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Hot Spots for Cool Nights

Spectacular Places Across The State To Stargaze

Article by Colorado Tourism

Photography by Nick Reynolds, Alan Chen, Gabriele Motter

Originally published in Parker City Lifestyle

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 mountain, there is nothing like seeing constellations speckled across a clear Colorado sky. Pack up the family or stay local and introduce then to a date night they are sure to never forget.


One of the newest additions to the International Dark-Sky Association's list of Dark Sky Parks for its "exceptional natural darkness," Dinosaur National Monument in the far northwest corner of the state hosts ranger programs and night hikes to get visitors deep into the dark. There are also many prime places to view the night sky with either the naked eye or telescopes and binoculars. Until now, the monument has been most famous for the epic whitewater rafting found on the Dinosaur and Yampa rivers, as well as incredibly preserved dinosaur fossils and Fremont culture rock art. Getting There: Located on the Colorado and Utah border, the monument is a two hour's drive north of Grand Junction via State Highway 139.


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.


Not only is the all-natural Red Rocks Amphitheatre 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. The best time to catch the stars is during one of Red Rocks' summer concerts or Film on the Rocks. Getting There: Located on West I-70 just past the Morrison Exit 259.


Great Sand Dunes National Park near Alamosa is already otherworldly during the daytime; at night, it’s easy to imagine you’re on another planet. It’s also one of the only wild places in the world where rangers encourage self-guided exploration … in total darkness! To take a gorgeously surreal night-hike without the aid of a flashlight, plan your visit during a full moon. You may be treated to glimpses of the local wildlife, including owl, kangaroo rat, coyote and even bobcat. If you’re more interested in sky than sand, go during a new moon instead; pick up a free star chart and moon calendar at the visitor center. A variety of guided programs are also available during the summer — check the night sky program schedule prior to your visit. Getting There: Located at 11999 Highway 150, Mosca.


Plenty of rest stops along County Road 38E near Fort Collins have picnic tables overlooking Horsetooth 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.


At the UFO Watchtower in Hooper, 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.


These programs can guide you to the best spots for staring up.


The best way to enjoy our starry nights? Slumber under them.

  • Busted Arm Draw in Norwood: it's hard to imagine darker skies than those amid the Ponderosa forests of another International Dark Sky Community.
  • Harding Spur Campground in Stagecoach State Park: Pitch your tent amid lush and fragrant sagebrush in the beautiful Yampa Valley near Steamboat Springs.
  • Gunnison Lakeside Resort near Curecanti National Recreation Area: Highlights include dark skies, easy access to sparkling Blue Mesa Reservoir and 93 miles of shoreline for exploring.
  • Morefield Campground in Mesa Verde National Park: Tucked in a canyon within the park, which is also an International Dark Sky Park, this incredibly quiet campground is just half an hour's drive from Mesa Verde’s famous archaeological sites.
  • Difficult Campground near Aspen: Encounter the alpine landscapes of your dreams at campsites nestled in the forest on the banks of the Roaring Fork River.