Located where three rivers converge (the Ohio River, the Monongahela River, and the Allegheny River), Pittsburgh has deep historical roots as a good city for business and innovation. During the Gilded Age, industrialists like Andrew Carnegie established companies that helped Pittsburgh grow; today, many major tech companies have their offices in Pittsburgh.
All that growth and industry has been good for Pittsburgh’s economy over the years. It has also produced some serious light pollution as the city population has swelled (and shrunk at times). This might make it seem like stargazing in Pittsburgh is impossible… actually, it’s not!
There are a few stargazing spots in Pittsburgh, and some even better ones a bit outside the city. If you or someone in your family wants to see the night sky, here are the best places for stargazing in Pittsburgh and beyond.
The Best Spots for Stargazing in Pittsburgh
Like most cities, Pittsburgh has limited stargazing options – but they do exist. Astronomy groups and amateur astronomers often hold events in some of these locations. This means even those who can’t travel outside the city can learn more about the night sky.
Explore the map above to see stargazing spots in Pittsburgh and a few further from the city lights. Then, read on to learn about the dark sky conditions, events, and other details you need to know to go stargazing each place.
Allegheny Observatory at Riverview Park
What better place to view the stars than from an institute dedicated to them? The University of Pittsburgh operates Allegheny Observatory; it’s an astronomical research institution that is located at the Riverview Park.
From April till the end of October, members of the public are welcome to take a tour of the observatory and to look at the stars through its 13” telescope. Entry is free, but you will need to register beforehand to be allowed to join the tour.
159 Riverview Ave, Pittsburgh, pitt.edu
Carnegie Science Center
Four Carnegie museums exist in Pittsburgh, and the Carnegie Science Center with its Henry Buhl, Jr. Planetarium & Observatory is the best one to go to for a superb stargazing experience. The planetarium offers visitors a virtual tour of the stars even on cloudy days.
If the weather permits, guests can go to the top of the center for an actual view of the skies. Skywatch sessions happen on selected days of the week between 8:00pm and 10:00pm. The entry cost is $4 for non-members and $2 for members.
1 Allegheny Ave, Pittsburgh, carnegiesciencecenter.org
Observatory Hill (Perry North)
The neighborhood of Perry North is physically the highest point of elevation in Pittsburgh. This gives its locals and visitors the best possible view of the night sky. It is small and isolated enough from the rest of the town that there are fewer buildings to get in the way of seeing the sky clearly.
Stargazing Spots Within One Hour of Pittsburgh
As you probably know, stargazing in a city offers a very limited view of the sky – even under the best conditions. Instead, opt for a short drive (between 30-60 minutes) to one of these stargazing spots near Pittsburgh. You’ll be delighted at how many more stars you can see.
Mingo Creek Park Observatory
Located on Shelter 10 Road, the Mingo Creek Park Observatory was built in 2004 by the Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh.
It is mostly accessible to its 300+ members, but during the summer, the public may attend one of the Observatory’s Star Parties. These are usually held every two weeks between April and October. At a star party, you get the opportunity to look at the heavenly bodies through the observatories’ telescopes, and also get an introduction to the stars and constellations.
1 Shelter 10 Road, Finleyville, 3ap.org
The Nicholas E. Wagman Observatory is just 30 minutes outside Pittsburgh. It is also owned and operated by the Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh.
Expanded eight years after it was built, this amateur observatory was the first of its kind to dedicate itself to educating the public about the science of astronomy and providing them with the opportunity to enjoy it. Like the observatory at Mingo Creek Park, Wagman Observatory hosts star parties to give the public a chance to look through its giant telescopes and out to the heavens.
225 Kurn Rd, Tarentum, 3ap.org
Raccoon Creek State Park
Raccoon Creek offers clear access to the beautiful night sky and is an excellent spot from which to examine the heavens. If you come by the Park early enough, you can engage in a number of fun activities like horse riding, swimming, and fishing before settling down in the evening to stargaze.
The park closes at 9:00pm but you can camp out at any of the approved campsites around it. These are the spots to set up for a whole night of stargazing!
3000 PA-18, Hookstown, dcnr.pa.gov
Moraine State Park
Moraine State Park sits about 45 minutes away from Pittsburg, near the intersection of I–79 and I–80 in northwestern Pennsylvania.
