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The best places in Utah for stargazing

With the peak of both the Geminids and Ursids meteor showers happening this month, it’s a great time to do some stargazing

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Monument Valley, on the Utah-Arizona border, has an incredible view of the night sky.

Monument Valley, on the Utah-Arizona border, has an incredible view of the night sky.

David Kaloczi, Unsplash

An annual meteor shower bearing colorful streaks of light peaked in the early hours of Thursday morning, and several locations in Utah will be prime viewing spots for the remainder of the shower.

The Geminids meteor shower is one of many 2023 meteor showers, but it is notable for its volume and visibility. According to NASA, it first became active this year on Nov. 19 and peaked early on Dec. 14 but will remain in the skies until Dec. 24.

The Geminids meteor shower is not the only meteor shower visible in December. According to the U.K.’s National Space Centre, a more low-key event known as the Ursids meteor shower will run from Dec. 17–26 and will peak on the night of Dec. 22.

While both showers can be seen from nearly any location during their peaks, there are multiple spots in Utah where the shows are especially spectacular.

Whether you’re able to visit these spots in time for the Geminids or Ursids or you make the trip at a later time, these locations all offer incredible views of the night sky and are worth a visit.

Best places in Utah for stargazing

1. National parks

Utah is home to five national parks. All offer expansive views of the night sky, thanks to their relative lack of light pollution, and most offer night-sky viewing events.

Rangers from Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park often team up in the spring and fall for stargazing programs. Bryce Canyon National Park even has an annual Astronomy Festival in June, and Capitol Reef hosts its annual Heritage StarFest in September.

All five of Utah’s national parks are also certified as International Dark Sky Places. These are defined as “communities, parks, and protected areas around the world that preserve and protect dark sites through responsible lighting policies and public education” by DarkSky International.

2. State and local parks

Utah has 46 state parks, several of which also make the list of International Dark Sky Places, such as Timpanogos Cave and Jordanelle State Park.

And even the state parks not designated as International Dark Sky Places have less light pollution than what’s found in Utah cities.

There is one Dark Sky listing in Utah that isn’t a national or state park: North Fork Park in Ogden.

3. Dark Sky communities

Three Utah towns are listed as Dark Sky communities: Helper, Springdale and Torrey. These towns are all in southern Utah and are near famous Utah sites.

Helper is on the way to Nine Mile Canyon, Springdale is the western gateway to Zion National Park and Torrey is located near Capitol Reef National Park.