7 National Parks in the Path of the 2023 Solar Eclipse
They may call us “eclipse chasers” or maybe even “umbraphiles” (those who love the sun’s umbra or shadow) – but we don’t care. We know there’s nothing more impressive on our planet than watching the shadow of the moon slide over the landscape, dimming the sun and reminding us of our place in the great celestial dance of our solar system.
That’s right – it’s that time again: time to plan a trip for the next solar eclipse!
The next solar eclipse in the U.S. is coming up fast – October 2023 – and if you haven’t started planning, you might have to adjust your original plans; some 6.6 million people live in the path of this annular solar eclipse, also called a “ring of fire” eclipse for how it looks in the sky. That’s not counting the 110 million people who live within 600 miles and might travel to view it – like me!
Wherever you live and no matter how far you’re planning to travel, there are some fantastic options for viewing this eclipse – including a number of national parks in the path of the 2023 solar eclipse. Below I’ve detailed each of those national parks, as well national monuments in the path too. These natural and cultural gems are a great place to view the eclipse since you’ll have plenty to do before and after viewing annularity – including stargazing!
Note: As part of writing this post, I’ve linked over to my other travel site for additional resources about visiting the national parks I’ve had the chance to explore personally. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself on another site and see my face there too!
In this post, I promote traveling to a national park that is the traditional lands of the Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla, Diné Bikéyah, Goshute, Hopitutskwa, Klamath, Molalla, Navajo, Nuwuvi (Southern Paiute), Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute), Pueblos, and Timpanogos peoples, and the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, among others. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
2023 Annular Solar Eclipse Details
While I have an entire guide to the 2023 solar eclipse forthcoming, I thought it would be helpful to cover the basics here:
- In the U.S., the annular solar eclipse begins at 9:13 a.m. PDT and ends at 12:03 p.m. CDT.
- The path will go from northwest to southeast across the U.S., from Oregon to Texas.
- As it is an annular solar eclipse, it will look like a “ring of fire,” and you need to wear protective eclipse glasses to view this eclipse.
Don’t have protective eclipse-viewing glasses? Look for ISO-certified options on Amazon – and be sure to buy them in advance, as they sold out for the 2017 total solar eclipse!
Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake in Oregon is the first national park that will be in the path of annularity; it’s going to be a “ring of fire” in the sky above the ring of water that sits in this ancient cinder cone around Wizard Island (the name of the island in Crater Lake). Honestly, this is the national park where I’d most love to see the 2023 annular solar eclipse for that reason – it’s just so poetic!
As with many national parks, Crater Lake has limited accommodation options in and near the park, and it’s entirely possible that it may have snowed at the park’s elevation by the time the eclipse happens in mid-October; Crater Lake receives an average of 21 inches (53cm) of snow in October. Luckily, October is a generally clear-skied month from the cloud perspective, so the eclipse will hopefully be visible no matter what’s on the ground.
Great Basin National Park
Great Basin National Park is one of my personal favorite parks; it’s small but offers a lot, and is less crowded than some of the more iconic parks in the system – or even on this list.
Located in eastern Nevada, Great Basin will have a great view and about four minutes of annularity on the morning of the solar eclipse. October tends to be right at the end of the season before most of the park closes for winter, so you can still plan to visit some of the other sights in the park like Lehman Caves, the Bristlecone Pines, and Nevada’s only glacier (Wheeler Peak Glacier) during your visit.
Baker, Nevada, is the gateway city to Great Basin – and it is a very small town. If accommodation is available still, book it NOW.
Capitol Reef National Park
Overlooked for its southern siblings, Capitol Reef National Park is my favorite of Utah’s Mighty 5 parks; it’s a geological wonderland where you can get a sense for the massive scale of planetary forces that shape the world we know today.
In terms of the solar eclipse, it’s a nice option because it has a good tourism infrastructure in the area. The gateway town of Torrey is one in a string leading into Capitol Reef along Utah State Highway 24; there are lots of accommodation options compared to most other parks in the path of totality.
Additionally, there’s tons to do during your visit to Capitol Reef after the eclipse has ended: hiking, viewing petroglyphs, noshing on pie, and stargazing all make my personal list. Temperatures and weather are very agreeable with little to no rain, no snow, and warmer average highs to make for a great visit to the park.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Located further southeast from Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon National Park is a hiker and backpacker’s park – the beautiful stone hoodoos are otherworldly and it’s easy to spend a few days enjoying sunrise, hiking all day, watching sunset, and then stargazing after that. Adding an eclipse on top will just make for an even better visit.
