Wyoming Stargazing Itinerary: 5 Days Exploring Clear Night Skies
As the state with the lowest population in the U.S., Wyoming boasts some of the darkest skies in the country. Low light pollution allows you to see planets, stars, nebulae and even galaxies. Explore Wyoming’s night skies with this star-filled itinerary of some of the state’s best spots for stargazing.
Day 1: Denver International Airport to Laramie
Home to the University of Wyoming, Laramie offers excellent educational opportunities for stargazers wanting to learn more about what they are observing. This part of the state also features beautiful, wild areas perfect for putting newly-found skills to the test.
At an altitude of 8,000 feet, Vedauwoo is a rather secluded rocky oasis located along I-80, about 20-miles east of Laramie. It is surrounded by a seemingly endless expanse of high plains and lies under a dome of intense cerulean blue sky perfect for stargazing. When the sun returns, explore the area’s scenic hiking trails and fun rock climbing routes.
Harry C. Vaughan University of Wyoming Planetarium
This planetarium offers a variety of programs and stargazing opportunities. Since its renovation in 2014, the full-dome shows now provide immersive 3-D experiences, including a variety of educational programs for all ages and laser shows consisting of three lasers that project graphics on the dome.
Day 2: Laramie to Rock Springs
Southwest Wyoming’s buttes, rock formations and desert climate make it an ideal spot for spying constellations, planets and other night sky treats.
Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area
At night, lay back and take advantage of the area’s zero light pollution with a perfect view of constellations and shooting stars. Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area was a favorite by turn-of-the-century explorer and geologist, John Wesley Powell. Make time for fishing, boating or hiking in this scenic part of Wyoming when the sun comes out.
The ecological nature of the Red Desert will almost guarantee a clear sky; rain is rare in this high desert landscape. Although the desert is dry, it is far from barren. Mule deer and elk make their home in the nearby Green Mountains, and hundres of antelope spend their winters foraging the area’s flora. This stop will leave you in awe of both the astonomy and the wildlife in Wyoming’s Red Desert.
Day 3: Rock Springs to Pinedale
Pinedale is located at an elevation of 7,185 feet, making its locale a top stargazing spot in Wyoming.
Skyline Scenic Drive
This drive follows a paved road with parallel views of America’s 7th deepest natural lake, Fremont Lake. Skyline Scenic Drive climbs from 7,185 feet to 9,097 feet with views of Fremont, Half Moon and Soda Lakes, forests and wildlife, to a final turnaround at the Wind River’s most popular trailhead: Elkhart Park.
Only 3.2 miles from Pinedale, this stunningly beautiful, pristine lake offers easy access to outdoor activities and is a focal point for popular annual events. Fremont Lake is Wyoming’s second largest natural lake.
Half Moon Lake
This lake near Pinedale is the perfect spot to lay out a blanket, lay back and gaze at a star-speckled sky reflected over a pristine, mountain lake. During the day, make time to explore this lake via kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard.
Day 4: Pinedale to Jackson
At night, stargazers get a glimpse of Jackson Hole’s spectacular view of star clusters, constellations and otherworldly galaxies. Pros are even on hand to answer questions. Summer brings a view of Saturn’s rings, while the dark night sky will display a better look at the Ring of Nebular and the Cigar Galaxy.
Wyoming Stargazing is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to educating and inspiring through Wyoming’s extraordinary skies. For a real treat, join one of the organization’s public or private stargazing programs or other astronomy presentations in Jackson Hole and the surrounding area.
Grand Teton National Park
The star show visible at Grand Teton National Park is second to none. Watch for astonomy programs offered by the national park for the chance to get a closer look at the night sky using state-of-the-art telescopes. Or enjoy a more private viewing of star-clustered skies by loading your vehicle with a blanket, wine, cheese, desserts and hot beverages and heading to a prime star-viewing spot, like Colter Bay. Get set up early enough to catch the sunset or go just in time for the night sky’s star-studded show. Sunsets and sunrises at this natural wonder are considered to be some of the most magnificent in the world, so we recommend catching at least one while you’re in the area.
Yellowstone National Park
For a unique winter stargazing experience, reserve a Steam, Stars and Winter Soundscapes Tour through Yellowstone National Park Lodges. Ride heated snowcoaches to sightseeing stops and take in the serenity of this iconic national park. The tour takes place nightly from 6:45 pm to 9:00 pm December through March.
Day 5: Jackson Area to Gillette
The final stop on this stargazing tour takes you to the national monument that became well-known for its astronomical activity in the Steven Spielberg-directed film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Let your imagination run wild with thoughts of extraterrestrial life at this prime star viewing location.
The CCSD Planetarium, located in Gillette, shows viewers more than 8,000 stars on its 30-foot Nanoseam dome. One of the only few planetariums in the world to offer free shows to the public, it’s also home to the first Goto Chronos II star projector in the United States.
During full moons, park rangers lead evening hikes to view the night sky. The prairie’s flat surface contrasts with the monument’s harsh verticality in the moonlight, making Devils Tower even more dramatic at night.
Learn more about stargazing in Wyoming and start planning an experience that is sure to be out of this world.