For a place called the Sunflower State, Kansas is actually a pretty great destination for those who love the night sky. Perhaps it’s because the Cosmodrome is home to the Apollo 13 command module, or maybe it’s because Kansas’ current tourism campaign is “to the stars” – whatever the reason, Kansas is feelin’ the love for the night sky too – and there are some great places for stargazing in Kansas.
I’ve actually driven the length of Kansas – just once – including into one of the darkest, blackest nights I’ve ever experienced while living in the Midwest. Kansas is relatively rural outside from a few cities along the interstate highways… so if you want to find a dark spot to see the stars, there are definitely plenty to choose from.
Below you’ll find a list of some of the top stargazing spots in Kansas, showing off the natural beauty of this Midwest state by both day and night. Whether you call Kansas home or are traveling through as I was, I recommend taking the time to explore all that Kansas has to offer – by both day and night!
In this post, I promote traveling to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Washtáge Moⁿzháⁿ (Kaw / Kansa), Gáuigú (Kiowa), 𐓏𐒰𐓓𐒰𐓓𐒷 𐒼𐓂𐓊𐒻 𐓆𐒻𐒿𐒷 𐓀𐒰^𐓓𐒰^(Osage), Pâri (Pawnee), Nʉmʉnʉʉ Sookobitʉ (Comanche), Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute) 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 Kansas
Did you know that Kansas has its own itsy-bitsy grand canyon? It does, and it’s in Arikaree Breaks.
Thousands of years ago, receding ocean and later receding glaciers carved an amazing miniature Grand Canyon in the remote Northwest corner of Kansas. Most visitors come to see the beauty that drops off right in front of them, but the beautiful vistas extend well up into the sky.
The darkness that opens up above the badlands gifts visitors with some of the most gorgeous stars ever seen.
Cimarron National Grassland
Right at the tip of Kansas’s southwest corner is the Cimarron National Grasslands, a great place for stargazing in Kansas. Besides the complete darkness, the property has a particular feel to it.
The thick grass between your legs, the strong wind blowing at your face, the lonely cows staring at you… it’s like time stood still here, and the plains look as they would have before settlement. If you love the feeling of immensity our cosmos evokes, come here and have it multiplied by ten.
Clark State Fishing Lake
As the name suggests, Clark State Fishing Lake is an ideal place to go fishing or to practice any water sports, for that matter.
The lake is surrounded by flat farmlands and pasturelands that create a shield against the pesky urban lights. The prairie hilltops and canyon sides are excellent spots for stargazing. Campgrounds near the lake are pretty good options for setting up your telescope, too.
Cross Timbers State Park
Cross Timbers State Park is a hidden gem in South Central Kansas. Only two hours away from Kansas City, the park is not as popular as it could be. So, basically, you can pop in any day of the week to gaze at the stars, and you’ll have the whole place for yourself – most of your company will be tent campers and fishermen.
For stargazing, you may have to walk away from the campgrounds. The green hills that surround the lake have plenty of open spaces.
Fall River State Park
Forested floodplains, tall grass prairie, and blackjack savannah cover the 980 acres of Fall River State Park. But it’s not the diversity of landscapes that promises stargazers an unforgettable night under the skies. The park is nestled in the Flint Hills region, nothing less than one of the darkest regions in the state.
Naturally, Fall River State Park is one of the most popular Kansas stargazing spots. You don’t even need to bring a telescope or binoculars. The stars’ beauty can be appreciated with just your eye.
Observatories are always a great door to the wonders of our galaxy. Kansas has the Farpoint Observatory – and a few more I’ll tell you about in a minute.
This observatory may not look like much, but it has discovered more than 600 asteroids! It ticks all the points in a stargazing checklist: it’s located far enough from a metropolitan area, has a powerful telescope, and has a fabulous team of volunteers determined to make you love astronomy.
Glacial Hills Scenic Byway
I doubt you can find a more gorgeous place for stargazing in Kansas than the Glacial Hills Scenic Byway. The byway almost borders the winding Missouri River and passes through rolling hills, rock-strewn valleys, rich farmland, and several historic gems.
