Houston is America’s fourth largest city… but it also might be one of the most overlooked major cities in the country. Located in the southeastern part of Texas near the Gulf Coast, Houston has everything you could ever want in a city – just ask the 2.3 million people who live there!
Listen: “Space Tourism in Houston, Texas” with STG Founder Valerie Stimac on the History Fangirl Podcast
Unfortunately, when 2.3 million people live anywhere, there’s probably going to be some light pollution. That means some folks – like you – will wonder: where can I go stargazing? If you’re curious about where to go stargazing in Houston (and the surrounding countryside), this post will give you all the info you need.
The Best Spots for Stargazing near Houston
When you’re searching for a stargazing spot, the last thing you want is to pack up the car with all your gear, head out to a place, and realize it’s totally terrible due to light pollution. As such, we can’t recommend anywhere in Houston for great stargazing. Within this major city, there’s just no good spot where you can get a really nice view of the night sky. We don’t want to lie and send you on a star chase (like a goose chase, but cooler)!
Instead, let’s be honest: you’ll need to plan ahead and drive a bit to go stargazing in the Houston area. If you’re a Houston local, that’s no big deal: you drive a ton anyway, right? The nice part is that driving for a stargazing session means you’ll probably encounter less traffic since it’s at night! If you’re visiting Houston and want to go stargazing, you’ll need a car. With all that said, let’s get on to the stargazing spots – not in Houston, but near Houston.
Stargazing Spots Within One Hour of Houston
Within one hour, there are some great options for stargazing near Houston. You might be surprised that, with a little pre-planning and the right timing for an event or star party, you don’t have to spend the whole night on the road to get to a good stargazing spot.
Brazos Bend State Park
Among locals, Brazos Bend State Park is generally cited as the best stargazing spot near Houston. Less than an hour’s drive south of Houston, Brazos Bend is located in a more remote section of this part of the state, along the Brazos River. This doesn’t mean you can fully escape the light pollution of Houston, as you’ll still see a yellowish orb in the northern sky, but it is one of the best spots for dark skies without making a huge trek out into the country.
21901 FM 762, Needville, TX, tpwd.texas.gov
The George Observatory
The George Observatory is actually located within Brazos Bend State Park… so it’s a very good stargazing spot too! Operated by the Houston Museum of Natural Science (a fantastic museum in downtown Houston with a great planetarium, by the way!), The George Observatory is open Saturdays year-round for stargazing. During the week, the observatory is only open for groups with reservations, so plan ahead for a weekend trip out here.
21901 FM 762 Rd, Damon, TX, hmns.org
Sam Houston National Forest
Sam Houston National Forest is a large forested area north of Houston, about one hours’ drive north on Interstate 45. The forest is great for hiking and exploring by day, and by night the trees help provide some relief from the city’s light pollution. There are three camping areas in Sam Houston National Forest (Cagle, Double Lake & Stubblefield Recreation Areas) if you want to make an overnighter out of your stargazing trip.
394 FM 1375, New Waverly, TX, fs.usda.org
Rustic Oaks Park
Rustic Oaks Park makes our list of stargazing spots in Houston because it’s one of two places that the Houston Astronomical Society (HAS) holds regular community outreach events and star parties. It’s located about 45 minutes southeast of Houston in the direction of Galveston, and is actually not far from Space Center Houston and Johnson Space Center, if you’re planning to visit those space attraction.
Check the HAS website in advance to see when the next star party is happening here.
5101 Orange Blossom Ct, League City, TX
The Village School
The Village School is the other place where HAS regularly holds community events. Located only 30 minutes west of downtown Houston, this is one of the most accessible spots for stargazing, if you can attend one of the star parties here. This pre-k to college prep school has large grounds and allow the HAS to come set up their telescopes; the school even turns off some of the lights to help cut down on light pollution while attempting to see the stars.
Check the HAS website in advance to see when the next star party is happening here.
2005 Gentryside Dr, Houston, TX
Stargazing Spots Within Two Hours of Houston
As is the case for most cities, if you’re willing to drive up to two hours outside of Houston, your stargazing prospects improve dramatically. From state-of-the-art facilities to small towns where you can escape the lights, here are the best options if you want to make an overnight stargazing trip from Houston.
The Sam Houston State University (SHSU) Observatory is one of the best locations for stargazing in the greater Houston area. The SHSU Observatory is about a 75-minute drive from downtown Houston, making it a pretty close option for a night of stargazing. In addition to open observatory nights where you can come to see celestial objects (listed on the SHSU website), there’s also a planetarium with occasional shows.
