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Colorado Stargazing Map

Colorado Stargazing: Experience the Night connects several Colorado locations known for their dark skies and incredible stargazing opportunities. It also highlights dark-sky events and encourages the conservation and preservation of all of Colorado’s natural and cultural resources.

Among the locations below, visitors will find International Dark-Sky Association Designated Communities, areas just starting the designation process and everything in between. Regardless, all of these communities are unified by their high elevation and low humidity, allowing for some of the best stargazing in the world.

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Dark skies timelapse courtsey of Scott Dankof
Westcliffe's Wet Mountains courtesy of Lars Leber
Sangre de Cristo Mountains courtesy of Lars Leber
dilapidated truck in front of the Night skies near Cuchara
Night skies near Cuchara courtesy of Scot Mangold
Shooting stars near La Veta
Shooting stars near La Veta courtesy of Scot Mangold
Westcliffe's Scenic Views
Westcliffe's scenic views courtesy of Scott Dankof
town of silver cliff departure sign - "Thanks for visiting historic silver cliff"
A Silver Cliff farewell courtesy of Skyglow
Night lights in Crestone
Night lights in Crestone courtesy of Peter Ismert
Crestone's dark skies
Crestone's dark skies courtsey of Peter Ismert
Nighttime at the Great Sand Dunes
Nighttime at the Great Sand Dunes courtsey of NPS/Patrick Myers
The moon over Great Sand Dunes
The moon over Great Sand Dunes
Night lights near Lake City courtesy of Michael Underwood
Lake City's San Juan Mountain peaks courtesy of Michael Underwood
Lake City views
Lake City views courtesy of Michael Underwood
camping tent at night in westcliffe colorado

Westcliffe & Silver Cliff

Westcliffe and Silver Cliff in the Wet Mountain Valley make up Colorado’s first designated International Dark-Sky Community and the highest elevation of those sites in the world. The valley lays between the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the west and the Wet Mountains to the east, making for dramatic views in every direction. Stargazing here would not be complete without a visit to the Smokey Jack Observatory in Bluff Park. Constructed in 2015, this observatory boasts a retractable roof and a 14-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope with computer-guided pointing and tracking to view the majestic night sky. The observatory is maintained by Dark Skies of the Wet Mountain Valley, which also hosts free public star parties throughout the year.

Best Places to See the Stars:

Smokey Jack ObservatoryDeWeese ReservoirRosita 

Events:

Smokey Jack Observatory (SJO) Public Star Party: The Spring Constellations ArriveSangre Star FestivalSJO Public Star Party: All Hail the Milky WaySJO Public Star Party: Perseid Meteor Shower
SJO Public Star Party: Our Galactic Neighbor Andromeda AppearsSJO Public Star Party: Star Cluster

Top Attractions:

Go for a HikeFrontier Pathways Scenic & Historic BywayLocal Art GalleriesMission: WolfSummer Music FestivalsAll Aboard Westcliffe and The Silver Cliff Museum

Photo courtsey of Scott Dankof

night sky in lake city, colorado

Lake City

Lake City is the sole town in Hinsdale County, the most remote county in the lower 48 states. Made up of 96 percent public lands, it's an ideal location for watching the night sky and leaving civilization behind. In addition to amazing stargazing opportunities, the area offers seemingly endless miles of trails, 21 public campgrounds, five fourteeners (peaks rising more than 14,000 feet above sea level), three national forests, one BLM district, four wilderness areas and two wilderness study areas. Popular outdoor activities include hiking, biking, ATVing, ice climbing, snowmobiling and more. History speaks loudly in Lake City, where famous cannibal Alfred Packer, is rumored to have murdered his traveling companions. Lake City is also mining country, and many of the area’s historic mines are still standing and available for viewing.

Best Places to See the Stars:

Windy Point Observation SiteWupperman Campground at Lake San Cristobal

Events:

Wednesdays at Windy Point: A Stargazing Program (from mid-June through mid-August)

Top Attractions:

Alpine Loop Scenic & Historic BywayClimbing a FourteenerHinsdale County Museum100+ Miles of Groomed Winter TrailsFishing

Photo courtesy of Michael Underwood

night sky in creede, colorado

Creede

Discover Creede, a small town tucked into the San Juan Mountains and surrounded by 900 square miles of gorgeous western wilderness, 95 percent of which is public land. This historic mining town is unique in that it sits in a former volcanic caldera where it is surrounded by sheer cliffs, limiting the town’s physical growth, and thus, light pollution. This lends to the small-town feel and the stupendous dark skies visitors love and come back for again and again. Creede serves as a jumping-off point to some of Colorado’s most popular backcountry regions. Top outdoor activities in Creede include fishing, rafting, ATVing and mountain biking in the summer, and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and ice-skating in the winter.

