I am sure you have heard the song ” The stars at night are big and bright.” Texas really is one of the best places for stargazing in the country. But you need to know where to go.
The Lone Star State has a lot of great things going for it, and one of those is its vast array of dark skies.Let’s talk more about what stargazing is, what you will need, and where to do it.
What is Stargazing
Stargazing is the act of observing and appreciating the beauty of the night sky. It can be done with or without telescopes, binoculars, or other optical instruments. With both equipment and know-how, anyone can enjoy a night of gazing at the stars!
To help you learn more about the stargazing process there are several apps are available. I can’t vouch for any specific app. I am still looking and researching one for my phone. But there are a lot of them with free trials and free versions. They will help you with this process.
Here is a link to a helpful article about the best stargazing apps of 2021 for both iOS and Android.
Different people enjoy stargazing for various reasons; some like to learn as much as they can about stars and constellations, others might want to gaze in wonderment at them all night long.
Regardless of your reason for taking an interest in gazing up at the sky on a clear evening, you’re sure to find something new and wondrous with each experience!
Telescope Considerations for Stargazing
- What type of sky conditions do you have access to? If you live in a big city or have light pollution, an aperture of 3 inches or more will be necessary to see anything but the brightest objects.
- Another thing to consider is portability. Suppose you will be setting up at different locations. In that case, a large telescope that can’t be broken down into smaller pieces is not as beneficial as a tripod-mounted refractor or catadioptric on an alt-azimuth mount.
- What kind of objects do you want to see? Are you more interested in viewing planets and brighter deep space objects like galaxies, Saturn’s rings, and nebulae? Or do comets and double stars interest you as well? Do you plan on doing astrophotography with your telescope? If so, you’ll need a motorized equatorial mount?
- How much money do you want to spend? Telescopes come in all different price ranges, but if you are looking for something that will let you start stargazing immediately, I recommend starting at about $200 or less.
What is a Dark Sky
A dark sky is a natural environment with minimal man-made light pollution. It’s the best place to see stars and other celestial bodies because there are fewer lights around, making it easier for you to observe.
Dark skies can be found worldwide, but some locations offer better views than others due to their location or how much light pollution they have. With careful planning, anyone can find themselves in a fantastic stargazing spot!
When looking for a good place for stargazing near you, just look up “international dark sky” on Google Maps and click on the “dark sky parks”, this will give you listings of nearby parks with dark skies so that you can explore the night sky for yourself.
Top Parks for Stargazing
While Texas has many wonderful places for stargazing. Some of these on our list are certified “Gold Tier” Dark Sky Parks by the International Dark-Sky Association.
Learn more about each stargazing destination by clicking on the name of the park below to visit their site.
#1. Big Bend National Park
Since Big Bend National Park is a certified dark sky park there is no light pollution. You can see the Milky Way and other celestial objects with ease.
There are also several educational programs about astronomy that can help teach children more about our universe. One program includes learning how to use telescopes with volunteers from the Texas Astronomical Society to show them what it’s like to peer into space.
There are plenty of activities to do in the daytime as well. So if you like fishing, camping, hiking, canoeing, and kayaking this might be the place for you.
Big Bend Park is beautiful and it is out in the middle of nowhere. It is a great family vacation experience and is very budget-friendly. Big Bend made our list as one of the “Best Family Vacations in Texas on a Budget”. You can read that article here.
#2. Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
Enchanted Rock is in the Texas Hill Country is a perfect location to stargaze because of its sizeable untouched land and away from the city lights. You can do several activities at this state natural area, including rock climbing, mountain biking, horseback riding, and camping.
Enchanted rock offers several primitive campsites and RV hook-up sites with water and electricity. This area is also close to some really great wineries and the historic town of Fredericksburg.
If you would like to read more about the Texas Hill Country? Check out our article “Best Day Trips from Austin.”
#3. Copper Breaks State Park
Copper Breaks State Park is an outdoor lover’s paradise. Located in the Texas panhandle the park has more than 1,000 acres of open land to explore. In addition to stargazing Lake Copper Breaks provides fishing and water recreational perfect for the family.
