Colorado Astronomy Sites: Dark Skies

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, Colorado, USA
••• Peter Unger/Getty Images

Colorado is home to some of the most popular recreation areas in the world and offers opportunities for visitors looking for dark sky destinations where they can view the most stars without the interference of light pollution from cities.

Due to its low population density, mountainous landscape, and local ordinances preventing bright lights in cities and small towns alike, Colorado offers some of the best-uninterrupted views of the visible galaxy, perfect for novice and professional astronomers alike.

Along with Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, and Texas, this central U.S. state offers a plethora of national parks, observatories, and events centered around looking up at the night sky full of stars, surrounded by the pitch blackness of nature unfettered by civilization and technology. Check out the following for more information about Colorado's best locations for astronomy viewing.

The Colorado National Monument in Grand Junction

This national park is the dark-sky site for many astronomy events hosted by the park and by the Western Colorado Astronomy Club. The Colorado National Monument is home to sweeping landscapes, amazing geologic formations, bighorn sheep and a completely pitch-black landscape on nights of the new moon.

The Saddlehorn Campground, with 80 first come, first served sites, is open all year. However, not all amenities are available year round, so call before you go to check what resources are available when you're planning your trip—if you plan to visit during the summer, remember the temperature fluctuations between day and night may be extreme.

You are advised to carry plenty of drinking water, bug spray, and sun protection, and always be aware that rattlesnakes and scorpions may be on the trails and near your campsite. Be sure to follow all safety precautions advised by the park.

The Colorado National Monument is located just outside Grand Junction to the east and Fruita to the west; check out these maps and directions from the official website for more information on booking and tourism in the region.

Location: Rim Rock Drive, Fruita, CO 81521

The Chamberlin Observatory in Denver

Visitors can follow in a long tradition, begun on August 1, 1894, by attending  Public Nights at the historic Chamberlin Observatory, Observatory Park, Denver, Colorado, where you can listen to lectures about astronomy and view the night sky through the 20-inch Alvan Clark-Saegmuller telescope if weather permits.

In addition, the Denver Astronomical Society also hosts an Open House each month as well as other weekly events—be sure to check the calendar on the Observatory's website for up-to-date information on upcoming events.

Since its renovation in 2008, the Chamberlin Observatory has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is owned and maintained by the University of Denver as well as the Denver Astronomical Society.

Location: 2930 East Warren Avenue, Denver, CO 80210

Events: The Rocky Mountain Star Stare

Each year, the mountains west of Colorado Springs serve as the backdrop for a star party hosted by the Colorado Springs Astronomical Society. This event billed as the premier star party of the Rocky Mountains, is called the Rocky Mountain Star Stare and is a great way to celebrate the night sky at a family-friendly gathering of astronomy enthusiasts of all ages.

For those attending Star Stare events for the first time, you can expect food trucks to come in so you can buy meals over the weekend, a variety of expert photographers and astronomers whose speeches and presentations you can attend, and plenty of activities and contents to get you and your family involved and excited about the night sky.

You can find out more information about the dates and location of the Rocky Mountain Star Stare, which moves venues and changes dates each year, by visiting the organization's website. There are also a number of other such events, just check out star parties on Google around the time you're planning a trip to Colorado and you should find something worthwhile to attend!

Location: Varies by year