Great Basin gleams with the distinction of being an International Dark Sky Park, bestowed by DarkSky. Join a park ranger (here they’re “dark rangers”) for a star-studded talk at the recently built Astronomy Amphitheater to gaze at constellations, planets, and other heavenly bodies through high-powered scopes. Or rub red-tinted headlamps with instrument-swapping international astro pros each Sept. at the Great Basin Astronomy Festival.Great Basin National Park
Dark Sky Destinations: Where to Go for Las Vegas Stargazing
Want to take a Silver State stargazing trip on your next jaunt to Las Vegas? Las Vegas may be the nightlife capital of the planet, long flocked to by DJs, actors, and other famous types, but every now and then, it’s nice to spend an evening with some real stars. Luckily, Nevada boasts some of the darkest skies in the Lower 48, and—even with our major metro’s millions of lights beaming into space—you don’t have to go too far beyond the glow to find them.
Scope out our lineup of (literally) stellar spots for just outside Las Vegas stargazing where you can gaze at twinkling constellations, planets, thousands of stars, and even entire galaxies with your naked eye—as well as find out where to stay and what to do to make a proper Nevada night of stargazing in Las Vegas’ orbit.
Get starstruck with this lineup of stellar options for stargazing near Las Vegas
Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge
Distance from Las Vegas: 1hr 45min / 93 mi
Find it on the Death Valley Rally road trip
Located just east of Death Valley National Park, the literal oasis of Ash Meadows is one of the closest astro-jaunts to Las Vegas. By day, explore 23,000 acres of desert uplands, lush wetlands, and sapphire spring pools, all home to nearly 30 species of plants and animals that exist nowhere else on Earth. By night, the lights of Las Vegas become but a distant glow beneath a blanket of constellations, planets, the sparkling ribbon of the Milky Way, and even the occasional nebula.
- Sip your way around Pahrump at Sanders Family Winery, Artesian Cellars, and Stonewise Mead & Cider
- Cool off with a cone at Seemore’s Ice Cream, the “World’s Tallest Ice Cream Stand.”
- Or head to the Longstreet Inn for hearty meals at either the on-site café or steakhouse.
Rhyolite Ghost Town
Distance from Las Vegas: 2 hrs / 125 mi
The numerous still-standing remains of Rhyolite, Nevada, have lured the lenses of pro photographers, filmmakers, and hundreds of thousands of annual visitors, earning it the nickname of the “most photographed ghost town” in the Silver State (and maybe the nation). With its Wild West reputation, visitors might never know that it’s one of Nevada’s favorite stargazing destinations; however, astrophotographers and stargazers know that nighttime is when this ghost town—along with the out-of-this-world art installations at adjacent Goldwell Open Air Museum—comes to life. Fancy camera or not, ogling several crumbling building facades, the Tom Kelly Bottle House, the Ghosts of Goldwell, and other intriguing objects with a backdrop of a few thousand stars is a way to take stargazing to a whole new level.
- Exactly what it sounds like at Happy Burro Chili & Beer
- BBQ bites at Smokin’ J’s Barbecue
- Mexican family favorites at Gema’s Café
Nevada State Parks
Distance from Las Vegas: 2hr 25min / 150 mi
Find it on the Great Basin Highway road trip
Some of southern Nevada’s most blissful starry night serenity awaits in a close cluster of parks around cute, quaint Caliente. Fifteen minutes north, Cathedral Gorge absolutely stuns at any time of day with its unfolding amphitheater of maze-like slot canyons and the ever-eroding fins, “hoodoos,” and spires that earned the place its name; but at night, hours from any kind of light pollution, they glow and dance in the starlight.
