Look — up in the sky!

Colorado offers dark areas for summer stargazing


On a summer night long ago, we happened to be at the top of Independence Pass at midnight, after a gully-washer soaked our tent and sleeping bags at Maroon Bells Campground and it became necessary to load sleepy kids in the car and head home. The sky was absolutely dazzling and we stood there for a long time, just gobsmacked!

When I opened the new edition of 5280 magazine and saw a story about “Stars Bright” by Jessica Larusso, I was moved to encourage our readers to seek out a similar experience with families this summer.

Several of my nature-oriented magazines have focused on seeking out the dark sky experience as a travel trend and this story is clear and helpful, listing Dark Sky Parks and Communities. Kids will enjoy having their own sky maps and learn a pleasurable skill that lasts a lifetime.

Pack the guide books, binoculars and cameras with the camping equipment and look for a dark hiking spot.

Westcliffe and Silver Cliff in southern Colorado make up Colorado’s first certified International Dark Sky Community, which involves shielded light fixtures in limited numbers, with warm light bulbs that won’t glare.

The Smokey Jack Observatory there is also available to visitors. An active nonprofit organization is called Dark Skies of the Wet Mountain Valley.

Norwood, Ridgeway, Crestone, Nucla and Naturita are also International Dark Sky Communities.

Colorado also has 10 International Dark Sky Parks families can seek out. Since this is a growing trend, reservations are probably in order.

There are currently 196 Dark Sky Places in the world and Colorado claims 15 of them. In addition to the communities above, There are 10 Dark Sky Parks: Hovenweep National Monument; Black Canyon of the Gunnison; Dinosaur National Monument; Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve; Jackson Area as one explores ... (Sensibly, the writer suggests exploring an area well during the day first, and research what will be showing at a particular time and season ... Photographers are warned that there are limitations on camera equipment, such as flashes, that would disturb area wildlife, so investigate the rules and regulations.

Travelers speculate over archaeological sites and possible connections to the night skies, where often interpretations are questioned. I personally think learning about a variety of myths and legends is highly desirable for visitors of all ages.

Families may want to research star-related events in communities they plan to visit this summer. Crestone will celebrate the second anniversary of its Experience the Night Festival this weekend, for example, with performance artists, readings and more...

Music, food and storytelling may be involved, with a distinctive flair at each location. In September, the 12-year-old Black Canyon Astronomy Festival and the Mesa Verde Dark Sky Festival are planned. Park Point, the highest spot in Mesa Verde, is newly open after dark.

Enjoy your summers!


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