Dark Skies

Dark Skies

Stargazing in Yellowstone Country

Your outdoor adventure doesn't have to end when the sun goes down, because Montana boasts some of the darkest skies in the lower 48. Countless stars (and even the northern lights, on occasion!) can be seen by the naked eye out here. All you need to do is look up to experience a mind-blowing display of constellations, galaxies, planets and nebulae.

For many Yellowstone Country stargazers, the experience is as simple as walking outside on a clear night. As long as you get a little distance from city lights, you're bound to see a show overhead. However, there are a few extra tips and tools you can use to maximize your time under our night skies.

Stargazing apps can help you locate and learn about the cosmos with a range of features. Just head to the App Store or Google Play to search for high-rated apps, and consider which features are most important for your journey—maybe notifications when a certain star might be visible, or interactive quizzes to help you learn more? How about downloadable content for when you lose cell service? Some of the most popular stargazing apps include Star Walk 2, Sky View and Night Sky.

A night sky calculator can help you figure out the logistics of your late-night outing by calculating when and where the sky will be darkest during your visit.

If you're hoping to capture the cosmos with a camera, you'll need to prepare with the proper photography gear and training. Check out this night sky photography guide to get started.

Lastly, and most importantly, you'll want to prepare to stay warm and comfortable while stargazing. Even the warmest summer days can lead into chilly nights in Montana, so pack layers including a jacket, beanie and gloves.

Stargazing Hot Spots

Though the lack of light pollution in Montana makes for dark skies throughout the state, some areas are better than others for stargazing. Here are a few spots you'll find celestially stunning:

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK

America's first national park is working towards becoming a "Dark Sky Park"—an International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) designation. You can stargaze anywhere in Yellowstone National Park, but popular spots include Mount Washburn, Upper Geyser Basin (Old Faithful and Castle Geyser), Mammoth Hot Springs, Lamar Valley, Swan Lake Flat and Hayden Valley.

HYALITE CANYON

Just outside Bozeman, Hyalite Canyon—especially by the reservoir—is secluded enough from town to make for excellent stargazing. Pitch a tent and discover the epitome of camping out under the stars.

BEARTOOTH PASS OVERLOOK

One of the most beautiful drives in America makes an excellent spot for summer stargazing. Drive this stunning stretch of switchbacks and towering peaks at sunset and stop at the pass as night falls for unobstructed views of the Milky Way.

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Please stay informed about the latest travel updates in the region, including the reopening of Yellowstone National Park.
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