The night sky has always fascinated us. Our ancestors saw the constellations and signs from ancient gods in the stars, while our modern knowledge and technology lets us gaze at distant planets—or look for flying saucers.
Motorcycles are excellent vehicles for accessing fantastic stargazing spots. But where should you ride to behold the Milky Way in all its glory?
Here are 10 prime locations for stargazing all across the U.S.—all easily accessible on two wheels.
Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
If you think Bryce Canyon is gorgeous in daylight, just wait until the darkness falls. Far from the distracting lights of civilization, the nocturnal light show at Bryce Canyon lets you see the Milky Way and several planets with your bare eyes. There’s a reason why this national park hosts around 100 astronomy programs every year.
Just getting into Bryce Canyon is a joy for motorcyclists. SR 64 and SR 12 go through the area north-south and west-east, respectively, for a fun paved ride. If you hear the call of the dirt, though, you can bounce across Utah to Moab to indulge your off-road passions after stargazing.
For a place to stay during your trip, look no further than Bryce Canyon Resort. The hotel is close to all the best stargazing spots—or you could gaze at the sky from the comfort of the resort’s heated outdoor pool.
Glacier National Park, MT
Located near the U.S.-Canada border, Glacier national park is far from everything—which is precisely what makes it a prime choice for witnessing the night sky. Certified an International Dark Sky Park, the Milky Way shows up in all its glory above Glacier. If the cosmic forces happen to favor you, you might even catch a glimpse of the northern lights.
The nearby Kalispell makes for a top-notch home base for an adventure riding vacation in northern Montana. The many fantastic trails and roads in the area allow you to weave your nightly stargazing into a thrilling day spent in the saddle. The Going-to-the-Sun Rd conveniently takes you to the heart of Glacier to see the stars.
Glacier International Lodge is located conveniently on US 2, which leads to the Going-to-the-Sun Rd—although you might it hard to tear yourself away from the hotel’s comfortable rooms that come standards with mountain views.
Big Pine Key, FL
You might not expect good stargazing in the Sunshine State, but Big Pine Key shows just how wrong you are. Case in point—this is one of the very few places in the U.S. where you can see the Southern Cross constellation. With few residents, Big Pine Key is a relaxing place to reflect on the vastness of space in the warmth of the Florida Keys.
You can get to Big Pine Key only along one road, but it’s a doozy. US 1 coming down from the mainland provides you with a magnificent cruising experience across beautiful bridges (including the famous Seven Mile Bridge) and past first-class seafood restaurants, with nothing but blue waters around you as far as the eye can see.
Barnacle Bed and Breakfast is a cozy oceanfront property on Big Pine Key that lets you stargaze from the comfort of a private stretch of beach. If you prefer camping, Big Pine Key Resort offers tent, RV, and trailer sites, both rustic and luxurious.
Chaco Culture National Historical Park, NM
A thousand years ago, the Chacoan people observed the night sky to determine the right time to sow or harvest crops and conduct ceremonies. You can almost feel the presence of those long gone when looking at the stars in this International Dark Sky Park. Just to drive home how well you can see the sky, the Chaco Observatory was opened at this site in 1998.
New Mexico has an abundance of good roads for motorcycling. Just riding the trails to the Chaco Culture National Historical Park is an experience (you may cross some Native American land, so check whether you need any permissions in advance). From nearby Albuquerque, you can take the Turquoise Trail (SR 14) to Santa Fe and continue on to the High Road to Taos.
There are camping sites available at the Chaco Culture National Historic Park to pitch your tent under the stars. If you prefer more modern accommodations, Albuquerque Marriott Pyramid North has comfortable rooms from which to explore the area.
Rocky Mountain National Park, CO
Rocky Mountain National Park’s rugged mountains and gorgeous forests make for incredible backdrops for stargazing in the wild. You can watch the sky solo at the many mountain lakes with the stars reflecting from the water. For a guided experience, the park offers astronomy programs with rangers and volunteers helping you spot the most famous night sky sights.
For a fantastic motorcycle stargazing experience, though, ride up Trail Ridge Road (US 34) after dark. Pull over at any of the many spots along this popular road and watch the cosmos explode wide-open above you. A word of caution, though — there are a lot of curves and steep drop-offs, so check the road out during daylight to make sure you stay safe.
