The Best Places to Go Stargazing in Los Angeles

Stargazing Guide

Los Angeles, the city of angels… and stars!

Okay, these aren’t the same “stars” you’re thinking of when you want to go “stargazing” in Los Angeles. While it’s common to spot a celebrity while walking down the street in some parts of the city, it’s a lot harder to see the actual stars. You know: the ones in the sky!

Luckily, there are a few places in and near Los Angeles where you can find dark skies and twinkling stars. Within just a few hours of the city, you can find breathtakingly beautiful opportunities to look up and be amazed.

Stargazing in Los Angeles: Griffith Observatory by Dave Sizer
Photo credit: Dave Sizer via Flickr

The Best Spots to Go Stargazing in Los Angeles

If you’re insistent on beating light pollution and air clarity issues, there are a few places in L.A. where you can actually go stargazing.

Griffith Park Observatory

Most people know Griffith Park Observatory from that scene in La La Land with all the stars, you can see many of those same stars on a clear night from Griffith Park. Admission to the observatory and grounds is free and open until 10 pm every day except Mondays; there’s a small charge to see shows in the planetarium.

2800 E. Observatory Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90027, www.griffithobs.org

Topanga State Park

One of the largest open space preserves surrounded by a city, Topanga State Park is part of the Santa Monica mountains. If you’re up for hiking, you can take Highway 27 to Topanga and take one of the hiking trails up out of town. From there, you can get a great view of the dark north sky and a surprising number of stars. The best part? It’s only a 40-minute drive!

20828 Entrada Rd, Topanga, CA 90290, www.parks.ca.gov

Heritage Museum of Orange County

The Orange County Astronomers hold monthly beginner stargazing classes in the parking lots at Heritage Museum. While it’s best to attend one of those events so you’re on the grounds with a group, this is where you can find pretty good dark skies in Orange County.

3101 W Harvard St, Santa Ana, CA 92704, www.ocastronomers.org

Stargazing Spots within One Hour from L.A.

Mount Wilson Observatory

If you’re willing to head an hour north into the San Gabriel Mountains. Mount Wilson Observatory is regularly reported as the best stargazing near Los Angeles. Protected by the mountains and Angeles National Forest, you can see truly dark skies by observing through the 60-inch or 100-inch telescopes – or by just looking up!

466 Foothill Blvd., #327, La Cañada, CA 91011, www.mtwilson.edu

Templin Highway

Templin Highway isn’t a single destination; anywhere along the two-lane Ridge Road Route is a good spot to pull over and observe the stars. Just be sure to use one of the pull-outs so you’re safely out of the way as other stargazers drive by looking for the perfect view.

37700 Templin Hwy, Castaic, CA 91384

Malibu Creek State Park

Another 20 minutes beyond Topanga State Park, Malibu Creek State Park is another favorite stargazing spot for L.A. locals. The park has some trees and hills, but these help insulate against light pollution and the open spaces give you plenty of views of the night sky in almost every direction.

1925 Las Virgenes Rd, Calabasas, CA 91302, www.parks.ca.gov

Stargazing near Los Angeles: Photo by Chao Yen
Photo credit: Chao Yen via Flickr

Stargazing Spots within Two Hours from L.A.

Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve

90 minutes north of the city, Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve is away from the lights of L.A., and the mountains that block them. Just into the edge of the Mojave Desert, there are hiking trails for daytime fun – and unhindered dark skies once the sun goes down.

15101 Lancaster Rd, Lancaster, CA 93536, www.parks.ca.gov

Big Bear Solar Observatory

Two hours east in San Bernardino National Forest, Big Bear Solar Observatory is located out on a spit of land in Big Bear Lake. As the name suggests, this observatory is actually best for observing the sun! Once that fun is over, you can look out over the lake and get relatively dark skies for stargazing too.

40386 North Shore Lane, Big Bear City, CA 92314, www.bbso.njit.edu

Red Rock Canyon State Park

North just beyond the Mojave Desert, Red Rock Canyon State Park is full of beautiful geologic formations. Those formations obstruct some of the night skies, but as there are limited trees you can still see pretty spectacular views.

Cantil, CA, www.parks.ca.gov

Saddleback Butte State Park

On the southern edge of the Mojave, Saddleback Butte State Park gives you a taste of what the desert is like – and how stunningly dark the night sky can be. The park is open sunrise to sunset, but there is a campground where you can set up for the night, and all the stars that come with it.

