Also known as the Keystone State, Pennsylvania earned this nickname for its key position – “geographically, economically, and politically” – in the early days of our country.
And it’s true: Pennsylvania bridges several different parts of the Eastern U.S.: it’s near New England, New York, and New Jersey, stretches out across the Rust Belt, and even connects culturally to parts of the South through the Appalachian Mountains that run through it. Pennsylvania is pretty key!
Pennsylvania also happens to be one of the states on the Eastern Seaboard with the best stargazing, in part due to its size and diversity. In fact, it was hard to narrow down the list of great spots for stargazing in Pennsylvania as there are so many to recommend.
Below you’ll find a shortlist, followed by a short list, of what I consider to be the best places for stargazing in Pennsylvania. I am sure there are others, and you may even know some of them – and perhaps want to keep them to yourself to help protect the darkness and serenity of those spots. That’s okay, there are still lots of choices for the rest of us, from state parks to observatories.
Whether you call the Keystone State home or are just passing through, here’s where to get out and enjoy the night sky.
In this post, I promote traveling to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Lenape, or Delaware, Nanticoke, Shawnee, and Susquehannock 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.
Where to Go Stargazing in Pennsylvania (Map)
By popular request, I’ve added a map to this post to help make it easier to understand where each of the best spots for stargazing in Pennsylvania can be found. I hope this helps you plan the ultimate stargazing trip!
Cherry Springs State Park
Every stargazer has to do themselves a favor and visit Cherry Springs State Park – it is literally one of the best places for stargazing in the U.S., much less Pennsylvania.
Cherry Springs stands as one of the premier dark sky destinations not only in Pennsylvania but the world! Nestled within the remote woodlands of Potter County, the park earned the prestigious “Gold Level Dark Sky Park” designation from the International Dark Sky Association.
Make sure you go to their website to find all the info you need. You can even sign up for their newsletter with stargazing tips, to help you plan your trip there – or anywhere else under the stars.
French Creek State Park
French Creek State Park is one of the best places for stargazing in Pennsylvania if you’re in the southeastern portion of the state. The park has the largest block of contiguous forest between New York City and Washington, D.C. It’s beautiful with lots of trails and usually not crazy crowded.
You can find tons of open areas in the expansive meadows and the left side of Hopewell Lake – avoid the day-use areas; those areas close at dusk.
Laurel Hill State Park
Laurel Hill State Park has high elevation and little light pollution, two crucial variables for a good stargazing experience. As with all state parks in the Laurel Highlands, Laurel Hill State Park shuts its gates at dusk.
However, this is no reason to stop admiring the starry spectacle. You can still indulge in some stargazing from the expansive parking lot adjacent to Laurel Hill Lake. Simply notify the park office in advance by giving them a call and sharing the details of your vehicle’s make and model – and you’re all set!
Michaux State Forest
Nestled in the heart of Pennsylvania, Michaux State Forest stands as an 85,500-acre haven for stargazers. Its remote location and minimal light pollution create an optimal environment for your astronomical endeavors. The area around Michaux State Forest in general is pretty dark for south central PA, and it’s a fairly flat area that will let you see most of the sky.
If you want to spend the night, bear in mind that only motorized, roadside camping is allowed and it has to be done at designated campsites and always requires a permit.
Ohiopyle State Park
Blessed with rugged beauty and stunning waterfalls, Ohiopyle State Park is popular for its whitewater rafting opportunities. But, it offers more than just daytime adventure – it’s also located in Laurel Highlands to give you an idea. As night falls, the surrounding mountains create a great atmosphere for stargazing in Pennsylvania.
If you want to spend the night, you can check the camping, cottage, or yurt options (they’re open during specific seasons.) Backpack camping is also allowed, but reservations are required and can be made up to 11 months in advance.
Pine Grove Furnace State Park
Nestled within Michaux State Forest, Pine Grove Furnace State Park is steeped in history and cosmic charm. The park is a must-visit in south central PA, with its rustic atmosphere that pairs perfectly with the astronomical wonders above.
To enjoy the starry sky, you’ll have to spend the night at the park, as the premises close at 9pm. If you don’t want an overnight stay, you can go stargazing in someplace nearby but outside the park.
