For millennia humans have appreciated the night sky, glittering with stars, planets, and passing meteors – but these days finding a place where the artificial lighting and atmospheric pollutants don’t wash out the heavens can be difficult. If you and your furry travel companion are looking for a place to track down Sirius, “the dog star” and admire the Milky Way, this list of the 22 best Dark Sky parks for pet friendly camping is a good place to start!
Acadia is one of the country’s most pet friendly national parks, and it’s beautiful coast, rugged beaches, relaxing sea views, and granite peaks make it the perfect vacation destination. But did you know that it’s also excellent for stargazing? The Milky Way is visible from its beaches, and its lakes make stunning foregrounds for star trail photos! Best of all, Acadia’s three campgrounds are pet friendly and within a short walk of the shoreline.
While Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is best known for its spring desert flowers and night-blooming lilies, it has also been designated an International Dark Sky Park. And the nearby town of Borrego Springs is a Dark Sky Community, making this a perfect venue for stargazing! The state park offers a pet friendly campground and provides free camping options, but be aware that pets are not allowed on the trails within the park.
Like emerald jewels scattered in Lake Superior’s deep blue waters, the twenty-one islands that make up Apostle Islands National Lakeshore offer a unique opportunity to observe the night sky. Perched where water meets sky, not only will the stars and planets take your breath away – if you’re especially lucky you’ll see the Northern Lights.
Pet friendly camping is available on 19 of the 21 islands, and at one campsite on the mainland. Pets are not allowed on the Apostle Island Cruises run by the National Park Service, but they are welcomed on private charters, taxis, and ferries to the islands.
Southern Utah boasts many spectacular rock formations and some of the best are located in Arches National Park. It’s stunning in the daytime, but viewing the red sandstone arches with the night sky as a backdrop is an unforgettable experience. Arches has a pet friendly campground, but pets are not allowed on any of the trails or in the backcountry at this national park.
It’s difficult to find a more remote location in the continental United States than Big Bend National Park. Encompassing more than 800,000 acres along the Rio Grande River, the absolute darkness here makes this is an ideal place to spot the most distant stars and galaxies visible from Earth. Unfortunately, pets are not allowed on the trails or in the backcountry at this national park, but Big Bend does offer three pet friendly campgrounds for RVs and tents.
Located between Stanley and Ketchum, Idaho, the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve is only the twelfth Dark Sky Reserve in the world! With 1,400 square acres with it’s boundaries, there are many stargazing spots to choose from, but a favorite is Stanley Lake at the base of the Sawtooth Mountains. The reflections of the peaks and night sky in the still lake will take your breath away.
Much of the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve is located within the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, where all of the more than 50 campgrounds are pet friendly. And during the day you’ll find 700 miles of pet friendly trails and outdoor activities like fishing, boating and canoeing, rafting, wildlife viewing, photography, and bicycling.
Just a two-hour drive north of the California border, Crater Lake is one of Oregon’s most spectacular sites. A small island appears to float in the caldera of this ancient volcano, surrounded by the deepest lake in the United States. And, thanks to the lack of light pollution, it boasts an unforgettable view of the Milky Way!
The campground at Crater Lake is pet friendly, and leashed pets are welcome on the paved promenade at Rim Village, and the Godfrey Glen, Lady of the Woods, Grayback Drive, and Pacific Crest Trails. (Note: Pets may enjoy the official PCT, not the “alternate” PCT along the rim of the lake.)
Craters of the Moon looks exactly like its name suggests – a vast ocean of lava flows with scattered islands of cinder cones and sagebrush. Visiting this national monument feels like you’ve just traveled into outer space, especially at night when the enormous night sky sets the mood. Stargazing on a clear night is simply out of this world, and the campground at Craters of the Moon is pet friendly. Be aware that pets are not allowed on the trails at this national monument.
In addition to holding the record for the hottest air temperature ever recorded, Death Valley is an International Dark Sky Park and a fantastic place to view the night sky. This national park is home to expansive landscapes you won’t find anywhere else, and Badwater Basin and the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes are the prefect places for some stargazing. Pets are welcome in all nine of Death Valley’s campgrounds, and two hotels within the park also offer pet friendly rooms.
Southern Utah has such a concentration of breathtaking natural beauty, it’s almost too good to be true – and Dixie National Forest’s nearly 2 million acres are no exception. With its red limestone and sandstone sculpted into elegant spires and burly hoodoos, this is one of the best places in the country for stargazing. Every inch of Dixie is pet friendly, and with 28 campgrounds and camping areas, finding a place to stay is never a problem.
