Tucson, Arizona is arguably the best city for stargazing in the United States – if not the world. Home to the International Dark-Sky Association (STG founder Valerie is a proud member!), the city of Tucson has taken large and bold steps to reduce light pollution, and it is one of the best mid-sized cities where you can stargaze right within the city.
To narrow down the best spots for stargazing in a city that’s already great for stargazing, this guide points out some of the notable or interesting opportunities. This is by no means an exhaustive list of stargazing spots in Tucson, but it’s a good list to get you started. Whether you live in Tucson or are visiting, here’s where you can see the night sky in all its glory.
The Best Spots for Stargazing in Tucson
This list of stargazing spots in and near Tucson focuses more on the best places surrounding the city. To see the full list on a map, explore below:
Add these spots to your list to learn more about the night sky right within Tucson.
Flandrau Science Center
The Flandrau Science Center has a 16-inch telescope that is free to use for the public. It is usually open on Thursdays and Saturdays, but it’s best to call ahead of time just in case. It’s run by volunteer astronomers who can show you some of the more fascinating aspects of our universe.
1601 E. University Blvd., Tucson, AZ 85721, flandrau.org
Photo credit: jimmy thomas via Flickr
The Steward Observatory can be found at the University of Arizona and is the research arm for their Department of Astronomy. They frequently hold astronomical events for the public. It is possible to take tours of their mirror labs on most days of the week.
933 N. Cherry Ave., Tucson, AZ 85719, as.arizona.edu
Loews Ventana Canyon Resort
Loews Ventana Canyon Resort is a luxury resort that frequently holds stargazing parties. Its low light pollution and natural surroundings make it an excellent spot to watch the night sky. It’s a great place to go if you want to relax in the daytime and observe the stars at night.
7000 N. Resort Dr., Tucson, AZ 85750, loewshotels.com/ventana-canyon
Starizona is a retail store in Tucson that specializes in astronomy-related equipment. They are well-known for their Hyperstar line of lenses. They also hold stargazing events every week on Friday and Saturday nights.
5757 N. Oracle Rd., Tucson, AZ 85704, starizona.com
Stargazing Spots Within One Hour of Tucson
Within an hour of Tucson, you have a wide range of choices for stargazing. From observatories to the desert to protected parks, here are some of the spots where the night sky seems to shine most bright near Tucson.
Kitt Peak is a major observatory just over 50 miles from Tucson. It is considered to be the single most diverse collection of astronomical instruments in the northern hemisphere. It has 22 optical telescopes and two radio telescopes, and its visitor center is open to the public on a daily basis.
Tucson, AZ 85634, noao.edu/kpno
Photo credit: Steve via Flickr
Kartchner Caverns State Park
Kartchner Caverns is a popular state park that features a cave system that’s open to tourists. It’s also known to hold star parties on occasion. The skies get nice and dark here, which can lead to some excellent stargazing opportunities.
2980 S. Hwy. 90, Benson, AZ 85602, azstateparks.com
Oracle State Park
This state park doubles as a wildlife refuge and features a wide assortment of animal life. It’s also a frequent spot for the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association to host their events. Oracle State Park is a certified Dark Sky Park, making it a great spot to see the Milky Way. Along with stargazing, it’s also a good place for hiking.
3820 Wildlife Dr., Oracle, AZ 85623, azstateparks.com
Saguaro National Park
This national park is named after the large species of cacti that can be found in the region. Like the other parks on this list, you can find star parties being hosted here on occasion. There’s very little light pollution, and you get a wide open view of the sky at night.
3693 S. Old Spanish Trail, Tucson, AZ 85730, nps.gov
Photo credit: Bob Wick for BLM via Flickr
Catalina State Park
Catalina State Park can be found right next to the Santa Catalina Mountains. It is a popular spot for camping, hiking, and birdwatching. It is also another spot where the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association likes to host their star parties.
11570 N. Oracle Rd., Tucson, AZ 85737, azstateparks.com
Tumacácori National Historical Park
The Tumacácori National Historical Park is the home of the ruins of three Spanish missionaries and the Tumacácori Museum. This area has a lot of history behind it, and it’s another spot frequented by the Tucson Amateur Astronomical Society. It’s a good place to go stargazing while experiencing some culture at the same time.
1891 I-19 Frontage Rd., Tumacácori, AZ 85640, nps.gov
Stargazing Spots Within Two Hours of Tucson
This list of stargazing spots within two hours of Tucson is short… in part because Phoenix, Arizona is less than two hours away! Be sure to check out that guide to stargazing spots near Phoenix to see other spots you can go stargazing.
Mount Lemmon SkyCenter
Mount Lemmon SkyCenter is known for having the largest public telescopes in the country. They also offer stargazing events on virtually every night of the year. This is simply one of the best stargazing spots you can find anywhere and is something you can’t afford to miss.
9800 E. Ski Run Road, Mt. Lemmon, AZ 85619, skycenter.arizona.edu
How Good is the Stargazing in Tucson?
Tucson is one of the best major cities in the United States to go stargazing. Although you do have to deal with some light pollution, the city has taken steps to keep its skies as dark as possible. For a city of this size, you simply can’t get any better than Tucson.
Photo credit: Stacy Egan via Flickr
Furthermore, Arizona is one of the best states in the country for observing the stars. Its clear skies and desert climate provide the best conditions for stargazing. This, along with the many national parks in the area and the work of the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association, makes Tucson one of best places to go if you want to do some serious stargazing.
Best TImes of Year to Go Stargazing in Tucson
In Tucson, it doesn’t really matter when you decide to go stargazing. Conditions are good year round, and you can expect up to 200 nights of clear skies per year. That said, you’ll probably want to avoid the summer and the winter months just so you won’t have to deal with any extreme temperatures. This will also give you your best chance of seeing the Milky Way.
Also, it’s a good idea to watch out for Arizona’s monsoon season. This typically lasts from June to September and tends to bring heavy rain and other hazardous conditions.
Can You See the Milky Way in Tucson?
Photo credit: Bob Wick for BLM via Flickr
If you’re looking for a place to see the Milky Way near Tucson, the best thing to do is head over to Oracle State Park. This park, in particular, is a certified Dark Sky Park, meaning it has some of the darkest skies you can find. This makes it one of the best spots in Arizona to see the Milky Way.
Due to Tucson’s favorable conditions, you are likely to see the Milky Way in many other spots as well. It can be seen from many of the area’s parks and observatories when the conditions are right.