This state-protected piece of nature welcomes those who love it and it is full of activities for new and returning visitors like hiking, golfing, driving tours, and birdwatching in its waterfowl observatory. You can also camp out on Moraine Lake and enjoy a crystal clear view of the wide blue yonder above.
225 Pleasant Valley Rd, Portersville, dcnr.state.pa.us
Heartwood Acres Park is just 45 minutes from Pittsburgh. It is the most popular park in the Allegheny County parks system. The elegant mansion in the park was built in 1924, and along with the park formed the country residence of John and Mary Flinn Lawrence. The mansion was abandoned in 1974 and is now used to host events.
Bikers, runners, and picnickers enjoy Heartwood Acres during the day. Those who stay into the evening will get expansive sky views once the sun goes down.
200 Hartwood Acres, Pittsburgh, alleghenycounty.us
Stargazing Spots Within Two Hours of Pittsburgh
If you really want to go stargazing and appreciate the night sky, you’ve gotta get away from the light pollution in Pittsburgh. Make an overnight or weekend trip of your next stargazing session. These great stargazing spots are all within a two-hour drive from Pittsburgh.
Laurel Hill State Park
The dark nights of Laurel Hill make it an excellent spot to stargaze, and the park offers multiple spots to do this from. For more active people ready to take on a hike, making it to the top of the hill to look at the stars is akin to climbing up the stairways of heaven to take a peek at the magnificence above.
For those who do not want to go up the hill, there are many campsites around Laurel Hill Lake that provide a good night sky view.
1454 Laurel Hill Park Rd, Somerset, dcnr.state.pa.us
Linn Run Park
Located just 90 minutes away from Pittsburg, Linn Run State Park is a small but picturesque piece of nature that welcomes visitors to 50,000 acres of unspoiled beauty. The park hosts a stream and a waterfall and is known for being relatively easy to hike.
Visitors who choose to set up night camp after enjoying a day of hiking will be treated to an awe-inspiring spread of stars and constellations.
Allegheny National Forest
Going to Allegheny National Forest from Pittsburgh may be a two-hour journey, but it is completely worth it. During the day, the forest is busy with people who engage in activities like hiking, cycling, fishing, hunting, and more.
At night, the stars open up beyond the trees to display the beauty of the great heaven. You can rent out a camp spot by the water so that you are undisturbed and enjoy looking at the constellations above.
Planetariums in Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh is home to only one planetarium – but it’s a great one! Buhl Planetarium at Carnegie Science Center hosts daily planetarium shows for visitors and locals who can’t make it to one of the stargazing spots mentioned above.
Recent and current shows include topics like Mars Madness, Beginners Guide to the Universe, and Stars Over Pittsburgh. Admission to Carnegie Science Center is $19.95 for adults and $11.95 for children and includes planetarium shows.
Best Time of Year to Go Stargazing in Pittsburgh
Though Pittsburgh is an inland city, it’s proximity to Lake Erie can produce some ‘lake-effect’ changes in the weather throughout the year. As in many cities, finding a good night to go stargazing is a balance between warm weather, humidity, precipitation, and cloud cover. Based on these factors, the best months for stargazing in Pittsburgh are September and October.
During September and October, you’ll experience clearer skies (fewer clouds, less precipitation, lower humidity) and not-too-chilly temperatures. If you want to mark your calendar, the early-October Draconids are a great time to plan a stargazing trip near Pittsburgh.
Can You See the Milky Way in Pittsburgh?
Pittsburgh is home to over 300,000 people. As we know – where people live, they light up the night and cause light pollution. This makes it impossible to see the Milky Way within Pittsburgh.
Within one hour, you can get to spots where the Milky Way is visible under the right conditions. Places like Mingo Creek Park Observatory and Racoon Creek State Park are all far enough from Pittsburgh to help you look for our galaxy in the southern sky. Even further, Laurel Hill State Park and Allegheny National Forest are even better spots to see the Milky Way.
Do you have other questions about stargazing in Pittsburgh? Let us know in the comments!
Featured photo credit: Jiuguang Wang via Flickr