Back when it was chartered in 1768, the area that would become Charlotte, North Carolina was part of one of 13 colonies administered by King George III and his British government. Unlike elsewhere in the colonies where resentments were stoking against the royals, the residents of this community were less unhappy: they named their town – Charlotte – after the King’s bride. Charlotte, North Carolina, was born, and its nickname, “the Queen City,” has stuck ever since.
Charlotte and its surrounding areas offer surprisingly good spots for stargazing, perfect for those enchanted by celestial wonders and expansive night skies. With a handful of notable locations from local parks to nearby observatories, astronomy enthusiasts will find no shortage of places to lay their blankets, pitch their telescopes, and immerse themselves in the cosmic ballet overhead. For those willing to venture a bit further, a cosmos of stars await you just beyond the city lights.
Ready to discover the stars above the Queen City? Here are the best places for stargazing in Charlotte and within a few hours’ drive.
In this post, I promote traveling to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Cheraw, Mánu: Yį Įsuwą (Catawba), and Sugaree peoples, 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.
Stargazing Spots in Charlotte
Finding places for stargazing in Charlotte is not an easy task. Like most big cities, perky urban lights basically hinder any possibility of the stars making an appearance in the dark sky. But, in case you need a spot to get a quick fix for your stargazing session, here’s one great place for watching the stars in Charlotte.
UNC Charlotte Observatory
Located within the campus of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, the UNC Charlotte Observatory is the best place for a Charlotte stargazing adventure. It’s equipped with telescopes and other state-of-the-art astronomical instruments and offers public observing nights on select dates.
You can join fellow enthusiasts and explore celestial wonders like planets, stars, and distant galaxies under the guidance of knowledgeable astronomers.
Stargazing Spots within 1 Hour of Charlotte
If you’re willing to drive away from the city, you’ll find spots with considerably less light pollution and better skies.
Just a short drive east of Charlotte lies Albemarle, a small city with considerably less light pollution. It only has 15,903 people. If you drive down 24/27, you’ll find some decent fields. You can also find a cozy spot in Morrow Mountain State Park or any other rural area, and set up a telescope to observe the night sky.
Crowders Mountain State Park
Head southwest to Crowders Mountain State Park for one of the best Charlotte stargazing points. The park is filled with elevated vantage points that provide unobstructed views of the night sky. There’s a chance you’re an avid stargazer but not so much of a hiker. If you’re looking for a shorter way up, take the Linwood access.
If you want a hefty hike, take Sparrow Springs access. There are lots of opportunities for photography for those into nature photography. The park also has campgrounds if you wish to rough it overnight
Mayland Earth to Sky Park
Located near Spruce Pine, just over an hour’s drive northwest of Charlotte, Mayland Earth to Sky Park is an environmental educational park. Admittedly, it is a remote location, not every GPS can locate it. It’s on an old landfill, away from urban centers, that offers exceptional conditions for stargazing.
The park has a fantastic observatory and planetarium where you can enjoy guided stargazing events or bring your equipment for a solo adventure into the depths of the universe.
For those seeking stargazing spots closer to Charlotte, Mint Hill is an excellent choice. Just a short drive east of the city, this charming suburb boasts relatively darker skies compared to the urban core. You can find a quiet spot in Mint Hill Veterans Memorial Park, spread out a blanket, and bask in the starry spectacle above.
For another alternative, down New Salem and Honeybee roads there are a bunch of fields that nobody would bother you with if you just parked off the side of the road.
Stargazing Spots within 2 Hours of Charlotte
It’s no secret that the further you drive away from big cities, the better skies you’ll find and the better the stargazing conditions you’ll have. Below you’ll find five great stargazing spots within 2 hours of Charlotte.
Blue Ridge Parkway
The scenic drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway will reward you with astounding views of the night sky and endless stargazing opportunities. This iconic roadway meanders through the majestic Appalachian Mountains. There are tons of overlooks where you can park and admire the night sky – Crabtree Falls Overlook is a great place to see the Milky Way as this area to the southwest is near the core of the Milky Way.
Brown Mountain Overlook
Located within Pisgah National Forest, Brown Mountain Overlook became famous for the legendary “Brown Mountain Lights.” While the lights’ origin remains a mystery, the area’s dark skies make it an exceptional stargazing destination.
You can set up camp at the overlook, and witness a spectacle that includes, besides the unexplained multi-colored lights, shooting stars and, with some luck, the Milky Way.
Continuing along the Blue Ridge Parkway, about two hours north of Charlotte, you’ll find Doughton Park. This park is one of the larger protected tracts along the Blue Ridge Parkway. You’ll find scenic locations for stargazing. There are hiking trails that run through pastures and meadows, coves and valleys, and along streams. Pitch a tent at one of the park’s campgrounds or explore the wonders of the night sky.
Pisgah National Forest
As one of North Carolina’s natural treasures, Pisgah National Forest is a prime destination for stargazing in Charlotte.
Outdoor enthusiasts will agree that the vast wilderness of the park has something for everyone. They have short hikes, long hikes, loops, out and back, scenery, rivers, and waterfalls. All you have to do is get out there and soak in the quiet beauty. As for stargazers, thigh elevations make it an ideal spot for watching the stars.
Uwharrie National Forest
If you travel to the south of Charlotte, you’ll find Uwharrie National Forest, a hidden gem for stargazers. Although it’s closer to the city, the forest’s remote locations and preserved natural landscapes do a good job hiding from the pesky city lights. The best alternative is to find a quiet spot near Badin Lake or venture into the woods for an immersive stargazing experience.
Have any questions about these spots for stargazing in Charlotte and the surrounding region? Or do you know of others I should add to this list? Let me know in the comments below!