Family stargazing in Nevada

Uncommon Overnighters: Blast Off to These Stellar Stargazing Sites

Calling all stargazers: Nevada is home to some of the darkest skies on the planet. Seemingly light-years away from the bright lights of civilization, many of these remote havens are also home to clean, comfortable accommodations that let you focus less on the “how” of your journey and more on the “why.”

If stargazing is on your horizon, don’t hesitate to book a weekend at one of these stellar Uncommon Overnighters. After all, there’s a whole galaxy to explore out there. 

Ike’s Canyon Ranch

This Uncommon Overnighter prides itself on being a place folks go to get away from everything, and that’s not just wishful thinking. As the crow flies, Ike’s Canyon Ranch is 30 miles to the nearest service station, and by car it’s an hour and a half in any direction to the nearest town. Translation: This is about as far from civilization as you can get in the Lower 48.

The charming property is located halfway down Monitor Valley, which—along with neighboring Big Smokey Valley—form the spine of central Nevada. The surrounding massive mountain ranges are all part of the Toiyabe National Forest, and you’ll find unlimited canyons, creeks, and trails to explore in this pristine landscape including the nearby ghost towns of Belmont and Manhattan.

For its isolation, Ike’s Canyon Ranch is as warm and welcoming as you’ll find anywhere in the state. The property boasts two comfortable rooms in the main house, a fully stocked saloon, and an old stone cabin from the Pony Express days (now a studio lodging). During the warm months, people from around the world visit Ike’s, and your stay might feature a gathering of folks from around the world. The simple fact is that people come to here for a hard reset from modernity, and you’ll be surprised how easy it is to fill your time exploring the countryside, cooking meals with new friends, and—of course—stargazing.

Tarantula Ranch

Get ready to get your glamp on at Tarantula Ranch Vineyard, located just minutes from Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge and Death Valley National Park.

This is true dark sky country, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be roughing it. In addition to hot showers, an outdoor kitchen, and a strong Wi-Fi signal, you’ll have your pick among reservable RV and camping spaces that overlook the vineyard. If the name of the resort makes you want to get a bit more above ground, feel free to rent out their comfortable travel trailers or a space in the vineyard’s bottling room.

Once settled, use Tarantula Ranch as your basecamp for adventure. You’re not far from one of Nevada’s tallest mountain peaks and one of the lowest, hottest, and driest place in North America. If you’re planning on staying in, that’s fine too. Grab yourself a bottle of Mojave-grown wine and get comfortable for a stunning night underneath the Milky Way. 

Rockin’ TD Ranch

There are many areas of Nevada known for their utter remoteness and off-the-grid appeal. Northwestern Nevada is queen of this category, with miles and miles of nothing but gorgeous scenery. Just 10 miles from the California border and less than an hour to Oregon’s state line, the town of Vya is often called a ghost town—and short of a very small number of residents, it is. So, if you’re ready to hit the eject button and kick back in one of the Silver State’s most remote experiences, Rockin’ TD Ranch is for you.

A cozy, two-bedroom, two-bath guest house is outfitted with large windows that overlook Long Valley, along with a big, beautiful front porch to take it all in. The property also offers the Rockin’ TD Ranch Bunkhouse, which welcomes folks who travel with pets. Two sets of bunkbeds, a full kitchen, and single bathroom make this upscale bunkhouse a great family option, too.

Rockin’ TD Ranch is near Massacre Rim Wilderness Study Area, a designated Dark Sky Sanctuary where you can see your shadow by the light of the Milky Way. One night here, and you’ll see why the idea of getting away to nowhere has never been so bright.

Old Yella Dog Ranch and Cattle Company

The Old Yella Dog Ranch is just a stone’s throw from Rockin’ TD Ranch in Vya, and has RV hookups, dry camping sites, and a fully furnished cabin to rent.

The cabin has three bedrooms and can sleep six, so it’s perfect for traveling with your tribe. There’s no cell service, but if you can’t find enough to keep you busy…well you aren’t trying hard enough, but Wi-Fi is available. Horses and dogs are welcome, and while a trip to Massacre Rim is recommended, just sitting the porch will also reveal a galaxy of stars, just for you.

Nevada Northern Railway

Wait, this is an attraction, not an overnighter! Ah, but wait: Nevada Northern Railway (NNRY) is both. Sure, there’s the depot museum, themed train rides, and a chance to be the engineer, but it’s not just those loco for locomotives who flock here.

For anyone looking for a glimpse of the galaxy, this is one of the most innovative ways to do it. NNRY’s Star Train lets viewers behold the night sky while riding a train car behind a vintage diesel locomotive. Accompanied by “Dark” Rangers from Great Basin National Park, this train ride will deliver a seriously cool experience. It’s so cool, in fact, that it sells out a year in advance, so make your plans extra early to take part. The Sunset, Stars & Champagne Train also delivers opportunities to see stars, constellations, planets, and even galaxies with the naked eye.

Continue the theme with an overnight stay in the railyard. Originally serving as the Chief Engineer’s Quarters, the bunkhouse was converted to modern accommodations with room for two. The working railyard comes alive very early in the morning so be ready for a jumpstart on your day.

Looking for even more cool train bragging rights? Book a night in Caboose #22, which was delivered to NNRY more than 40 years ago. At that time, Caboose #22 was considered to be state of the art, with all-steel sides and roller-bearing trucks. Creature comforts are minimal—it’s outfitted with an oil stove, but no electricity or air conditioning—but it’s an ideal (and memory making) alternative to summer camping! The Caboose sleeps three.