Lancaster, CA 93535, www.parks.ca.gov

Bonus: Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is worth the extra time in the car to get there – but plan a multi-day excursion if you really want to visit. Joshua Tree was named a Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association, mean it has basically unparalleled dark skies compared to basically anywhere else in the world.

74485 National Park Drive, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277, www.nps.gov/jotr

How Good is the Stargazing in Los Angeles?

Within Los Angeles County, stargazing is admittedly not great. Nearly 4 million people live in Los Angeles, and most nights the sky is a haze of light pollution. Add on Los Angeles’ unfortunate chemical pollution, and you’ll be lucky to see even a few stars from any particular part of the city.

There are a few stargazing spots where you can see a bit more of the sky and our celestial neighbors; we’ve detailed them below. If you’re willing to drive out of the city, Los Angeles is close to some of the darkest skies in the county!

Best Times of Year to Go Stargazing in L.A.

Known for (and the definition of) “SoCal” weather, Los Angeles is a great destination year-round; even in winter months the temperatures are warm and it’s sunnier than any other type of weather.

The best months for clear skies, good weather, and interesting astronomical sights to make stargazing enjoyable in Los Angeles are March to May and September to November. In April, the Lyrids meteor shower comes toward the end of the month; in October you can watch both the Draconids and Orionids meteor showers; the Taurids in early November is also worth looking for as you gaze skyward.

Can You See the Milky Way from Los Angeles?

It’s virtually impossible to see the Milky Way within the Los Angeles city limits, due to the light pollution. On a clear night in the summer, you might be able to see a faint haze of the Milky Way in the night sky from secluded spots like Griffith Observatory (more information below), but if you really want to see our galaxy, you’ve gotta get out of the city.

April to October are the best months to view the Milky Way in the night sky in Los Angeles, which is a nice long window of opportunity. If you’re visiting one of the stargazing spots outside of Los Angeles listed below, like Joshua Tree National Park or Malibu Creek State Park, on a clear night – you’re pretty much guaranteed a view!

Space Activities in Los Angeles: Space Shuttle Endeavour
Photo credit: Ron Reiring via Flickr

Other Space-Related Experiences in Los Angeles

What L.A. lacks in air quality and darkness, it makes up for with some amazing space museums and facilities. Here are some of the unmissable ones:

  • Plan a day at California Science Center, where you can see the Space Shuttle Endeavour up close and personal. There are plenty of other exhibits too, but seriously: Endeavour. (website)
  • Once a year, NASA’s JPL Facility hosts an Open House in early October. If you’re visiting L.A. around that time, be sure to plan this into your itinerary. (website)
  • Spend a few hours at Columbia Memorial Science Center. Perfect for kids who are interested in science, there are exhibits and hands-on activities for science lovers of all ages. (website)

Where to Stay When Visiting Los Angeles

After a long night of stargazing after a long day of the other stargazing, here are some great options in Hollywood and L.A.:

  • The Garland. While it’s tough to see the celestial stars from The Garland in the heart of Hollywood, you may just see other stars (celebrities) during your stay. Additionally, The Garland harkens back to the golden days of Hollywood and will make you feel like a star. Rooms start from $145/night. Click here to book: TRVL.com or Hotels.com
  • L.A. Sky Boutique Hotel. The closest you’ll get to a space-themed room, the L.A. Sky Boutique Hotel is intimate and beautifully designed. The whole vibe is very airy and white, perfect for making you think you’re sleeping on a cloud. Rooms start from $210/night. Click here to book: TRVL.com or Hotels.com
  • Sofitel L.A. at Beverly Hills. The most glamorous hotel worth adding to your list in Los Angeles, the lobby and common spaces have some serious space vibes and the rooms make you feel like you’ve been transported to Europe. Rooms start from $219/night. Click here to book: TRVL.com or Hotels.com

Do you have other questions about visiting L.A.? Ask in the comments.

  • I’m from San Diego, and before I even read your post, I knew that the Griffith Observatory’s going to be on your list! It’s so pretty up there, and I agree with Joshua Tree National Park, too! Most of the starry night photos I see were taken from there!

  • Nikki Gwin

    I love star gazing. I live out almost in the country and have a fairly good star viewing backyard. A couple of our neighbors have yard lights that are a pain in the eye, but basically we have a good view. We hope to go to an observatory someday to get some real good views.
    Oh and btw, we have our own observatory in the back yard. It’s not set up yet, but it’s next on the to do list.
    🙂 gwingal

  • Taylor Smith

    Stargazing is one of my favorite activities!