of Denver beyond and the solitude of a mountainside setting, Red Rocks is truly a gift of nature. Grab a blanket and a picnic basket and sprawl out on one of the wide, terraced stairs of the amphitheater. The best time to catch the stars is in the fall, right after the Red Rocks' concert schedule ends. Getting There: Located on West I-70 just past the Morrison Exit, number 259.
Surrounded by some of the most rugged and majestic Rocky Mountains, Trinidad's Monument Lake offers a great place to look at the stars. Known as Southern Colorado’s Jewel of the West, the area’s crisp, mountain air and unparalleled views of the the Sangre de Cristo Mountains create ideal locations to step away from the clutter and commotion of the city. Getting There: Located west of Trinidad on scenic Highway 12/Highway of Legends west for 35 miles.
You’ll have no problem satisfying your nocturnal pursuit of Cassiopeia or the Big Dipper when you situate yourself next to Grand Lake. Aside from the charming atmosphere of the town of Grand Lake, very minimal light stands in the way of ideal stargazing, making any view a good one. In winter months, ice skate under the stars at Devil’s Thumb Ranch or try night skiing at Ski Granby Ranch. It’s hard to beat the number of stars you’ll see on your lift ride up the mountain. Getting There: Located at 3530 County Road 83, Grand Lake.
Photo: Courtesy of Colorado Parks & Wildlife.