Copper Breaks is known as one of the best places in Texas to experience a sky full of stars. It has minimal light pollution and is one of the certified dark sky parks in Texas.
If you’re looking for an unforgettable stargazing experience, be sure to check out Copper Breaks State Park!
#4. Dripping Springs
The city of Dripping Springs is a dark sky community just outside of Austin, Texas. The town’s self-proclaimed motto is “Where life meets Mother Nature.” There are many beautiful places for stargazing in this city with low levels of light pollution that allow you to see more stars than you can normally find on an average night.
One such place is located just outside Dripping Springs off Highway 29. This location has natural barriers around it which protect it from unwanted light pollution, making it perfect for observing the sky without any interference from manmade lights or other factors.
This location is called Rutherford Hill and it is located about 4.9 miles southwest of Dripping Springs. Dripping Springs has a total of 14 places to stargaze.
Drippings Springs is in the heart of the Texas Hill Country with some isolated vacations rentals perfect for stargazing. Check out our article “35 Best Cabins in The Texas Hill Country for Families.”
#5. Davis Mountains State Park
Davis Mountains State Park is located in west Texas near Fort Davis. It has one of the darkest night skies in the country. There are no nearby towns to light up the sky with artificial light, and so you can see all sorts of celestial bodies without any interference!
With plenty of open space for you to explore and a variety of wildlife to observe, this location is an excellent choice if you want to take your viewing experience one step further.
#6. McDonald Observatory
The McDonald Observatory is a research institute in west Texas that operates high-powered telescopes and conducts astronomical research. It was established in 1943 as an international educational and scientific cooperative park. It was a joint agreement between the University of Chicago and now Texas Tech University.
The most prominent instrument at McDonald Observatory is a 100-inch mirror telescope – one of only four sizeable optical research telescopes in the entire world with a mirror of this size.
The McDonald Observatory conducts regular stargazing events and offers public tours year-round. Visitors can even book overnight stargazing events for more immersive experiences at this impressive astronomical facility.
#7. Resaca de la Palma State Park
Adjacent to the Resaca de la Palma State Park State Park is Dr. Christine Torres Memorial Observatory at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. The park is a popular destination for astronomers to set up their equipment and enjoy the night sky away from city lights.
With more than 7,000 acres of land, it’s also a great place to hike or camp during your visit! The park has 12 miles of trails open year-round to foot traffic only (no bikes).
#8. Seminole Canyon State Park and Historic Site
Located in central Texas, Seminole Canyon State Park and Historic Site is home to an impressive collection of ancient Native American drawings depicting “the daily life of the southern Plains Indians who inhabited the area from AD 500 to 1500.”
In addition to some of the darkest skies, this park offers beautiful scenery where you can taste the history of Texas.
#9. Caprock Canyons State Park
The Caprock Canyons State Park is one of the most beautiful places in Texas to stargaze. You can enjoy unobstructed views of both day and night skies from the park, with the Milky Way shining down on you at all times. The park has a campground for people who want to stay overnight, as well as hiking trails that are popular among locals.
The Caprock Canyons State Park was designated an International Dark Sky Park in 2011. It is one of only two parks in Texas that have this designation. There are many other parks throughout Texas where it’s possible to experience incredible stargazing moments during your next camping trip or outdoor adventure!
#10. Devils River State Natural Area
Devils River State Natural Area is located in Del Rio this park in West Texas offers a variety of astronomical views, including some that are perfect for astrophotography and moon gazing.
It is a natural habitat for important endangered plant species serves as a haven for wildlife. In addition to the amazing dark sky park, Devil’s River is a great place for kayaking and taking some intense river trips.
#11. Buescher State Park
In addition to being an excellent place for stargazing, this location also offers visitors a chance to explore a diverse ecosystem and learn more about it at the Interpretive Center. In recent years, the area has become very popular with its rich biodiversity and fantastic woodlands.
Visitors often flock to the park to hike through the site and appreciate its beauty. There are also many different activities for children, including a theater to learn more about their ecosystems.
#12. South Llano River State Park
South Llano River State Park lies in the heart of Texas Hill Country, where many nights are clear and starry. It’s one of the few dark sky preserves in Texas and has an amazing view of the Milky Way.