There’s no shortage of stargazing nooks along the drive; just grab your car and drive until you find a nice dark spot to pull over and watch the stars.
Goodman State Fishing Lake
Goodman State Fishing Lake is a nice small park in Ness City. It’s a great alternative for solitary stargazers. The park is only 225 acres, and there’s not much to do besides fishing or camping. However, we stargazers don’t need much more than open space and dark skies.
Feel free to explore the area and find a suitable spot for yourself. There are also a couple of primitive campsites if you’d like to spend the night.
Lake Afton Public Observatory
Lake Afton Public Observatory is another observatory worth checking out in the sunflower state. The facility is home to a 16-inch F/13 Ritchey–Chrétien telescope along with a piggyback-mounted 6-inch F/8 apochromatic refractor.
It also has a dark sky area where amateur astronomers bring and share their own telescopes. The staff is friendly and informative, and the entrance fee is affordable for kids and adults. What’s not to like?
Lovewell State Park
Located near Webber, Lovewell State Park is a great stargazing spot if you’re looking for something more off the beaten path. Secluded and quiet are two adjectives that go pretty well with this park. The park doesn’t offer a ton of activities other than fishing, so you won’t find big families or groups here. Instead, you’ll find road trippers who need an overnight stay or a lot of fishers with a cane in the 2,900-acre lake.
Before you arrive and get disappointed, Mt. Sunflower isn’t a true mountain. So don’t expect to see a peak jutting off the ground – you’re in Kansas, remember.
However, Mt. Sunflower still is the state’s highest point at 4,039 feet. The mount is in the middle of nowhere (you have to drive down a dusty road to get there) but sits under the most beautiful dark skies. Bear in mind the mount is part of private property, but the owner is friendly. So are the cattle that will photobomb your night shot the entire time.
Mushroom Rock State Park
Mushroom Rock State Park is one of the top places for stargazing in Kansas, especially if you enjoy astrophotography.
The smallest state park in Kansas, Mushroom Rock is only 5 acres, and is regarded as one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Geography. And its title is well deserved. The peculiar-shaped rocks resembling mushrooms are not something you see every day. They look even better against a dark sky filled with stars.
Powell Observatory is not a big observatory, but that’s what people love about it. The venue has a friendly atmosphere, and the staff does a great job making everyone interested in astronomy.
For every event, they tend to have free items for the kiddos who aspire to or are just curious about planetary events. They also let kids press the buttons to position the telescope or even climb some stairs to look through it at the eyepiece. Last but not least, prices are affordable, too!
Sheridan Wildlife Area
Sheridan Wildlife Area spreads over 500 acres, and 80 of them are covered by timber resources. The property is very charming. There are colorful pheasants, hard-working beavers creating pools with fallen wood in the river, ducks taking a bath in said pools, and white-tailed deer roaming around… feels like a fairytale.
Back to stargazing, the area is all darkness once the night comes, and the only light you’ll see is the one from the stars above.
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is, by far, one of the best Kansas stargazing destinations. True to its name, the national preserve is home to miles and miles of prairie…and a couple of bison here and there.
Stargazing here is an enriching experience not only because of the sky’s beauty but also the history of the place. The tallgrass prairie ecosystem has been essential in American history. This land was once traveled by settlers, wagons, and Indians and later used by farmers for their cattle. And now, it’s where you set up your telescope.
You know those places that just seem gifted by the nature? That’s Teter Rock. The odd-shaped rock may not be a “natural” geological formation – it’s an upended limestone monolith placed by James Teter as a marker for settlers to let them know they were on the right path to the Cottonwood River. However, it doesn’t make the palace any less special, and the nature around is just gorgeous, including up in the sky.
Get there around sunset, so you can see the sun washing the Flint Hills and the wild horses in shades of red and orange.
Webster State Park
Still want one more spot to get your dose of astronomy in Kansas? Webster State Park is in the city of Stockton. A small park, it attracts mainly families looking for a fun day out in nature. There’s a sandy beach, a lake, hiking trails, and campgrounds. For stargazers, it offers expansive rolling hills and lots of stars against the darkest night sky.
Have any questions about these spots for stargazing in Kansas, or know of other ones I should add to my list? Let me know in the comments below!