Grand Lake Lodge in Grand Lake is a great starting point for a ride on Trail Ridge Rd and also offers fishing and other outdoorsy opportunities. Rocky Mountain National Park also has more campgrounds than I can count.
Death Valley National Park, CA
Death Valley is the largest International Dark Sky Park in the U.S.—enough said. You can anywhere in the park, either alone or as part of a guided tour, and enjoy mindblowing galactic views above you. The International Space Station is also visible from Death Valley. Just be careful during the summer months, since temperatures can rise to deadly heights.
Death Valley is a great place to ride, whether you like rumbling on or off the pavement. US 190 between Death Valley Junction and Panamint Springs is a fun jaunt through desert and mountains—especially at night with the stars above you. For off-roading, you have more trails to choose from than you’ll be able to ride during your visit.
For a quaint and historical stay in Death Valley, book a room at Amargosa Opera House in Death Valley Junction. Only 15 minutes from the National Park, the place doesn’t offer many amenities, but it will be one of the most unique hotels you’ve ever stayed at. And as usual with national parks, Death Valley has developed and primitive camping options (again, beware of the heat in the summer).
Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
The only way to make the Grand Canyon more mind-blowingly gorgeous is to see the unobstructed night sky above it. There are many fantastic places to behold the skies along both the South and North Rims. If I had to pick only one, though, hit Cape Royal on the North Rim for the most fantastic views.
To get the most out of Grand Canyon, might I suggest a “loop” around it? Start on the South Rim, take SR 64 to SR 89, head north to SR 89A, and arrive at the North Rim along SR 67. It’s just 12 miles short of a perfect loop—but it’s those miles that you can’t cross on a motorcycle that make Grand Canyon so amazing.
For lodging, consider staying at Grand Canyon Lodge - North Rim. Not only does this lodge make for a comfy stay, but it’s also right next to Bright Angel Point—another great stargazing location on the North Rim.
Rappahannock County Park, VA
Just like you don’t need the latest and greatest motorcycle to have fun riding, you don’t need the biggest national parks to see beautiful stars. The 7.3-acre Rappahannock County Park in Washington, VA, may be modest, but it’s still an International Dark Sky Place. It’s among the very few places left on the East Coast where you can see the Milky Way.
There’s no shortage of great riding roads near Rappahannock County Park. The north end of the legendary Blue Ridge Parkway is nearby and always worth riding. Virginia also bristles with great backroads to wander through.
For a tiny town with only 86 residents, Washington, VA, has excellent lodging options for your stargazing visit. Both White Moose Inn and Gay Street Inn are comfortable places to stay within walking distance of Rappahannock County Park—and both offer a daily taster of local wines, beer, or spirits to go with the night-time spectacle.
Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, FL
Proper stargazing requires wide-open skies, and where else are you going to get better access to those than in a prairie? Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park’s 54,000 acres let you enjoy the stars among the very last vestiges of Florida’s dry prairies. With a well-timed visit, you can even spot rocket launches from East Coast space centers.
The trails of the park itself are a great treat for anyone who’s into riding on dirt. Just make sure to stay on the trails to preserve the delicate ecosystem. For paved riding, US 1 on Florida’s eastern coast isn’t far from the prairie.
I wholeheartedly recommend that you reserve one of the camping spots on the prairie—particularly because Florida State Parks close at sunset and getting access at night can be difficult. If you must have modern comforts, Inn on the Lakes in nearby Sebring is a good option.
Cherry Springs State Park, PA
Cherry Springs State Park is tailor-made for gawking at the night sky. This 82-acre International Dark Sky Place has a purpose-built Astronomy Observation Field expressly for admiring the vastness above. Go late enough in the fall or winter and you might even catch a glimpse of the northern lights.
This park is actually a fantastic choice for motorcyclists as it sits right on the Highway to the Stars (SR 44). This scenic route was designated in 2018 precisely to bring people with a love for both astronomy and motorsports to Cherry Springs State Park. Pennsylvania sure knows how to accommodate stargazing riders. Multiple lodges right by Cherry Springs State Park, like Little Dipper Lodge, accommodate visitors who want to stay close to the night-time views. Another option is to stay at the City Hall Grand Hotel in Williamsport, which gives you easy access to a 70-mile ride to the park on the Highway to the Stars.