Best Places to See the Stars:

The Bachelor Loop Historic TourLove LakePool Table Road

Events:

Save a Star

Top Attractions:

Creede Historical MuseumUnderground Mining MuseumCreede Repertory TheatreSilver Thread Scenic BywayWheeler Geologic Area

Photo courtesy of Terry Taddeucci

night sky in great sand dunes national park

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve features North American’s tallest dunes, and is one of the state’s most visited attractions. The fun doesn’t stop when the sun goes down: This amazing feat of nature comes alive under the moon and the stars, which shine bright thanks to a combination of dry air, little light pollution and high elevation. Night at the Great Sand Dunes can include exploring dunes under a bright full moon, viewing thousands of stars on a clear moonless night, listening for owls along the foothills or observing migrating amphibians on a wet night.

Best Places to See the Stars:

The Park's Main Dune Field

Events:

Great Sand Dunes Annual Astronomy Event

Top Attractions:

Hike & Explore the Various Landscapes & TerrainPhotograph the Various EcosystemsCheck Out the Visitor CenterCamp at the Pinon Flats CampgroundWhen Medano Creek is Flowing, Pack a Picnic & Go Wading

Photo courtsey of NPS/Patrick Myers

night sky in crestone, colorado

Crestone

Nestled in the shadows of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains at 7,500 feet, Crestone has emerged as a spiritual mecca for world religions. Although it has only 150 residents, Crestone is home to more than two dozen ashrams, monasteries, temples, retreat centers, stupas, labyrinths and other sacred landmarks. The town didn’t begin as a spiritual mecca: From the 1870s through the 1930s, it was a mining town and then a center for ranching. It boasts miles of trails, the rustic North Crestone Creek Forest Service campground and two fourteeners (Crestone Needle and Crestone Peak, both of which are considered the toughest and most dangerous fourteeners), while nearby Baca National Wildlife Refuge protects nearly 100,000 acres of wetlands and grasslands.

Best Places to See the Stars:

UFO WatchtowerValley View or Joyful Journey Hot SpringsOrient Mine

Events:

Dark Sky Star Connections

Top Attractions:

More Than 15 Spiritual CentersHike the Sangre de Cristo WildernessHistoric Walking ToursValley View or Joyful Journey Hot SpringsBaca National Wildlife Refuge

Photo courtesy of Peter Ismert

stars at night in la veta, colorado

La Veta

La Veta is a rural town in southern Colorado known for its community of artists and ranchers. It sits at the base of the Spanish Peaks and at the opening of the Cucharas River Valley, making for 360 degrees of breathtaking scenery. Extraordinary geological formations called dikes dot La Veta and its surrounding communities. These large, vertical granite formations combine with the area’s incredible dark skies make La Veta an unparalleled location for budding and professional photographers. La Veta has numerous walking and biking trails close to town that showcase its beautiful scenery — popular trails include La Veta Loop Trail, The Daigre Reservoir Trail, and the Hogback Nature Trail at Lathrop State Park, Colorado's first state park.

Best Places to See the Stars:

Southern Colorado Astronomical ParkUptop Historic District

Events:

Rocky Mountain Star Share

Top Attractions:

Art GalleriesFrancisco Fort Museum • Live Music at La Veta Mercantile & Deerprint Wine & BistroWahatoya Lakes State Wildlife AreaFrancisco Center for the Performing Arts

Photo courtesy of Bob Vixie

Night skies in Cuchara

Cuchara

Cuchara is a charming mountain village tucked on the eastern slopes of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the heart of the Cucharas River Valley. Surrounded by the San Isabel National Forest with all its lakes, mountains and wilderness, this village is a favorite respite for Colorado hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts. At the heart of Cuchara is a quaint downtown area with colorful shops, lodging and restaurants. South of town along Colorado 12, part of the scenic Highway of Legends, are gorgeous views topping out at the 9,995-foot Cucharas Pass. Nearby are abundant opportunities for hiking, fishing, OHVing and camping, especially at Cordova Pass, Cuchara Recreation Area and Bear and Blue Lakes.

Best Places to See the Stars:

Cuchara Mountain ParkBear Lake CampgroundBlue Lake Campground

Events:

Rocky Mountain Star Stare

Top Attractions:

Cuchara Mountain ParkHighway of Legends Audio TourThe Bear’s Den Mini GolfCuchara River Recreation AreaCordova Pass 

Photo courtesy of Scot Mangold