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    Stargazing in San Francisco Featured Image by Thomanication
    City Stargazing Guide

    The 25 Best Places for Stargazing in San Francisco & the Bay Area

    San Francisco draws people from around the world. A city of opportunity and possibility, it’s one of the most powerful economies in the U.S. – and a tech hub for the world. During the daytime, the Bay Area buzzes with energy and innovation; at night, the stars shine overhead, though it’s hard to see them through the light pollution. That’s why you need to search to find a great place for stargazing in San Francisco.

    Having called San Francisco home for over three years, I know how much light pollution affects your stargazing prospects in the Bay Area. If you’re in the mood for stargazing, here’s everything you need to know about where to go stargazing in San Francisco and the Bay Area. There are also other fun space-related activities you can plan while waiting for the stars to come out.

    This post was originally published in November 2017, and was updated most recently in July 2022.

    The Best Stargazing Spots in San Francisco

    Stargazing in San Francisco Map
    Click to interact with the map.

    San Francisco’s waterfront areas and parks are perfect for stargazing opportunities, when the weather cooperates. Explore the map below and read on to dig deeper into each one and see which ones will fit in your San Francisco itinerary.

    Presidio Parade Grounds

    What better place to catch an awe-inspiring view than in the Presidio? From the Main Parade Grounds, there’s enough land and trees around to create some darkness and a good chance for a small view of the night sky. But even if the stars aren’t out, it’s an easy walk to go see the Golden Gate Bridge.

    Montgomery Street, Main Post, San Francisco, CA 94129, www.presidio.gov

    USS San Francisco Memorial, Land’s End, and Point Lobos

    From anywhere on Land’s End – near the Presidio, so understandably similar in the quality of darkness – you can see the stars on a clear night, especially after watching the sunset over Sutro Baths. Whether you opt for the parking lot near the USS San Francisco Memorial where the San Francisco Amateur Astronomers host occasional star parties to a nice walk out on Point Lobos, there are few spots comparable.

    680 Point Lobos Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121, www.nps.gov

    Pier 17

    Another popular spot for star parties, Pier 17 near The Exploratorium is a pretty good spot to try and catch a view of the stars along the San Francisco waterfront. There is definitely light pollution to contend with, but you can get a good view over the North Bay on a truly clear night.

    The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94111

    San Francisco State University Observatory

    SFSU’s observatory is perfect if you want to get up close and personal with stars since they have three telescopes at the facility. On various weeknights, you can peer through their 10″ Optical Craftsman, 12″ Schmidt-Cassegrain, or 16″ Schmidt-Cassegrain; the schedule changes seasonally and is free to the public.

    1600 Holloway Ave, San Francisco, CA 94132, www.physics.sfsu.edu

    Where to Go Stargazing in San Francisco
    Photo credit: Brandon Levinger via Flickr

    Golden Gate Park: Strawberry Hill

    Golden Gate Park is arguably one of the best parts of San Francisco – and least known to tourists. The sprawling park is home to a variety of features, and Strawberry Hill is the best by far if you’re seeking stars. Climbing up the island slopes, you’ll enjoy the privacy of the park which helps cut down light pollution, and gives great views to the West.

    www.goldengatepark.com

    Twin Peaks

    Twin Peaks is hit or miss for stargazing: you might get lucky and be above enough light pollution for good straight-up views, or Karl the Fog may roll in and obscure everything. Even if it’s not clear enough for stars, you’ll still have amazing views of all of San Francisco.

    501 Twin Peaks Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94114, www.sfrecpark.org

    Corona Heights Park

    You might not imagine there’s any kind of stargazing in The Castro, but tiny Corona Heights Park can give you a view of a few stars. As the name suggests, a short uphill climb gets you away from buildings and lights.

    Roosevelt Way & Museum Way, San Francisco, CA 94114, www.sfrecpark.org

    Crissy Field

    Crissy Field is a beloved spot in San Francisco for the myriad of photo ops its offers. Situate along the bay, this recreation area offers unmatched views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the skyline of San Francisco. 

    It’s also a pretty neat spot to look at the stars. you’ll find plenty of open spaces to set up your telescope and even bring a picnic with you. The only downside is that you need to go on a night when there’s no fog in the way. 

    1199 E Beach, San Francisco, CA 94129

    The Best Stargazing Spots in the East Bay

    Stargazing in San Francisco: Chabot Space & Science Center by Erik Fitzpatrick
    Photo credit: Erik Fitzpatrick via Flickr

    Redwood Regional Park

    Redwood Regional Park has limited sky views because several parts of the park feature its namesake trees – and redwoods are good at obscuring the sky. In a few sections though, you’ll get partial night skies and plenty of darkness due to those same trees and reduced light pollution in the Oakland hills.

    7867 Redwood Rd, Oakland, CA 94619, www.ebparks.org

    Chabot Space & Science Center

    Near Redwood Regional Park, Chabot Space & Science Center is worth visiting even in the daytime. The science and space museum has a variety of exhibits that will entrance space fans young and old. Friday and Saturday nights, they also hold open observatory nights. You can peer through an 8″ Alvan Clark refractor, a 20″ refractor – the largest on the West Coast–, or a 36″ reflector at these free events.