Planted firmly in the pet friendly heart of Texas Hill Country, Enchanted Rock is best known for its spectacular pick granite dome. But under these massive skies you can also enjoy incredible views of the heavens. Hike in 1 to 3 miles and set up camp at one of the pet friendly primitive campsites for your very own star party! Pets are welcome at the day-use picnic areas, the campgrounds, and the on the Loop Trail, but not on any other trails.
It’s no secret that Glacier National Park boasts countless stunning panoramas, from crystal lakes to snow-capped peaks. But what you may not know is that Glacier is also an International Dark Sky Park and fantastic spot for stargazing! All thirteen of the campgrounds in the national park are pet friendly, but pets are not allowed on the trails or in the backcountry.
Combine the Grand Canyon’s magnificent landscape with its endless sky, and you have a stargazer’s dream. Add to that its designation as an International Dark Sky Park and reputation for being pet friendly, and this is one you simply can’t miss! Pets are welcome in all three of the Grand Canyon’s campgrounds, as well as some rooms at Yavapai Lodge.
This striking oasis is home to ancient bristlecone pines, stunning caves, and bighorn sheep, as well as being another designated International Dark Sky Park. From the 13,000-foot summit of Wheeler Peak to the sage-covered foothills, you can enjoy of the solitude of the wilderness and bask in the darkest of night skies. All seven of Great Basin’s campgrounds are pet friendly, and leashed pets are also welcome on the Lexington Arch Trail and the trail between Baker and the Great Basin Visitor Center. Pets can not accompany you on any other trails, on tours of Lehman Caves, at evening programs, or in the backcountry.
With the tallest sand dunes in North America as a backdrop and virtually no light pollution, Great Sand Dunes National Park is an excellent place to observe the night sky. Pets are welcome in the most commonly used areas at this national park, including Piñon Flats Campground, which can accommodate tents as well as RVs.
Another International Dark Sky Park, Joshua Tree National Park features unique geologic formations and curious looking trees, but it’s also an amazing place to revel in the incredible spectacle that is the Milky Way. Joshua Tree offers eight pet friendly campgrounds to choose from, and during the day there plenty of hiking options to enjoy with your pet.
Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park protects the largest remaining stretch of Florida dry prairie and is home to an array of endangered plants and animals – but it’s also an excellent place for stargazing! It’s remote location protects it from light pollution, and during the day this 54,000-acre park offers more than 100 miles of dirt roads for hikers, bicyclists and equestrians to explore. Pets are welcome at the state park’s campground and on the multi-use trail system, but are not allowed on the Hammock Trail or in the wilderness campsites.
While not an International Dark Sky Park like nearby Cherry Spring State Park, both of Lyman Run’s campgrounds are pet friendly, whereas pets are not allowed in the campground at Cherry Spring. Standing on the shore of Lyman Run Reservoir is a fantastic place to people and pets to enjoy the night sky together!
Lying at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, on the edge of the arid Great Basin, Mono Lake is absolutely unforgettable. The magnificent tufa towers stand like sentries along the shore and leave you feeling like you’ve been transported to another world. And if you think it’s amazing during the day … wait until you see it at night!
There are numerous campgrounds in the area that welcome pets, but for a truly unique experience, obtain a permit and camp on the exposed lakebed surrounding Mono Lake or on the islands in Mono Lake (September through March). Keep in mind that camping is prohibited in developed recreation areas such as South Tufa, Navy Beach, Old Marina, and County Park.
Monument Valley’s red desert and epic rock statues standing isolated on the otherwise vast, open landscape are instantly recognizable – and they make an unbelievable backdrop for the night sky! Until you’ve seen the Milky Way arching over these buttes, you can’t consider yourself a stargazer. There are four privately-owned campgrounds near the south entrance of the state park, and all welcome pets.
The brilliant dunes that cover 275 square miles at White Sands National Monument are actually gypsum – not sand. And admiring the stars and planets where the land around you reflects their light is beyond imagination. Known for it’s pet friendliness, White Sands offers backcountry camping among the dunes for you and your furry travel buddy.
Yosemite National Park certainly doesn’t need help looking good – it boasts some of the most amazing natural sites in the country. From verdant valleys to lofty granite peaks, this park is supremely photogenic. And, it turns out, it’s also among the best places for stargazing! There are 12 pet friendly campgrounds at Yosemite, 9 of which will accommodate RVs and trailers, so you’ll find a spot that suits you perfectly.
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