1901-2099 Sam Houston Ave, Huntsville, TX, shsu.edu
This beach is one of the most relaxing spots in the vicinity of Houston to go for some stargazing, even if it’s a bit of a drive. Set up at Chamber Park along the Gulf of Mexico; the park provides camping and picnic facilities. The best months for stargazing at Sargent Beach will be the cooler ones when the humidity levels are lower and the skies are clearer. Due to the camping facilities and low light levels, there are plenty of local stargazers in Sargent Beach all year round.
Sergeant Joe Parks, Jr. Memorial Highway & Canal Street, Sargent, TX
While there are plenty of small Texas towns out in the state west of Houston, Hallettsville consistently comes up as one of the best spots for stargazing. This community is 113 miles from Houston and is bisected by Alternate Interstate-90, so you can reach it in about 1.75 hours drive from the city. There, it’s easy to take one of the country roads out away from the lights and enjoy the night sky. Home to 2,600 people, there are a few motels and hotels available where you can stay after a night of stargazing.
Hallettsville, TX, halletsville.com
Davy Crockett National Forest
Forests are great spots for stargazing because the trees help block out light pollution when you’re stargazing. Even better, Davy Crockett National Forest is far enough away from Houston or any other big cities at a two-hour drive that you’re guaranteed pretty dark skies. There are campgrounds throughout the forest, which are a great option for a night of stargazing. You can also stay in one of the small communities located in the area, such as Ratcliffe, Kennard, Centerville, or Apple Springs.
18551 Texas 7, Kennard, TX, fs.usda.gov
San Luis Pass
San Luis Pass is a waterway between Galveston and San Luis islands south of Houston. The pass is spanned by a bridge that’s part of the Bluewater Highway. It takes about 90 minutes to get there from Houston, whether you approach the pass from the north or the south. On either end of the bridge, there are good stargazing spots, though you’ll have less light pollution at San Luis Beach on the Galveston Island side. Just be aware of the water levels, as San Luis Pass is notoriously dangerous for swimmers and boaters.
County Road 257/Bluewater Highway, Galveston, galveston.com
The HAS Observatory
The Houston Astronomical Society’s observatory is a very close second to the George Observatory when it comes to stargazing opportunities. The only important thing to note is that you must be a HAS member to learn the location of the observatory and when events are happening here! The best we can share is that the HAS Observatory is about 80 miles outside of Houston, so it’s well away from any light pollution.
Once you’re a HAS member, you can join regular star parties run by the society at the HAS Observatory. There is even a bunkhouse available for those that wish to stay overnight, or you can camp or stay in the surrounding area.
How Good is the Stargazing in Houston?
As mentioned above, stargazing in Houston – America’s fourth largest city – is really tough. Houston is a big, sprawling metropolis with a lot of light pollution, and that makes it difficult to get a good, dark view of the night sky – even in public parks or green spaces.
Instead, if you really want to go stargazing near Houston, plan ahead and pick one of the spots up to an hour’s drive outside the city. You’ll see far more stars than you ever will in Houston, and it’ll be well worth the drive.
Best Times of Year to Go Stargazing in Houston
The best time of year for stargazing in Houston depends on what you want to see. If you’re looking for the best night sky clarity, the cooler months between December and April are ideal, as there’s less humidity and precipitation or cloud cover (the exception is January, where rain is a bit more common). As such, you’ll have a better chance of seeing more stars during these months.
If you want to see the Milky Way, your best bet is during the summer months between May and August. Luckily, the air temperature cools off once the sun sets, so you won’t be quite so warm as during the daytime under the Texas sun. Be aware that Houston experiences its own ‘monsoon season’ between June and August, so rain is most likely then too.
Can You See the Milky Way in Houston?
It is not possible to see the Milky Way in Houston, due to light pollution. That’s an unfortunate reality of living in an urban setting where proper lighting and light shielding are not used correctly. If you’re willing to head out of the city (preferably to one of the spots two hours away), you can see the Milky Way on a clear summer’s night.
Other Space Activities in Houston
You can’t think about stargazing in Houston and not talk about the other amazing space activities you can enjoy while visiting. Even if you’re a local, it’s worth visiting these spots.
Space Center Houston is arguably the coolest space and science center in the world, with relics from all eras of NASA human spaceflight. Next door, Johnson Space Center is one of the main NASA facilities in the United States. You can visit both together with the Houston CityPass to save on admission costs. If you want a guide to visiting Johnson Space Center and Space Center Houston, we’ve got you covered: click here.
You can also check out the Burke Baker Planetarium at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Almost every show focuses on astronomy and science, including topics like black holes, solar superstorms, and the aurora. The HMNS is also part of the Houston CityPass, conveniently!
Do you have other questions about stargazing in Houston? Ask in the comments.
Featured photo credit: Adam Baker via Flickr