    10000 Skyline Blvd, Oakland, CA 94619, www.chabotspace.org

    Sibley Volcanic National Reserve

    The site of an ancient volcano, Sibley Volcanic National Reserve is a great spot for stargazing just outside the main areas of light pollution. Just east of the Oakland Hills, this area is free of development and protected from most light by the hills themselves. You can get especially great views of the northern, eastern, and southern skies.

    6701 Skyline Blvd, Oakland, CA 94611, www.ebparks.org

    Grizzly Peak

    Hike – or drive – up Grizzly Peak after dark for the best stargazing in Berkeley. Grizzly Peak is known for its great views of the Bay Area during the day, but at night it’s protected somewhat from light pollution too. Bonus: you can time your trip right to stop at Lawrence Hall of Science which regularly has space-related exhibits.

    Mount Diablo

    If you’re willing to drive a bit further beyond the East Bay, Mount Diablo is arguably the best stargazing spot near the Bay Area on the east side. Rising 3,849ft in elevation, Mount Diablo has undeveloped slopes and a good buffer of green space, which helps cut down on light pollution from nearby Walnut Creek. Even better, you’ll have epic southern sky views for seeing the Milky Way during summer months.

    parks.ca.gov

    The Best Stargazing Spots in San Jose/the South Bay

    Stargazing in San Francisco: Lick Observatory, Photo by Jay Huang via Flickr
    Photo credit: Jay Huang via Flickr

    Lick Observatory

    When you ask locals where to go stargazing near San Jose, their answer almost always starts with Lick Observatory. As the world’s first permanently occupied mountaintop observatory and built in the 1880s, Lick Observatory has a compelling history – and great sky views to justify the hype. It takes an hour to get to the Observatory from San Jose, but it’s well worth it especially when they’re hosting one of their famous summer stargazing events.

    7281 Mt Hamilton Rd, Mt Hamilton, CA 95140, www.ucolick.org

    Related: 25 of the Best Observatories in the U.S.

    Halley Hill Observatory

    Halls Valley Astronomical Group has set up their own informal observatory in the hills of Joseph D. Grant County Park, east of San Jose. This is a good spot for stargazing without the extended drive it takes to reach Lick Observatory. If you want to have the best experience, consult the schedule of star parties to see what night you can join other astronomers here.

    Mt Hamilton, CA, hallsvalley.org

    Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve

    Anywhere called an “open space preserve” sounds like a wonderful spot for stargazing, right? After all, that’s part of what the International Dark Sky Association is trying to preserve. Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve proves why, with over 2,000 acres of landscape free of development – including some parts with great sky views.

    Los Altos, CA 94022, www.openspace.org

    Castle Rock State Park 

    The Best Stargazing Spots in the North Bay/Marin County

    Stargazing in San Francisco: Marin County
    Photo credit: Jason Jenkins via Flickr

    Mt. Tamalpais

    “Mt. Tam,” as locals call it, draws visitors year-round during daylight hours for its great hiking and views of Marin County. At night, it’s also a popular spot for stargazing, well above the fog and light pollution you find in of most of the Bay Area. During the summer months, there are even educational sessions each Saturday night for families interested in learning more about astronomy.

    Marin County, www.parks.ca.gov

    Hawk Hill

    Hawk Hill is closer to San Francisco than Mt. Tam, and you’ll face more light pollution, but it’s worth it to mix stargazing with sightseeing. From Hawk Hill, you can get stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge and downtown San Francisco to the South; turn north and it’s nothing but night sky and stars.

    Marin Headlands, www.parkconservancy.gov

    Robert Ferguson Observatory at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park

    The “RFO” is the best spot for stargazing in Sonoma; surrounded by Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, it’s protected from the light from nearby developments, and the proportion of agriculture in the Sonoma Valley helps cut this down even further. Peer through one of three telescopes at the RFO: a 24″ and 14″ reflector or an 8″ refractor. The RFO is unfortunately closed right now, due to the fires in Sonoma County in late 2017, it’s expected to reopen in early 2018.

    2605 Adobe Canyon Rd, Kenwood, CA 95452, www.rfo.org

    Muir Beach Overlook

    A bit beyond the main Bay Area, Muir Beach is a closer option than Point Reyes National Seashore (which you might see on other lists of stargazing spots in the Bay Area). From Muir Beach, you’ll enjoy a buffer of the Marin Headlands which cut down on light pollution and can stargaze across the Pacific when Karl the Fog is out at sea.

    nps.gov

    China Camp State Park 

    If you’re up for a camping adventure, China Camp State Park is a good alternative. The park opens from 8:00 am to sunset daily, so stargazers will have to camp to surf the night sky. This park promises decent stargazing sessions, thanks to being further from the lights coming from Oakland and San Francisco. Besides unmatched starry skies, you’ll be treated to spectacular sunsets. So it’s a good thing you have to spend the night here! 

    parks.ca.gov

    The Best Stargazing Spots Along the Pacific Coast

    Stargazing Near San Francisco along the Pacific Coast: Pigeon Point
    Photo credit: Jason Jenkins via Flickr

    Point Reyes National Seashore

    Point Reyes is a beautiful weekend or day trip from San Francisco even if you’re not chasing stars; on a clear weekend, you can look out over the Pacific Ocean and get a sense of what real darkness feels like. Since there’s little development near the National Seashore land, it’s almost 360° views of the stars.

