Idaho is known as the “Gem State,” a nickname which derives from its abundant natural resources and scenic splendor; it’s also truly fitting as you discover the glittering gems of the night sky that sparkle above its mountains, forests, and rivers.
As you embark on a stargazing journey in Idaho, you’ll be captivated by the awe-inspiring celestial wonders that are revealed against the backdrop of the state’s pristine and diverse natural beauty.
From the mesmerizing depths of the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve, one of the largest and most pristine dark sky reserves in the world, to the serene shores of its numerous lakes, Idaho’s unspoiled landscapes provide an idyllic setting for stargazing enthusiasts of all levels.
Embrace the magic of the cosmos and immerse yourself in the infinite wonders of the universe as you explore the enchanting allure of the Gem State’s dark skies, at any of these awesome spots for stargazing in Idaho.
In this post, I promote traveling to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla, Lemhi-Shoshone, and Shoshone-Bannock 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.
Map of Where to Go Stargazing in Idaho
Bench Lakes Trail
Located in the Sawtooth National Forest, Bench Lakes Trail is a breathtaking hiking trail that takes you to a series of glacial lakes. The trail is known for its spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and its perfect location for stargazing in Idaho. The trailhead is only an hour and a half away from Boise, so it’s a popular spot for both locals and tourists. This said, it can be a little too busy for stargazers who prefer more solitude.
Boise National Forest
The Boise National Forest is a vast wilderness area. And by vast, I mean vast. It spans over 2,203,703 acres. The forest is a great place to get away and free your mind. It has lots of trails to hike, trout fishing galore, beautiful camp spots, and a sky with tons of stars to watch.
With its remote location and minimal light pollution, it’s an excellent place to stargaze. The forest’s high altitude also makes it ideal for viewing the cosmos. Plan on getting here at the end of a long stressful week to get some nature in, and enjoy some solitude.
I challenge you to find a more amazing spot for Idaho stargazing than the Boise Foothills. The foothills offer a stunning view of the city skyline, and the lack of light pollution makes it an ideal location to explore the universe and its wonders. It’s especially popular during the summer, where locals head to the area for hiking and mountain biking during the day.
Bruneau Dunes State Park
Few landscapes can magnify the beauty of a starry night quite like the dunes. Located in the southwestern part of the state, Bruneau Dunes State Park is home to 4,800 acres of sand dunes, including the tallest sand dune in North America, which stands at 470 feet.
The park has stunning dark skies, and has been working toward Dark Sky designation since 2019. Moreover, there’s an observatory where volunteers host viewing sessions throughout the year.
Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve
Covering over 1,400 square miles, the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve is a top region for stargazing in Idaho, as you might guess from its name. It is one of the largest dark sky reserves in the world and the first gold-tier dark sky preserve in the United States.
The reserve comprises three communities in Central Idaho: Sun Valley, Ketchum, and Stanley; these are great communities to base yourself from when visiting the region and heading out to go stargazing. It is popular for its stunning views of the Milky Way and you can stargaze at several spots, including Redfish Lake and Stanley Lake.
Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve
Sticking to the stargazing plot line, Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve is a unique landscape to observe the stars. The name says it all. The park is home to an extensive system of lava tubes, craters, and other volcanic features that resemble the moon’s surface. This is the closest you may ever get to being on the moon so totally worth the trip!
As if this wasn’t enough, the monument was designated an International Dark Sky Park in 2017 and hosts numerous star parties throughout the year.
I don’t know about you, but stargazing and remembering Hemingway – a writer who masterfully depicted the relationship between humans and nature in his novels – sounds like an adventure every stargazer should have.
The Ernest Hemingway Memorial is located in Sun Valley and offers a stunning view of the surrounding mountains. The memorial is also a popular spot for stargazing in Idaho, as its location away from the city lights provides a clear view of the night sky.
Knob Hill Natural Area
Located just outside of downtown Ketchum, Knob Hill Natural Area prides in having some of the best views in the city. The area’s high elevation and lack of light pollution make it an ideal spot for stargazing. This small park is home to several hiking trails and scenic viewpoints, where you’ll get to enjoy amazing vistas below and above your head.
Park Creek Overlook
Park Creek Overlook is a scenic Idaho stargazing location.The viewpoint sits at 6,535 feet high and is nestled in the heart of the Sawtooth National Forest. It offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and the starry sky expanding over the forest. Take your time and also take a short hike to explore the area further.
Ponderosa Pines Scenic Byway
Ponderosa Pines Scenic Byway is a 33-mile route through the heart of the Payette National Forest. The drive is known for its wonderful scenery: canyon lakes, babbling mountain streams, cool pine forests, alpine meadows, and majestic peaks. At night, the byway offers an excellent view of the star-filled sky. You can park your car at one of the many pullouts and enjoy the sight of the spiraling Milky Way.
Quinn’s Pond is the centerpiece of Bernardine Quinn Riverside Park. It’s a popular destination in Boise for outdoor activities. During the day, visitors can enjoy swimming, paddleboarding, and kayaking. At night, the pond offers an unobstructed view of the stars. Bring a blanket and lie down on the grass to take in the beauty of the night sky.
Sawtooth National Forest
Sawtooth National Forest is a vast wilderness area that offers endless opportunities for outdoor recreation. The forest offers endless stargazing opportunities. Some of the best areas for watching the sky are Galena Summit, Redfish Lake, and Stanley Lake.
The high elevation of the forest and its remote location away from the city lights make it an excellent place for stargazing. You can camp overnight in one of the forest’s campgrounds and be ready to enjoy a clear view of the starry night sky as soon as the sun goes down.
Stanley Lake is a picturesque lake located at the base of the Sawtooth Mountains. The lake is surrounded by majestic peaks and dense forests, making it a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Come the night, the lake offers an incredible view of the star-filled sky which gets reflected on the tranquil waters. You can camp at one of the many campsites and spend the whole night stargazing.
Stargaze Backcountry Yurt
Stargaze Backcountry Yurt is a unique Idaho stargazing accommodation. The yurt is located in the mountains at 6,569 feet high near the town of McCall and overlooks the entire eastern horizon! It offers a spectacular 270 degree view, which encompasses the beauty of Scott Mountain, Jackson Peak, Wolf Mountain, Steele Mountain, Pilots Peak, and the Sawtooth Mountains. It’s so gorgeous you won’t be able to stop looking at the stars when you’re there.
Have any questions about these places for stargazing in Idaho, or do you know of others I should add to the list? Let me know in the comments below!