The Empire State is known for many things, great sports teams, autumn leaf-peeping, and the biggest city in the country among them. And while I’ve already covered that stargazing in New York City is challenging (at best!), there’s a lot more to New York than the Big Apple.
Once you escape the huge light bubble generated by NYC and the surrounding area, there are some incredible areas of darkness in New York State, and thus some fantastic places for stargazing in New York. You’ll need to drive to reach them, like so many good stargazing spots, but it’s worth it once you see the stars overhead and breathe the clean, un-urban air.
If you’re planning a trip to New York or call it home, plan a trip to one of these stargazing spots in New York for the next meteor shower or clear summer night; here are the best spots for stargazing in New York.
Featured photo credit: Llima Orosa via Flickr
Adirondack Sky Center & Observatory
Located in Tupper Lake, the Adirondack Park has gained recognition and become a well-known place for stargazing in New York. The park benefits from being in the darkest area west of the Mississippi and houses the Adirondack Sky Center & Observatory.
Weather permitting, the observatory hosts free stargazing sessions every Friday in the summer and on the first and third Fridays of the month throughout the winter. The sessions are a thrilling experience. Astronomers set high-powered telescopes on the grounds and outline the field viewing area with red lights to facilitate gazing at the stars and constellations. They also share Greek mythology that accompanies many constellations that the astronomer outlines.
Allegany State Park
You’ll find in Allegany State Park some of the darkest skies in New York. The park is one of the largest in the state and enjoys a privileged location just north of Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania. Its remoteness means only one thing: dark skies and bright stars. The park is enormous, and there are plenty of suitable areas for stargazing.
You’ll find the best spots at the southern end of the park near Quaker Lake. You can even see much of the Milky Way from here on clear nights. The only downside is that the park is only open until dusk, so I suggest booking a cabin or campsite to spend the night without inconvenience.
Beaver Meadow Audubon Center
Brimming with nature and wildlife, Beaver Meadow is a 324-acre nature preserve in North Java. Every nook and cranny of the preserve is spectacular and a dream for anyone who loves unspoiled nature.
The best way to get around the area is by hiking, as the preserve has over 8 miles of trails exploring winding through different habitats. The Visitor Center also has many interesting exhibits of local plants, animals, and habitats.
Needless to say, the preserve is equally astonishing by night as it is by day. The Buffalo Astronomical Association runs the park’s observatory and organizes sky viewing sessions for a guided experience, but you can also venture independently.
Beebe Hill and Harvey Mountain State Forest
If you happen to be on the eastern side of Columbia County, head to Beebe Hill State Forest and Harvey Mountain State Forest, two splendid New York state stargazing spots. Both areas enjoy excellent conditions that favor stargazing: they are secluded and large. Beebe Hill Multiple Use Area, governs 2,018 acres, while Harvey Mountain State Forest sprawls over 2,007 acres of unspoiled forests.
Beebe Hill is also home to a stunning fire tower open to the public and provides beautiful scenery from the top. Try to arrive early and set camp a sufficient distance from water bodies, roads, and trails. Already pitched your tent? Now, it’s time to catch some stars.
Big Buck Mountain Multiple Use Area
Big Buck Mountain Multiple Use Area unfolds below some of the darkest skies in New York, partly because it is an undeveloped area. Aside from two small parking lots, Big Buck has no signs of urbanization. You won’t find formal trails or any form of amenities around its 146 acres.
Instead, the landscape is completely untouched and only allows primitive camping and exploring. Arrive early to get acquainted with your surroundings. Since there’s no rush to leave the area, you can stay until you finish your stargazing sessions or find a comfortable spot to spend the night.
Eighteen Mile Creek Park
Eighteen Mile Creek Park might draw hordes of New Yorkers for its rafting qualities, but the gorgeous park has a lot more to offer than water sports. While the undeveloped park is only three miles from the town of Hamburg, it still enjoys relatively dark skies, making it a decent (and close) spot for stargazing in New York.
The park has an amazing array of altitudes and soil types, and it is excellent for nature walking without much preparation. Get to the park before sunset, and witness the magic of the stars looming in the dark sky. By the way, the Penn Dixie Site generally holds stargazing events in Hamburg!
Gobbler’s Knob State Forest
Gobbler’s Knob is another scenic natural area within New York. The forest’s attraction for stargazers resides, once again, in its lack of development. The park extends across 303 acres of grassy areas, and there’s not much besides the two trout streams and a trail.
Although the park is open for at-large primitive camping, there are no designated camping sites. The park is open day and night every day of the year. All you have to do is set the date, drive to Gobbler’s Knob, and find a comfy spot away from the roads, trails, and streams.
Golden Hill State Park
Take a look at a dark sky map, and you’ll find a pleasant surprise. Golden Hill State Park is home to one of the very darkest skies in New York. The 510-acre state park sits on the southern shore of Lake Ontario. Open year-round, it offers recreational activities, ranging from hiking trails to boating.
The park also has multiple overnight camping options. While they’re a bit tight, the camping sites don’t have a lot of trees around, which allows stargazers to enjoy unobstructed views of the sky from the comfort of their tents.
Hemlock Ridge Multiple Use Area
Sitting on the western flank of Marlboro Mountain, Hemlock Ridge Multiple Use Area is an 83-acre of forested hills. The park is popular among hikers who want to camp near the Shawangunk Mountains. Hemlock Ridge keeps things simple, so don’t expect fancy campsites, amenities, or well-signaled trails. Still, the park allows at-large primitive camping, and you’ll find unmarked and unmaintained herd paths throughout the State Forest to guide you.
The park is highly isolated – a tiny wood sign on Lewis Lane marks the entrance. Therefore, you won’t find much company here, so please try to get acquainted with the place before venturing in on your own.
Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge
Locals often describe Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge as “one of Western New York’s best-kept secrets.” And they’re right. The scenic refuge sits just south of Medina and governs a whopping 10,000 acres of land.
The parks concentrate most of their efforts on preserving the area’s wildlife. Hence, most visitors can enjoy fishing and bird watching –keep your eyes peeled for the bald eagles! Come the night, find a cozy spot and get ready for some exceptional stargazing in a sky that goes from one horizon to the other.
Kopernik Observatory & Science Center
Perched on a 1,740-foot hill in Vestal, the Kopernik Observatory & Science Center stands out as one of the best-equipped public observatories in the Northeastern United States. The observatory is open year-round, and every Friday night, they invite stargazers to explore the facilities and, of course, the celestial objects through their powerful telescopes – although you can get an incredibly nice look at the stars even without looking through one! They run viewing sessions for meteor showers during summer months and host hands-on classes for kids and lectures for adults.
Lafayetteville Multiple Use Area
Set in Dutchess Country, Lafayetteville Multiple Use Area spans over 715 acres of wooded landscapes.
Like most multiple-use areas, Lafayetteville does not feature marked trails or developed campsites like most multiple-use areas. Nonetheless, the property features large undeveloped areas suited for hiking and nature viewing. The area also has Wilbur Pond, which welcomes fishing and paddling enthusiasts throughout the summer. Despite being 10 miles from Stanfordville, Lafayetteville benefits from towering trees to block light pollution coming from the town’s urban areas.
Letchworth State Park
Dubbed the “Grand Canyon of the East,” Letchworth State Park is a top destination for stargazing in New York. The park is lucky to have some of the darkest skies above its 14,427 acres. It’s a stunning place to spend at least a day as the park is home to jaw-dropping scenery, with waterfalls, lush forests, and towering cliffs.
The park is open until 11 pm and offers hundreds of campsites and cabins for stargazers to spend the night, plus other amenities like picnic tables, bathrooms, and playgrounds.
Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Visitor Center
Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Visitor Center knows how to celebrate the night sky and all its wonders. Their events include everything, from full moon parties to meteor shower viewing sessions. The educational facility offers Discovery Night events once a month, where amateur astronomers give visitors a galaxy tour.
They also host Special Discovery Nights focused on major celestial events, like the Perseid Meteor Shower in August. You can check Catskill’s calendar for more information about night sky parties at Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Visitor Center.
The Dudley Observatory at the Museum of Innovation and Science
If I had to choose one place to answer the question “where to stargaze in New York?” It would be The Dudley Observatory. The observatory has been part of Albany’s landscape for a not-at-all-modest period of 160 years, making it America’s oldest non-academic institution of astronomical research.
Not only can visitors observe the moon and planets at The Dudley, but they can also see the sun! The observatory has an extensive portfolio of activities. They host tours to look for sunspots on the sun’s surface and a few planets on Sundays. Every Thursday, they host “Evenings at the Dudley Observatory,” where visitors can see the stars, planets, and galaxies through the observatory’s 14-inch telescope.
Gorgeous tulip arrangements might be the first thing you gaze at in Washington Park. Nonetheless, the 81-acre park is also a privileged spot to gaze at the night sky in the Capital Region.
Located in Albany, Washington Park is free and open year-round and has late closing hours. The only downside is that the park is a popular outdoor venue for locals who flock to the green space to profit from its playgrounds and trails, especially during the summer.
Wassaic Multiple Use Area
Wassaic Multiple Use Area is the perfect place to surf the night sky by the river quietly. Located in Dutchess County, the property sits right in the middle of the Valley and spans over 488 acres. Lush forests make up most of the property’s landscape, making Wassaic Multiple Use Area ideally secluded from pesky lights. The property is also open for fishing, hunting, camping, and hiking. However, it does not feature any marked trails or campsites.
Walkway Over the Hudson
Walkway Over the Hudson is one of the most beautiful attractions in all of New York State. Not only do locals love it for themselves, but it is one of their top “go-tos” when they want to impress out-of-state visitors.
The world’s longest elevated pedestrian bridge is also an unbeatable place to gaze at celestial objects. The bridge offers stunning opportunities to watch the stars shine bright against the Hudson River. If you can, try to schedule your visit around sunset– you don’t want to miss the colorful day-to-night transition reflected on the water.
Wellesley Island State Park
Spanning over 2,636 acres, Wellesley Island State Park offers secluded wilderness on the banks of the St. Lawrence River. The park is highly popular during the summer months, thanks to its sandy beach.
Unlike other alternatives on the list, Wellesley Island State Park offers tons of amenities for stargazers to spend a comfortable day and night. It has 432 campsites, a full-service marina, four boat launches, Camp Store, Laundromat, and Arcade. Not bad, huh?
No matter where you look, the scenery is stunning and the sunsets breathtaking! As I mentioned before, the park gets busy during the summer, and you may struggle to find isolated spots for stargazing near the campsites. However, you can always ask the visitor center for recommendations.
Wilcox Memorial Park
Last but not least, we have Wilcox Memorial Park in Stanfordville. The 614-acre park provides a respite from the bustle of city life during the summer months. People flock to the park to have some outdoor fun. Here, a few activities include fishing, swimming, bird watching, golfing, and picnicking.
When the night comes, stargazers will witness one of the most beautiful skies unfold before their eyes. While the park extends its open hours during summer, you’ll have to camp if you want to stay in the park after your stargazing session. FYI, Camping is by reservation only, so book ahead!
Do you know of any other great places for stargazing in New York? Or have questions about these stargazing spots in the Empire State? Let me know in the comments!