The park also offers camping sites. Campers often go on moon hikes and sleep out under the stars.
#13. Padre Island National Seashore
This beautiful location is another excellent spot for stargazing, scuba diving, surfing, boating, and fishing. The park is located along with the most comprehensive undeveloped barrier island system globally.
This means that there are excellent opportunities to see numerous creatures both above and below the water. You can also enjoy many other activities if stargazing isn’t your thing.
Padre Island is not only known for stargazing. It is one of the best beaches in the state. Read our article ” Best Texas Beach Towns for the Ultimate Family Vacation” to learn more.
#14. Kickapoo Cavern State Park
Kickapoo Cavern State Park is primarily known for its cavern and cave system. However, it is also an excellent location for watching meteor showers and spotting falling stars.
This park is also known as a really great camping spot. So why not bring your telescope and spend some time stargazing and camping under the stars.
#15. Lost Maples State Natural Area
This location offers visitors a chance to see the rare natural beauty of the Milky Way. You can attend a star party at night and enjoy the night skies like never before.
It’s also well known for its fall foliage during the autumn season. The 2 loop trails within the park are over 5 miles. You can truly immerse yourself in the beauty of this fantastic location.
#16. San Angelo State Park
Located just west of San Antonio, The park is open year-round. You can enjoy stargazing in San Angelo State Park at any time of the year.
In addition to being an excellent spot for stargazing, this park is also known for its superb fishing and boating opportunities on O.C. Fisher Lake. This park offers visitors many different activities during their stay, including camping, hiking, fishing, biking, and bird watching.
#17. Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park
Located near South Padre Island in Texas, this location offers visitors a chance to explore the wildlife and ecosystems of the area during their stay. Whether you’re looking to hike, bike, or simply relax and enjoy the night skies, this park has something for everyone.
The park is home to the Hawk Observation tower. A 200-foot ramp that looks down into Mexico and up into the Milky Way. Perfect for stargazers.
#18. Inks Lake State Park
Inks Lake is a great place for family stargazing and outdoor recreation. In addition to stargazing, this location is an excellent place for boating, hiking, and fishing.
This park has stunning views of the surrounding hills and lakes. Making it an ideal location for peaceful relaxation while looking up at the universe above you.
The lake is amazing as well. I wrote about our recent visit to Ink’s Lake State Park in our article “The 46 Best Lakes in Texas by Region (plus a map).
#19. Palo Duro Canyon
Commonly referred to as the “Grand Canyon of Texas,” Palo Duro Canyon is a long, twisting crack in the earth that winds through Texas and Oklahoma. The canyon walls were formed by two ancient rivers. Rock formations like Balanced Rock and Castle Gap run through the depths of the canyon.
One of the most popular attractions here is the night sky. Those who visit this natural wonderland at dusk will see an amazing show in the heavens.
There are also several areas in the canyon that are “dark skies parks”. Meaning they have been certified by the International Dark-Sky Association as excellent places to view the night sky.
#21. Eagle Eye Observatory
Eagle Eye Observatory in Canyon of the Eagles Resort is near Lake Buchanan in Burnet, Texas. The observatory has an on-staff astronomer and some computer-enhanced telescopes. Not bad for a $10 entry fee.
With the observatory’s innovative sliding-roof design. It can be customized to your needs, letting you get the most out of each and every viewing session.
With its high-quality telescopes and astronomical instruments, you’ll be able to see the Milky Way like you never thought possible.
#22. Brazos Bend State Park
The George Observatory at Brazos Bend State Park is the perfect place to go stargazing. It is a beautiful state park, with a lake and several opportunities for stargazing.
George Observatory has recently completed a renovation and is open on Saturdays to the public.
Brazos Bend State Park offers many different programs throughout the year that range from night sky viewing, lectures about astronomy and space exploration, even live streaming events with NASA astronauts.
The best places to stargaze in Texas are not all found within the cities. These state parks offer visitors unique experiences while also providing some of the most stunning night sky views that you’ll find anywhere in America.
Whether you’re looking for a weekend getaway into nature or want to spend time exploring one of these fantastic locations, there is something here for everyone. So, where will your next adventure take place?