When it comes to sightseeing in the United States, Arizona doesn’t typically make the list. Sure, there’s the Grand Canyon – and that is definitely a crowd pleaser –, but most people flock to the coasts and the big cities when they’re exploring the U.S. That is, unless you’re a night sky fanatic, and you want to go stargazing in Arizona. Then you already know that Arizona’s one of the best places in the country to do so.
Below you’ll find a sample of some of the best stargazing spots in Arizona, but this barely scratches the surface. Arizona is home to over a dozen certified dark sky places plus countless others where you can camp or stay for a night and see the wonders of the night sky above. Even better, Arizona’s great climate ensures clear skies and low humidity pretty much year round (outside monsoon season July to September), so your forecast is likely clear.
If you want to go stargazing in Arizona, use these 10 awesome spots as inspiration – and plan your stargazing trip to whichever one calls out to you.
Arizona Sky Village
If you want dark skies 24/7, there’s one place you can find it: Arizona Sky Village. This community is so dedicated to protecting the dark skies that it’s one of the best places in the country to see the stars as a result.
Don’t be surprised if you meet amateur astronomers and astrophotographers if you spend an evening in Arizona Sky Village. It’s one of those places where residents will all support your nocturnal habits.
Kitt Peak National Observatory
Kitt Peak is a major observatory just over 50 miles from Tucson, Arizona. It is considered to be the single most diverse collection of astronomical instruments in the northern hemisphere.
Kitt Peak is home to 22 optical telescopes and two radio telescopes, and its visitor center is open to the public on a daily basis.
- Address: Tucson, AZ 85634
- Website: noao.edu/kpno
Lowell Observatory is located outside Flagstaff, the closest large city to the Grand Canyon. Among those who love astronomical history, it’s also known by a specific nickname: “The Home of Pluto.” You see, astronomer Clyde Tombaugh discovered the dwarf planet Pluto from Lowell Observatory in 1930!
Today, you can visit Lowell Observatory to learn more about astronomy topics (including Pluto!) and interact with exhibits on topics including the important role Lowell Observatory played in the Apollo program and the research which helped us understand how our universe is expanding. Of course you can also visit for both solar observations and evening stargazing every day of the week except Sundays.
- Address: 1400 W Mars Hill Rd, Flagstaff, AZ 86001
- Website: lowell.edu
McDowell Mountain Regional Park
McDowell Mountain Regional Park is a 21,099-acre area of desert land surrounded by mountains, close to Phoenix. While you might worry about the light pollution from Arizona’s biggest city, the huge size of McDowell Mountain Regional Park means you’re pretty well protected from any city lights. You’re almost guaranteed to get a clear, open view of the sky.
Note that McDowell Mountain Regional Park does close officially at sunset, so this is best for sunset, twilight, and early night stargazing.
- Address: 16300 McDowell Mountain Park Dr., Scottsdale, AZ 85268
- Website: maricopacountyparks.net
If you can imagine one of the country’s most iconic landscapes, it might be Monument Valley. This stunning landscape was carved by wind and water over the millennia, today it’s a massive open space with rock formations to admire during the day – and outrageously beautiful night skies overhead at night.
Monument Valley is part of the Navajo Nation, which means you’ll need a guide and tribal permission to visit the land and stay overnight. It’s well worth it for those views though!
- Website: navajonationparks.org
Mount Lemmon SkyCenter
Mount Lemmon SkyCenter is known for having some of 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 in Arizona – and really, in the country! – and is a place you can’t afford to miss.
- Address: 9800 E. Ski Run Road, Mt. Lemmon, AZ 85619
- Website: skycenter.arizona.edu
Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park is named after the large species of cacti that can be found in the region. Like the other places 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.
To visit Saguaro National Park, you’ll need an America the Beautiful Pass; make sure you carry it with you at night in case you find rangers on patroll.
- Address: 3693 S. Old Spanish Trail, Tucson, AZ 85730
- Website: nps.gov/sagu
Sedona is easily one of the best Dark Sky Communities in the world – as you well know if you’ve read our Sedona stargazing guide. Surrounded by towering red rocks that draw crowds during the day, the town of Sedona is in a desert community with high altitudes and clear skies almost every night. As a result, there are are also Sedona stargazing tours and events where you’ll have access to expert astronomers and state of the art equipment.
- Address: Sedona, AZ 86336
- Website: visitsedona.com
The Grand Canyon
Both Grand Canyon National Park and nearby Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument are certified Dark Sky Parks, but we don’t need to tell you that this is one of the most popular stargazing spots in the whole United States.
The Grand Canyon draws astrotourists all year long, especially in the month of June when they host their annual star party. This events draw thousands of visitors each year and gives you a chance to spend time with astronomers and unlock the wonders of the night sky while standing near one of the wonders of the natural world.
- Website: nps.gov/grca
Verde River Greenway State Natural Area
Verde River Greenway State Natural Area is well worth it if you want to see the stars, especially if you’re on a stargazing road trip north to Sedona or Grand Canyon.
Verde River Greenway State Natural Area is far removed from any light pollution, making it an ideal spot for stargazing. Fishing, swimming, and kayaking are also popular activities here during the day, and you can stay in the nearby Dark Sky Community of Oak Creek overnight.
- Address: 2011 Kestrel Rd., Cottonwood, AZ 86326
- Website: azstateparks.com
There are loads of other great stargazing spots in Arizona – which ones did we miss? Which one is your favorite? Let us know in the comments.