A one-hour dirt road ramble to Beaver Dam earns you a heavenly show above the trees and erosional rock features, serenaded by trickling streams, wild turkeys, and even bobcats—likely with just you and your crew for an audience. Meanwhile, ten minutes from town, the easy trails up to Kershaw-Ryan’s 700-foot-tall canyon walls lead to pristine perches for primetime stargazing and an unparalleled view of the night sky. [NOTE: While Cathedral Gorge and Beaver Dam are open 24/7 any time of the year, you’ll need to camp at Kershaw-Ryan to access after-sunset enjoyment.]
- Feast on fresh, hot sammies and burgers at Side Track Restaurant (and fancy cocktails at the Side Car Speakeasy next door)
- Dig into hearty diner classics at Knotty Pine Restaurant & Lounge
Tonopah Stargazing Park
Distance from Las Vegas: 3hr 15min / 210 mi
There’s a reason USA Today named the “Queen of the Silver Camps” America’s #1 Stargazing Destination, and you don’t have to look too far (up) to find out why. BYO telescope to the Tonopah Stargazing Park and set it up on a concrete pad or table designed exactly for that purpose and aim it at the several thousand stars visible from this vantage (most towns are lucky to get about 20 twinkles), or just lie back and take in the Milky Way. Better yet, show up for one of Tonopah’s monthly star parties and watch the stars on a guided tour of the galaxy with a certified astro pro, high-tech viewing glass and all.
- Fresh craft brews pair perfectly with meaty house-smoked delights at Tonopah Brewing Co.
- Saucy slices at Hometown Pizza
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Distance from Las Vegas: 22 min / 15.8 mi
Find it on the Neon to Nature road trip
While not as dark as some of the other places mentioned here (you can still see a faint glow from nearby Las Vegas), Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is still a great place to hike, shoot photos, and spot thousands of stars without venturing too far from the city. More than two million people visit here each year to explore the red-banded canyons and towering sandstone peaks that give this area its name, and it’s truly one of the most scenic and special places in southern Nevada.
- Pizza, paninis, and fresh-baked pastries at Cottonwood Station Eatery
- Oodles of world-class dining options east of Red Rock in Downtown Summerlin
- Stay under the stars at the Red Rock Campground to be closer to the interstellar action
Blue Diamond and Mt. Charleston
Distance from Las Vegas: 38 min / 21.8 mi
Find it near the Death Valley Rally road trip
Check out nearby Mt. Charleston, part of the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, where the Las Vegas Astronomical Society frequently hosts star parties that give visitors close encounters with constellations and planets. The nearby Mt. Charleston Scenic Byway offers easy access to many recreational areas within the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. Bonus: when it’s baking in Vegas, it’s typically 20 degrees cooler up here, making it perfect for a hike, a picnic, a drive, or a night of camping.
Due to its somewhat remote nature, there’s not much to eat in the direct vicinity of Mt. Charleston. We recommend packing a picnic, fueling up at your favorite restaurant, or grabbing convenience store snacks to fill your belly ahead of a night of stargazing.
Worth the Trip
These dark sky destinations often feel light years away from Las Vegas. But if you’re really shooting for the stars, you’re gonna want to get these gaze-worthy waypoints firmly on your radar.
Great Basin National Park
Massacre Rim Dark Sky Sanctuary
In 2019 DarkSky designated this swathe of wide-open valleys and volcanic plateaus about 150 miles north of Reno an International Dark Sky Sanctuary—one of only seven places on the entire planet with skies star-studded enough to earn this distinction. It’s about as remote as it gets, so primitive camping is the name of the game in the sanctuary itself, but cozy beds and warm hospitality await at Old Yella Dog Ranch just 15 miles west.Massacre Rim Dark Sky Sanctuary
Black Rock Desert
One glimpse of the 200-square-mile playa’s otherwordly majesty confirms why people love coming here during Burning Man. But it’s even better without radiating space lasers, pulsing EDM beats, and 70,000 LED-illuminated bikes on it. This 1.2 million-acre wonderland offers some of the most uninterrupted vantage points of the heavens you can find, from its playa centerpiece (one of the flattest, openest pieces of land on Earth), remote hot springs, and far beyond.Black Rock Desert