Aaaand the East Coast’s darkest starry skies are in…
The East’s darkest skies? The Mountain State, of course!
West Virginia’s sparse population, remoteness, and lack of huge cities all help keep the skies free of light. And, we’re an easy weekend-trip for more than half of all Americans.
Want to see more stars than you’ve ever seen before? Then check out these 4 dark and starry spots in the Mountain State:
1. Spruce Knob
This is an official “Dark-Sky Site” in West Virginia. Spruce Knob peak in eastern West Virginia is not just incredibly dark, it’s also the highest spot in the state, with a beautiful stone lookout tower revealing views in all directions.
Although this spot is pretty remote, you can still get to it by both car and walking trails. Get your flashlights and walk through a cool, high-country night to the top of the tower to take in the full array of the Milky Way.
Local tip: If it’s windy on the summit, you can set up at the nearby Gatewood campground.
2. Green Bank Observatory
High up in the eastern highlands, Green Bank is the home of the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope. It’s not just far from light interference, either— the Green Bank telescope tracks radio signals from stars, so it is completely cut off from any sort of wifi, cell service or 4G interference. (In other words, your mobile phone won’t work out here!) It’s a really relaxing escape.
Every summer, the observatory has a “Star Party,” where stargazers can spend the days at astronomy seminars, and the nights pointing their telescopes to the dark skies from a nearby campground.
3. Calhoun County Park
This is West Virginia’s second Dark Sky site. Although Calhoun County Park is a bit more “on the grid” than other more remote sites, this place still has excellent spots to set up your telescope or throw down your blanket. The stars are especially vibrant to the south and the east.
As an added bonus, the park has a full barn, which you can rent out in cold weather or for your private star parties. (It is closed for the November deer hunting season, though.)
4. Cranberry Glades
The Cranberry Wilderness area is one of the largest roadless tracts of land east of the Mississippi. On clear summer nights, you can stroll along the boardwalk through the “Glades” (bogs and swamps that feed into the Cranberry River), and take in the night sky as it’s framed by the surrounding hills.
Or, if you want more expansive starry vistas, take the drive up into the high country along Highway 150, just a few miles farther east.
This post was last updated on July 27, 2020