Similar to its western neighbor, Arizona, New Mexico is one of those states that is pretty much ideal for stargazing. Great climate, high elevations, and relatively sparse population mean that when you strike out from one of the cities in New Mexico, it’s not hard to find pristine dark skies.
After making a short trip to New Mexico in 2021 to view the first Virgin Galactic launch with Sir Richard Branson aboard, I was hooked on exploring more of this southwestern state. And especially for the quality of darkness overhead once the hot sun sets.
Albuquerque is the largest city in New Mexico, and while it’s not the capital city, it is the one most travelers will visit. It’s a great cultural and historic city by day – and by night you can get out to enjoy the star-filled sky above. Read on to learn about the best stargazing spots in Albuquerque and the surrounding regions of New Mexico.
This post was originally published in June 2018, and was updated for accuracy in January 2022.
Featured photo by Yelper_for_life via Flickr
The Best Spots for Stargazing in Albuquerque
As is the case with most cities, your options for stargazing within Albuquerque are admittedly limited. That said, there are still ways to experience the night sky even if you can’t head out of town. Browse this map for a few of the top spots to stargaze in Albuquerque, then read on to learn more about them.
The University of New Mexico
The University of New Mexico’s Physics and Astronomy Department features a Campus Observatory with a 14-inch telescope. This observatory is open to the public every Friday night. It’s free of charge, and there are experts on hand that can help you with anything you need.
Albuquerque, NM 87131, unm.edu
New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science
The New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science hosts stargazing events on a monthly basis. Every event will have experts who can guide you through all the major planets and constellations. The museum also has a planetarium where you can learn more about our universe.
1801 Mountain Rd. NW, Albuquerque, NM 87104, nmnaturalhistory.org
Bachechi Open Space
The Bachechi Open Space is a 27-acre area of open farmland. Its isolation from city lights makes it a favorite spot for the Albuquerque Astronomical Society. Star Parties are held every now and then, and anyone is welcome to join in on the fun.
9521 Rio Grande Blvd. NW, Albuquerque, NM 87114, abqtodo.com
Stargazing Spots Within One Hour of Albuquerque
Within an hour of Albuquerque, you’ll be able to reach some even more impressive stargazing spots. These are popular spots that where you may meet other stargazers – or can even attend events an star parties being hosted!
Cerrillos Hills State Park
Some of the hills in this state park stand nearly 7000 feet above sea level. This makes it a great spot to escape the city and get an up-close look at the sky. You can also find occasional stargazing events being held here.
Co Rd. 59, Los Cerrillos, NM 87010, emnrd.state.nm.us
Placitas is a small town that’s only thirty minutes away from Albuquerque. It’s a tiny community surrounded by desert, and it’s far enough from the city that you don’t have to worry about light pollution. This makes it an ideal spot for stargazing.
Placitas, NM 87043
Sandia Mountain Natural History Center
The Sandia Mountain Natural History Center is an environmental education center located just twenty miles east of Albuquerque. The Albuquerque Astronomical Society frequently comes here for its high altitudes and desert environment. While the Natural History Center generally isn’t open to the public, you can check their website to see any upcoming public programs including stargazing events and plan your trip accordingly.
60 Columbine Ln., Cedar Crest, NM 87008, aps.edu/smnhc/home
Stargazing Spots Within Two Hours of Albuquerque
If you want to make a weekend of your stargazing expedition and are willing to drive up to two hours out from Albuquerque, you’ll be well rewarded with stunning dark skies and other stargazing-related experiences. These places round out the list to show you why New Mexico is such a great stargazing destination.
New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology
The Astronomy Club at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology has a student-run observatory with very high-quality equipment. Star parties are held throughout the year, and anyone can participate. It’s a fun, laid-back environment for observing the sky.
801 Leroy Pl., Socorro, NM 87801, nmt.edu
Hyde Memorial State Park
Hyde Memorial State Park was New Mexico’s first state park and is a popular spot for hiking and camping. Although it’s located north of Santa Fe, it’s still a great place for stargazing. You get a clear view of the sky, and you don’t have to worry about light pollution. If you want to spend the night under the stars, then this is the place to go.
740 Hyde Park Rd., Santa Fe, NM 87501, emnrd.state.nm.us
Very Large Array
The Very Large Array is one of the world’s largest radio observatories. Its remoteness also makes it one of the best spots in New Mexico for watching the stars. Self-guided tours are available every day, and all tours are free of charge.
Socorro, NM 87825, vla.nrao.edu
Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge
The Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge consists of 30,000 acres of wilderness. As such, it’s not difficult to find nice, dark areas at night to get a good view of the stars. It also features a wide variety of wildlife, including 358 species of birds. This makes it a fantastic place in the daytime as well.
1001 NM-1, San Antonio, NM 87832, fws.gov
This observatory can be found on the New Mexico Tech campus and is home to the NMT Astronomy Club. They host a number of star parties during the year, including the annual Enchanted Sky Star Party. Its location was chosen in an effort to avoid light pollution, which makes it one of the best spots for stargazing in New Mexico.
Buck Wolfe Dr., Socorro, NM 87801, mro.nmt.edu
Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument
Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument is a historical site that consists of a series of Spanish missionaries. It’s also a certified Dark Sky Park. Incredible stargazing opportunities can be had anywhere at this site, especially its Gran Quivira Ruins.
102 South Ripley St., Mountainair, NM 87036, nps.gov
El Malpais National Monument
El Malpais National Monument is a large area of protected land that’s full of lava tube caves, cinder cones, and sandstone bluffs. There’s almost no light pollution to speak of, and the skies are nice and dark at night. This has made it a popular spot for stargazers, and star parties are held here on a regular basis.
110000 Ice Cave Rd., Grants, NM 87020, nps.gov
How Good is the Stargazing in Albuquerque?
When it comes to major cities, Albuquerque is one of the best places for a stargazer to live. Although you’ll have to deal with a lot of light pollution within the city, you don’t have to drive too far to get an incredible view of the stars.
New Mexico, in general, is one of the best states in the country for stargazing. Its sparse population, clear skies, and lack of humidity make it very easy to get a great look at the stars at night.
Best Times of Year to Go Stargazing in Albuquerque
Because of New Mexico’s desert environment, you can go stargazing at nearly any time during the year. You can expect a clear view of the sky almost every night.
The only thing you really need to be aware of is the moon. For the best stargazing experience, you want to wait until there’s a New Moon in the sky. This way, you won’t have to deal with any excess light interfering with your view.
Can You See the Milky Way in Albuquerque?
Unfortunately, you’re not going to see the Milky Way in the city itself. However, it is possible to see it in almost any spot mentioned within two hours of Albuquerque if the conditions are right. The further you get from the city, the better your chances of seeing our galaxy.
This is especially true for Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. Because this site is an International Dark Sky Park, it will provide you with your best chance of seeing the Milky Way.
Do you have other questions about stargazing in Albuquerque? Let me know in the comments.