    Inverness, CA 94937, www.nps.gov

    Muir Beach

    Tucked in between two ridges as the mountains meet the sea, Muir Beach is small but offers great star views to the West over the Pacific Ocean. The beach closes at 9 pm, so the best time for stargazing is in autumn and winter when darkness comes earlier.

    Muir Beach, CA 94965, www.muirbeach.com

    Pigeon Point

    South of San Francisco along the Pacific Coast, Pigeon Point is a fun destination if you want to get away from the bustle of the Bay Area. Book a night at the funky nearby Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel and you’ll be right on site for great stargazing like the photo pictured above.

    Pescadero, CA 94060, www.parks.ca.gov

    Shark Fin Cove

    Shark Fin Cove is picturesque any time of day, with huge sea stack formations and a dynamic rocky beach. When the sun goes down, it’s even more stunning, and the landscape only adds to the dramatic effect of the huge sky of stars.

    Davenport, CA 95017, www.santacruzlife.com

    How Good is the Stargazing in San Francisco?

    As is the case in most large cities of the U.S., the stargazing in San Francisco is not great. Light pollution is the biggest factor affecting dark sky quality in the Bay Area, and the weather comes in a close second.

    If you’re serious about stargazing while living in or visiting San Francisco, here’s what to do:

    1. Keep an eye on the weather patterns for the days when you want to go stargazing. Clouds/fog come in quickly in the Bay Area from both the east and west, so conditions change within an hour too.
    2. Watch temperatures, as these also contribute to the probability of fog.
    3. Plan to drive 60-90 minutes out of the city for the best chance of seeing a truly dark sky.
    4. If you’re in San Francisco and want to see as much of the night sky as possible, try and get to the Pacific Coast, where large parks, beaches, and open land help make this possible.

    Best Times of Year to Go Stargazing in San Francisco

    While some of the best night sky views for San Francisco should be in the summer months, the weather rarely cooperates. Most of the summer, the upper part of the Bay Area is blanketed in the famous fog; the lower part of the Bay (San Jose) is swelteringly hot.

    San Francisco is known for having an ‘Indian summer’ with great weather in September and October. Therefore, the best time of year to go stargazing in San Francisco is in late August to early October. If the skies are clear, there are great celestial objects to look for, including the Draconids Meteor Shower. In particular, if you’re seeking a view of the Milky Way, September is the best chance you’ll have. Read on for more info…

    Can You See the Milky Way in the Bay Area?

    Unfortunately, it is very difficult to see the Milky Way in San Francisco. Between the foggy weather and the light pollution from 7 million people, you can imagine that the faint light of our galaxy is lost to view.

    Instead, you’ll need to head out of the city:

    • Head north from San Francisco into Marin or Sonoma Counties and you may get great views, especially along the Pacific Coast.
    • Work south along the Pacific Coast for good views on the west part of The Peninsula.
    • Journey south beyond San Jose to get away from the heavy areas of development, and you’ll likely get good views on a clear night.
    • If you’re in the East Bay, keep heading east over the Berkeley/Oakland hills – and beyond Walnut Creek if possible – to get dark skies and a chance to see the Milky Way.

    Bonus: Did you know there’s a street called ‘Milky Way’ in Pittsburgh, California? It’s a 45-minute drive east of the city!

    Other Space-Related Experiences in the Bay Area

    Space Activities in San Francisco: Cal Academy of Sciences Planetarium
    Photo credit: Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures via Flickr

    Need space activities to do during the daytime in San Francisco and the surrounding cities? Try these:

    • Cal Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, the best science museum in the Bay Area. In addition to science exhibits, you can also spend time in the Morrison Planetarium. Cal Academy is part of the San Francisco CityPass, which helps make it a more affordable excursion. (website)
    • Visit the Lawrence Hall of Science and Planetarium in Berkeley, especially if you’re planning to stargaze from nearby Grizzly Peak. With family-oriented exhibits and planetarium shows, there’s plenty to keep the whole crew interested. Same goes for Chabot Space & Science Centerin Oakland; it’s the best spot for science in that part of the Bay. (website / website)
    • Down on the peninsula, visit the Starlab Planetarium at the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos. Perfect for people who love planes as much as rockets! (website)

    Do you have other questions about stargazing in San Francisco or elsewhere in the Bay Area? Let me know in the comments.

    Share this to help others enjoy the night sky!

    Valerie is the founder and editor of Space Tourism Guide. She decided to start the site after realizing how many friends and family had never seen the Milky Way, and that space tourism was going to unlock the next great travel destination: space!

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