For all of the wonderful benefits of U.S. national parks, from incredible scenery to wildlife viewing to recreation, many people take for granted one of the most spectacular features — dark skies. While light pollution is a problem in much of the United States, many of the country’s national parks remain great dark-sky destinations. That’s especially true in the big parks out west that are in remote areas. If you live in a heavily populated area and can’t see more than a handful of stars in the night sky, here’s some of what you’re missing in the dark skies of America’s national parks. Some of these images look as if they were taken on another planet.
10. Moon Over Arches
Moonlight and a light-painted bristlecone pine create a surreal landscape in Arches National Park in Utah.
9. Aurora Borealis
The Northern Lights shimmer over Yellowstone National Park’s Upper Geyser Basin.
8. Lake Effect
Manzanita Lake in California’s Lassen Volcanic National Park looks peaceful in the moonlight.
7. Certified Dark
The Moon rises above the Henry Mountains in Capitol Reef National Park. The Utah park is one of about 15 U.S. national park units certified as an International Dark Sky Park (IDSP). Notable parks on the list include Grand Canyon, Big Bend, Death Valley and Glacier national parks. The International Dark-Sky Association bestows the honor on “land possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment.”
6. Joshua Tree
The iconic trees of Joshua Tree National Park stand in relief against the starry sky in this shot from near the park’s Belle campsite.
5. Just Around the Bend
The Milky Way glows bright in Big Bend National Park. The big park on the Texas border with Mexico is another certified International Dark Sky Park.
An eruption of Yellowstone National Park’s Old Faithful stands out in rough contrast to the smooth backdrop of the Milky Way.
3. Close Encounter
A little light painting, a sun-parched desert floor, and a dark sky created this surreal image in Death Valley National Park. Photographer Thomas Hawk’s Flickr page entitled this photo, “Waiting for the Mother Ship.”
2. Midnight Hour
Photographer John Krzesinski captured this amazing long-exposure shot of Yosemite Falls under the full moon at around 12:45 a.m.
A full moon rises over Alaska’s Denali National Park.