Raystown Lake is the largest lake that is entirely within Pennsylvania. With 8,300 acres of clear water surrounded by 21,000 acres of forested mountain slopes, you can bet there’s minimal light pollution in the area.
It’s a great place for watching the stars if you enjoy picturesque landscapes. The expansive water surface mirrors the celestial display above, creating a gorgeous interplay of stars and reflections. Make sure you go to their website to learn more about the accommodation alternatives.
Sproul State Forest
For those seeking a truly remote stargazing experience, Sproul State Forest is the answer. Far from urban centers, this vast wilderness area provides an unspoiled canvas for the night sky. No traffic noise, no loud families, no phone service, no electricity! It’s literally just you and nature.
Bear in mind, that Sproul State Forest offers nine roadside campsites for overnight camping in RVs, but no tent camping is permitted.
Susquehannock State Forest
High atop the Allegheny Plateau, Susquehannock State Forest offers a skyline of stars that will leave you breathless. I mean it. Just consider that Cherry Springs was created from land within the Susquehannock State Forest and it’s one of the top stargazing spots in Pennsylvania too. The elevation provides an advantage for stargazers, offering clearer views and open sky views.
Susquehannock closes at 4pm, but it offers both primitive camping and motorized camping.
No one denies the beauty of stargazing on your own. However, some people enjoy the company (or guidance) of others. If that’s you, then Wagman Observatory is a great option for stargazing in Pennsylvania.
The observatory is managed by the Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh and is equipped with powerful telescopes. Spacious fields offer an amazing view of the horizon in the daylight, but at night an even better view of the stars. Check out their website so you don’t miss their monthly star parties!
10 Other Great Spots for Stargazing in Pennsylvania
Astronomy lovers are spoiled for choice when it comes to stargazing in Pennsylvania – it’s pretty obvious when you take a look at this long list! Below you’ll find ten more spots for watching the stars in The Keystone State.
- Allegheny Observatory: Located in Pittsburgh, Allegheny Observatory is a historic astronomical institution offering public programs and stargazing events. Equipped with advanced telescopes, it provides a unique opportunity to explore the night sky in an urban setting.
- Bruce M. Bedow Memorial Observatory: Nestled in a natural setting, this observatory offers a tranquil stargazing experience. The Oil Region Astronomical Society organizes numerous stargazing events throughout the year.
- Bradstreet Observatory: This observatory is a hub for astronomical research and public outreach. It organizes Public Observing Sessions for people from the community. They are by reservation only! These nights are very popular and are typically booked 3-4 months in advance.
- Mehalso Observatory: Positioned for minimal light pollution, Mehalso Observatory is a prime location for stargazing. Unfortunately, it’s temporarily closed, but check their website to know when they’re reopening.
- Mingo Creek Park Observatory: Tucked within Mingo Creek Park, this observatory has become the largest amateur astronomical observatory in Southwestern Pennsylvania dedicated to public education and enjoyment of the science of astronomy. Attendees can participate in astronomy programs and enjoy the dark skies away from city lights.
- Naylor Observatory: As an astronomical learning center, Naylor Observatory invites visitors to explore the cosmos with their public observing sessions. Best of all, it’s free! But a donation is still appreciated.
- Peter Van De Kamp Observatory: Known for its dedication to astronomical education, this observatory engages the public through outreach events and stargazing programs. It is a public viewing event and open house on the second Tuesday of each month from 9 pm to 10 pm when it’s daylight savings and from 8 pm to 9 pm when it’s standard time.
- Sara’s Campground (Lake Erie): Overlooking Lake Erie, this campground provides a unique camping and stargazing experience. Stargazers can enjoy celestial views against the backdrop of the lake – because we all know a beautiful landscape is a good complement to any stargazing experience.
- Thomas G. Cupillari ‘60 Observatory: Situated in Fleetville, this observatory hosts public observing nights, allowing visitors to explore the universe through telescopes. These scheduled programs are provided as a community service and are free of charge!
- Widener Observatory: Nestled within the university campus, Widener Observatory offers astronomy programs and public events. It has a 16-inch computerized Meade Cassegrain reflecting telescope and other smaller, 12-inch telescopes with modern telescopes to provide students and the public to delve into the wonders of the cosmos.
Have any questions about these spots for stargazing in Pennsylvania, or do you know of other spots you’re willing to share? Let me know in the comments below!