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These International Dark Sky Communities (officially designated by the International Dark Sky Association) often choose to replace or forgo street lights and regulate commercial business lighting so the night sky can take center stage. The result is pretty amazing: inky blackness punctuated by glittering stars, constellations, and the dense haze of the Milky Way.
The people of Torrey took a cue from the nearby Capitol Reef National Park, a designated International Dark Sky Park, and made a stand against the harsh artificial light polluting the area’s skies. The result is a community with outdoor lighting rules that ensure stellar nighttime views both in town and in the neighboring park.
Also known as Big Park, the Village of Oak Creek sits just outside Sedona among red rock buttes and cliff-walled canyons. It may be near the city, but it’s managed to keep light pollution to a minimum. Visitors — who come to fish, climb, and camp in the stunning desert terrain — are rewarded with optimal nighttime views. To call it pretty is an understatement.
Just east of Chicago is the tiny town (like, 600 people tiny) of Beverly Shores. The community is surrounded by beauty — Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is to the east, west, and south, while Lake Michigan is to the north — but the real view is up, where stars and planets pop in unhindered dark skies.
Serious stargazers should skip the big-city draw of nearby San Diego for the glittering skies of Borrego Springs, home to the 600,000-acre Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (the state’s largest state park). Thanks to the desert’s sweltering summers and frigid winters, the area is largely undeveloped, leaving the night skies dark and clear. Just make sure to pack a jacket — even during the heat of summer, the temperature drops at night.
A 30-minute drive west of Austin is Dripping Springs, a town known as the gateway to the Texas Hill Country, and the home of famously dark night skies. During the day, visitors hike out to the waterfall at the (extremely cool) Hamilton Pool Preserve, while the nights are reserved for spotting shooting stars and constellations.
Camp Verde is a town with a diverse cultural heritage that goes back 10,000 years. If you’re a history buff, dive in — just make sure to leave time for the hiking, biking, and wine tasting the town is known for today.
And after night falls, it’s all about the stars. The town’s clear night skies are found about an hour from the cities of Phoenix, Prescott, and Flagstaff (a dark sky community itself), and just 30 minutes from the neighboring dark sky communities of Village of Oak Creek and Cottonwood.
You’ll find the small and wonderfully dark town of Helper a couple of hours south of Salt Lake City, near the Wasatch Plateau. The town has a rich mining and railroading history — and a legend that involves transporting illegal goods through tunnels during Prohibition. These days, you can enjoy your drink of choice worry-free, with entertainment provided by Helper’s carefully preserved dark, starry sky.
Sitting between Prescott and Sedona is Cottonwood, a city right in the geographical center of Arizona. Mountains jut to the west and south, while the Mogollon Rim — an escarpment of high cliffs on the Colorado Plateau — lies to the east. In short, it’s pretty no matter where you look. Plus, the Verde River that snakes through town delivers copious waterside stargazing spots.
Sitting next to the remote and rugged Sawtooth National Forest is the small mountain town of Ketchum. Here, it’s all about skiing the nearby Bald Mountain in the winter and heading to the woods and rivers in the summer. But no matter when you find yourself in Ketchum, when night falls, the stars and Milky Way have everyone doing one thing: looking up.
Located in Texas Hill Country, visitors head to Fredericksburg to experience life in a town that was founded by German immigrants and retains much of that Germanic history and culture today. During the day, you can nosh on bratwurst and visit the historic Vereins Kirche, a building that once housed the founders’ church and school, and at night, you can sip on wine from one of the area’s many wineries and enjoy the show put on in the dark skies above.
Flagstaff was the world’s first International Dark Sky Community — a designation that now extends as far as Niue, a tiny island nation in the Pacific Ocean. It was here in Arizona in 1958 that the world’s first outdoor lighting ordinance was put in place — regulations that have kept the city’s night skies so dark, both the Lowell Observatory and US Naval Observatory call Flagstaff home.
In this rural, high-desert town — which has its fair share of biking and hiking — you don’t have to worry about light pollution from neighboring cities. Thanks to the natural shield provided by mountains and plateaus, and Norwood’s truly remote location, the Milky Way views are out of this world.
Fountain Hills is located surprisingly close to the bright lights of Phoenix, but thanks to the McDowell Mountains, the town has been able to maintain its revered starry skies. And here, there’s more than one reason to tilt your chin toward the sky — the city is also known for its massive fountain, which can shoot water 560 feet in the air.
Just an hour from its fellow Texas Hill Country and dark sky counterparts — Dripping Springs, Wimberley Valley, and Fredericksburg — is the community of Horseshoe Bay. The town, which sits on the shore of Lake Lyndon B. Johnson, takes pride in its lack of light pollution and the resulting dark, starry skies. Here, there are no streetlights to be found and most commercial properties forgo brightly lit signs.
At the base of the San Juan Mountains, in an open valley that remains largely untouched, is the small mountain community of Ridgway. The combination of open space and endless mountain trails are more than enough to keep locals and visitors entertained, but the real magic happens when the sun drops behind the jagged peaks and the Milky Way glows against the inky black sky.
What was once envisioned to be a golf course community north of Dallas and Fort Worth has evolved into a fully residential town of around 900 people. The lack of commercial businesses in Lakewood Village keep the night skies dark, and its location on Lake Lewisville only makes the stargazing that much more magical. Grab a drink and a blanket, and enjoy the show.
Thirty miles southwest of Chicago is the impressively dark city of Homer Glen. The young town was founded in 2001 with a vision of conservation and sustainable growth — two policies that make it a shoe-in with the International Dark Sky Association. The result? Spectacularly dark nights filled with sparkling stars.
Offering a true Old West feel, thanks to its jutting red rock buttes and steep canyon walls, Sedona has long drawn tourists who come to hike, bike, jeep, and golf in its mild climate. Somehow, amidst all the hubbub, Sedona has remained committed to the preservation of the area’s dark skies. Just another thing to keep adventure seekers coming back for more.
The community of Thunder Mountain Pootsee Nightsky is found within the Kaibab Indian Reservation (also known as the Kaibab Paiute Indian Reservation). The land is home to the Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians, a people group that sees dark night skies as a resource worthy of conservation (much like land and water). The result of their efforts is a nightly showcase of stars and a community that’s considered to be the world’s first “dark sky nation.”
The high altitude of these sister communities — both at just under 8,000 feet in elevation — get stargazers that much closer to the cloudy Milky Way and Orion’s sparkling belt. Thanks to their rural setting and focus on agriculture and ranching, when the stars come out to play, it’s hard to do anything but stare.
About an hour northwest of downtown Chicago is the village of Hawthorn Woods, home to just under 9,000 people. (If you think that’s small, keep in mind when the village was incorporated in 1958 only 17 people lived there). Today, the town is on a mission to reduce light pollution so residents and visitors can see the night sky as it was meant to be seen.
Less than an hour from Austin, and a little over an hour from San Antonio, the towns of Wimberley and Woodcreek (known collectively as Wimberley Valley) are found in Texas Hill Country, near the dark sky community of Dripping Springs. Located at the confluence of Cypress Creek and the Blanco River, the valley is home to a rich arts community and strict outdoor lighting regulations that maintain the natural darkness of the night skies.
News – 22 US Towns Where The Sky Is So Dark You Can Pretty Much Always See The Stars