Texas is known for everything big: big cattle, big cowboy hats… and big dark skies. Stargazing in Texas is a real treat because of those dark skies, especially in the western part of the state.
Here we’ve rounded up some of the top stargazing sites across Texas to help inspire you to plan a weekend getaway. Some of these can be reached within two hours of the big cities of Austin, Houston, and Dallas/Fort Worth – others will require a road trip.
Grab your camping gear, pack your telescope, and hit the road. These top spots for stargazing in Texas are waiting with more stars than you can imagine!
1. Big Bend National Park
If you ask anyone who know’s Texas’ night skies where the best ones can be found, you’ll probably hear the words “Big Bend” in their answer. That’s why we’ve put the two Big Bend options at the top of the list.
Big Bend National Park is located where the Rio Grande makes its ‘big bend’ along the Texas-Mexico border. Located several hours from El Paso (the nearest big city), Big Bend is one of the least visited national parks in the country – which only helps to contribute to the lack of light pollution. For the park’s efforts to keep skies dark, Big Bend National Park was designated as a certified Dark Sky Park in 2012!
2. Big Bend Ranch State Park
The “other” Big Bend is Big Bend Ranch State Park, located northwest along the border from Big Bend National Park. In fact, this massive cattle ranch land is ideal for stargazing and was certified as a dark sky park in 2017.
Since then, they’ve added stargazing as one of their regular organized events. During the day, you can also enjoy horseback riding, hiking, cycling, 4x4ing, and many more active ways to see the Texas countryside.
3. Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is widely regarded as one of the best places to go stargazing in Texas. It is recognized as an International Dark Sky Park and is a great place to see the Milky Way. The Enchanted Rock Star Party is also held here on an annual basis.
Pro-tip: There are two more Dark Sky Parks within 30 minutes of Enchanted Rock: UBarU and South Llano River State Park. See a full map of dark sky parks, reserves, and sanctuaries on our Explore hub.
4. Canyon of the Eagles Resort
Canyon of the Eagles Resort is a gorgeous resort located by Lake Buchanan. The Austin Astrological Society meets here on a weekly basis to observe the sky. They have up to 29 different stations available where you can set up your telescope and watch the stars.
The Eagle Eye Observatory can be found by the Canyon of the Eagles Resort in Burnet, TX. It comes equipped with both a 16 inch Cassegrain telescope and a 12.5-inch Newtonian telescope. Both of these are open to the public on a monthly basis.
5. Inks Lake State Park
Inks Lake State Park is located by Inks Lake and is just over an hour from Austin. They frequently host Night Sky Parties along with the occasional Starry Sky Night Hike. These events are free, and you’re welcome to bring your own telescope.
6. Davy Crockett National Forest
Forests are great spots for stargazing because the trees help block out light pollution when you’re stargazing. Even better, Davy Crockett National Forest is far enough away from Houston or any other big cities at a two-hour drive that you’re guaranteed pretty dark skies.
There are campgrounds throughout the forest, which are a great option for a night of stargazing. You can also stay in one of the small communities located in the area, such as Ratcliffe, Kennard, Centerville, or Apple Springs.
7. The HAS Observatory
The Houston Astronomical Society’s observatory is a very close second to the George Observatory when it comes to stargazing opportunities. The only important thing to note is that you must be a HAS member to learn the location of the observatory and when events are happening here! The best we can share is that the HAS Observatory is about 80 miles outside of Houston, so it’s well away from any light pollution.
Once you’re a HAS member, you can join regular star parties run by the society at the HAS Observatory. There is even a bunkhouse available for those that wish to stay overnight, or you can camp or stay in the surrounding area.
8. Hubbard Lakes
75 minutes south of Dallas and Fort Worth, the small town of Hubbard has several small lakes to the southwest. These lakes are a great stargazing spot, logically called Hubbard Lake Number 1, Number 3, and Number 4.
The Central Texas Astronomical Society hosts a monthly public star party at the lake; you can see the details on their website. On other nights, you can head out on your own along the shorefront trails to find an unobstructed view of the night sky.
9. Cooper Lake State Park
If you can’t tell, the state parks surrounding Dallas – especially those near lakes – are great options! Cooper Lake State Park is a 90-minute drive northeast of Dallas. It’s a popular spot during the day for swimming, boating, jet-skiing, picnicking, and generally enjoying the great Texas weather.
At night, you can enjoy the comfortable Texas nights too, and go stargazing out across Jim Chapman Lake.
10. Dinosaur Valley State Park
As the name suggests, Dinosaur Valley State Park is home to tracks from Sauropods and Theropods that once roamed across this site southwest of Fort Worth and Dallas.
Drive 63 minutes from Fort Worth or 90 minutes from Dallas to go hiking, mountain biking, or just walk in the footsteps of dinosaurs. Once the sun sets, gaze up upon many of the same stars that once wheeled overhead millions of years ago.
11. Resaca de la Palma State Park
If you’re looking for an even more ‘Locals Only’ spot for stargazing in Texas, you’ll hear a lot of locals recommending Resaca de la Palma State Park. Resaca de la Palma is located in far Southern Texas, outside Brownsville along the Rio Grande.
By day, Resaca de la Palma State Park is a popular spot for birding. Since it’s a natural habitat to protect wildlife, there are also great quality night skies. There are regular stargazing and astronomy events held at the Dr. Cristina V. Torres Memorial Astronomical Observatory (a researcher who worked at the Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy at UT Rio Grande) inside the state park. Be sure to check the events calendar if you’re making the trip.
12. Devils River State Natural Area
At the time of writing, Devils River State Natural Area is among the newest certified dark sky reserves in the world. This means it’s one of the darkest places in Texas, and ideal for stargazing if you’re up for the journey. After all, Devils River State Natural Area is a four-hour drive west from San Antonio – and that means you’ve got to be committed to head this far out of town!
If you make a weekend of it, be sure to plan ahead to try kayaking, hiking, or cycling – all popular activities in the Devils River area.
Have questions about these spots for stargazing in Texas – or others? Let us know in the comments?
Featured photo credit: Terry Presley via Flickr