Unfortunately, as a park that caters to those who want to get off the grid, it has relatively less infrastructure for a crowd of eclipse-chasers like us. Similar to Great Basin, you should book any accommodation you can find available now; it won’t last.
Canyonlands National Park
I visited Canyonlands National Park at the same time as visiting Arches National Park back in 2020 – and I think it’s a little funny that Canyonlands is in the path of annularity while Arches is not – they’re just a few miles apart! That goes to show how precise the lines of annularity/totality are.
In any case, base yourself from Moab if you’re planning to try and see the eclipse from Canyonlands; there’s basically no accommodation within the Islands in the Sky district so you’ll need to make the drive up into the park on the morning of the eclipse.
While I’d love to see the annular eclipse over the jaw-droppingly beautiful landscapes of Canyonlands, I have a feeling that it’s going to be a very popular destination. For a backup, Dead Horse Point State Park nearby is also in the path of the eclipse and is a popular stargazer’s destination so will be equally excited to celebrate.
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park
I would be extremely remiss to not include Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, which is also in the path of annularity for the 2023 solar eclipse. Monument Valley is not part of the National Park Service due to the sovereignty of the Navajo Nation, but that perhaps makes it a more unique experience. It is, after all, one of the most iconic landscapes in the American West, and will be unforgettable under the otherworldly light of a ring of fire eclipse.
However, being outside U.S. jurisdiction means things work a bit differently in Monument Valley, so you’ll want to pay special attention to any notices on the Navajo Nation Parks & Recreation website for closures or access considerations – and as with other parks, you’ll want to book your accommodation immediately to make sure you have a spot to stay before and/or after the eclipse.
Mesa Verde National Park
Last but not least, Colorado’s Mesa Verde National Park is the final national park in the path of the 2023 solar eclipse. This park is best known for its evidence of Ancestral Puebloan people who left incredible stone buildings and communities carved into the alcoves of this verdant mesa; it’s fascinating to think about how these people might have interpreted the experience of an eclipse in the past.
Mesa Verde is actually a great umbraphile’s park: it experienced an annular solar eclipse in 2012, and will also be in the path of the 2024 total solar eclipse in addition to this one in 2023.
In terms of logistics, the closest major community is Durango, Colorado, an hour’s drive east from the park. Be prepared for traffic and crowds on the day of the eclipse so rise and shine early to make your way into the park for a spot where you can view the Ring of Fire.
National Monuments in the Path
In addition to the official “national parks” in the path of the 2023 solar eclipse, there are a number of national monuments that are also in the path of annularity. While these might not have that coveted national park status, they are equally cool landscapes and natural wonders among which to view the incredible celestial dance of an eclipse.
- Lava Beds National Monument – Located in northeast California, this extremely remote park is a great place for those interested in exploring the concept of life underground on other planets like Mars – after watching the eclipse, of course.
- Natural Bridges National Monument – Another incredible wonder in Utah, Natural Bridges is a good option for those who wish Arches National Park was in the path of the eclipse. There is relatively less tourism infrastructure in the area though, so plan ahead!
- Canyon de Chelly National Monument – While the Grand Canyon isn’t in the path of annularity for this eclipse, there is a great back-up if you want to see a ring of fire over a canyon: Arizona’s Canyon de Chelly is quite close to the Navajo Nation, too.
- Aztec Ruins National Monument – Eclipse over historic ruins – but not Mesa Verde? You’ve got options. Arizona’s Aztec Ruins is your first one…
- Chaco Culture National Monument – New Mexico’s Chaco Culture is another…
- Bandelier National Monument – And Bandelier is your third. This is my personal top choice as I visited in late 2022 and loved this area. It’s also right near Los Alamos National Lab, which is great for science-loving folks who want to learn more about that chapter of American history.
- El Malpais National Monument – Also located in New Mexico, El Malpais is the southern equivalent of the Badlands (a park which is not) in the path of this eclipse. It’s a good option for astrophotographers hoping to avoid the crowds of more popular parks.
- Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument – Okay, one more park focused on ruins in the path; Salinas Pueblo Missions, this time Spanish Missions and the legacy of missionary work in the area.
As you can see, there are lots of options! It’s all about finding a national park (or national monument) that offers activities you want to enjoy after the eclipse, and planning your trip ASAP.
Have any questions about the national parks in the path of the 2023 solar eclipse? Let me know in the comments below!