Whether you think of the “slugger” or as a base for striking out to sip some damn good bourbon, Louisville is a place known for a lot – but not necessarily for seeing the night sky.
See, like most cities in the world, Louisville, Kentucky is plagued by the phenomenon of light pollution: the city lights tend to reflect and shine up into the sky, making it hard to see the stars even when the skies are clear of clouds and the humidity is low. This is an unfortunate reality for us urban dwellers – but that’s no reason to not try and go stargazing in Louisville and the surrounding area if you’re interested in astronomy.
Below you’ll find a list of some of the best places for stargazing in Louisville, from some near the city to those further away from the light bubble produced by all the people living there. You can use this post to plan a stargazing trip, whether it’s to see the Milky Way for the first time, catch a meteor shower, or spot a comet whizzing by.
In this post, I promote traveling to a destination that is the traditional lands of the 𐓏𐒰𐓓𐒰𐓓𐒷 𐒼𐓂𐓊𐒻 𐓆𐒻𐒿𐒷 𐓀𐒰^𐓓𐒰^(Osage), Myaamia, Shawandasse Tula (Shawanwaki/Shawnee), Kaskaskia, Hopewell Culture, and Adena Culture 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 Louisville
Like in every major city, finding a good place to go stargazing in Louisville is no less of a challenge. Still, I managed to find one great spot to see the night sky in Louisville.
The LAS Urban Astronomy Center
There may not be a ton of spots to go stargazing in Louisville, but the LAS Urban Astronomy Center makes up for it. The property is located in E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park and is the meeting point of The Louisville Astronomical Society (LAS). There are numerous stargazing events throughout the year, from star parties to solar system observations. The lectures are fantastic and a great way to introduce newbies in the art of stargazing. Make sure to check out LAS’s calendar to learn the dates of each event.
Stargazing Spots within 1 Hour of Louisville
Driving as little as one hour can make a huge difference in the quality of the sky above your head. Below you’ll find seven great spots within 1 hour of Louisville where you can get your astronomy fix.
Bernheim Forest Arboretum
Just 30 minutes away from Louisville, Bernheim Forest Arboretum is a stunning place to pursue your astronomy endeavors. This reserve was built by Mr. Bernheim in 1929, with the purpose of restoring the bond between people and nature.
A landscaped arboretum, Bernheim governs 16,000 acres of lush forest, springs, lakes, and streams. There’s also three giant trolls, the works of world-renowned Danish artist Thomas Dambo, who used recycled wood from the area for his creations.
Despite its closeness to Louisville, Bernheim manages to escape light pollution. If you want some company, know that Bernheim Forest is one of the Louisville stargazing spots where the LAS hosts observing nights.
Blackacre State Nature Preserve
If you want to go stargazing with little ones, Blackacre State Nature Preserve is a great alternative. The property offers lots of fun day and night. During the day, you can see lots of cute animals – be sure to bring carrots and apples to feed them.
When the night comes, venture into the rolling fields and find a good spot to see the cosmos. There’s literally no light pollution, so you’ll be able to enjoy a hell lotta stars!
Clark State Forest
For some, Clark State Forest is one of the best Louisville stargazing destinations as it has the darkest skies in the Louisville area. Spanning 26,000 acres, the forest is an outdoor paradise, where you can spend your day picnicking, kayaking, fishing, or boating. The forest’s expanse and trees are great allies to keep the city’s glare at bay. There’s no shortage of stargazing spots. Just try not to set up your telescope near the roads to avoid hearing the nearby traffic.
Curby (The James G. Baker Center for Astronomy)
Curby LAS Dark Site is nothing but the portion of 40 acres that the LAS bought in Crawford County, Indiana. The property is truly one of the best stargazing in Louisville as the society has conditioned it to be a stargazer’s paradise. It features the latest technology, with a roll-off roof observatory with a 16 inch Meade reflector and a 14 inch Celestron SCT. There’s also a 3-acre camping space and observing fields and a multi-purpose building. Check out the LAS’s websites to know when they host observing nights here.
Long Run Park
A local favorite, Long Run Park is the perfect place to spend a day with friends and a picnic. It offers a lot of options so it gets busy quickly, especially in the summer days. Still, there’s plenty of space for people to spread out. Try to find a spot close to the lake or far away from the playground. It’ll be quieter. You’ll have a lovely experience seeing the stars with the sound of crickets and birds at the back.
Mt. St. Francis
Mt. St. Francis is a small center for spirituality located in the eponymous Mt. St. Francis community. The center features nearly 400 acres of walking trails and paths. The best attribute of this place is the solitude. There’s barely any other visitors, no loud traffic, and, most important, no pesky city lights.
The Parklands of Floyds Fork
I’m just going to say one thing about the Parklands of Floyds Fork: there’s much room! Located on the outskirts of Jefferson County, this beautiful park is so well-laid out, featuring wide open spaces and access to some other park amenities. The open lawn with a trail around it is perfect for just about anything, from laying out, flying kites, having a picnic, and, for course, watching the stars.
Stargazing Spots within 2 Hours of Louisville
If one hour makes a difference, imagine two! Check out below to find a fantastic place to see the stars that’s just 2 hours away from Louisville.
Mammoth Cave National Park
Most people come to Mammoth Cave NP to see the spectacle going on underneath the earth. But up in the sky, the stars put on quite a show, too. In fact, the sky’s quality is so good that the park has been wearing the International Dark Sky Park badge since 2021.
The park’s rangers lead stargazing programs throughout the year. If you prefer to escape the cross, roam around the rolling hills and deep river valleys to find a spot that suits your needs.
How Good is the Stargazing in Louisville?
To be honest, the stargazing in Louisville is about as good as we can hope for in any Midwestern city. Like may Midwestern cities, the stargazing isn’t the best in Louisville, but it’s still a place you can see the brightest stars, and it’s a great base from which to strike out into rural parts of Kentucky where the skies are dark and truly spectacular.
Best Times to Go Stargazing in Louisville
If you’re planning a trip to Louisville and want to time it for the ideal months for stargazing, it’s important to keep in mind the weather and humidity – both of these will interfere with your ability to see the stars.
In terms of when the weather and humidity are best for stargazing in Louisville, I’d aim for autumn: from mid-September onward, the humidity drops way down and the skies are much more likely to be clear. However, by late November, it tends to get pretty cold in this part of the U.S., so I’d plan it earlier in the season rather than later, if you have the flexibility.
Can You See the Milky Way in Louisville?
Unfortunately, you can’t see the Milky Way in Louisville as there’s too much light pollution; this is unfortunately the case for most cities in the country. However, you can still enjoy it in places nearby like Curby, so it’s worth planning to make a short drive out of the city and away from the lights if you have your heart set on seeing our galaxy in addition to all the other marvels of the night sky.
Have any other questions about these spots for stargazing in Louisville, or are there others I should add to the list? Let me know in the comments below!