Sleep under the stars! The East Coast’s finest stargazing
West Virginia has some of the clearest night skies east of the Mississippi.
While darkness is becoming a scarce luxury around the globe, there are several places where you can still enjoy a clear night sky in West Virginia.
1. Calhoun County Park:
Think of this park as a secret retreat for die-hard astronomers and photographers. Because only very detailed maps even acknowledge this gem’s existence, it’s still largely undiscovered.
Rolling ridges position you above hundreds of acres of pine forests and meadows. There, you can catch glimpses of the universe that most of the East Coast can only dream of seeing.
Where to sleep: If you’re interested in staying under the stars, you can rent the on-site climate-controlled barn.
2. Spruce Knob
Spruce Knob and stargazing are synonymous. At 4,863 feet, this deciduous forest high in the sky is West Virginia’s highest peak. Star lovers flock to this remote summit (really remote— we’re talking dirt roads, no guardrails and hairpin curves!)
Every summer, Spruce Knob has an “Almost Heaven Star Party,” where you can investigate the skies alongside top astronomy experts.
Where to sleep: The Mountain Institute’s Spruce Knob Mountain Center is a 400-acre nature preserve right by to Spruce Knob. They rent sustainable yurts, complete with a skylight so you can enjoy the stars, even from a cozy bed.
3. Green Bank
This tiny valley community is very dedicated to exploration of the skies. So dedicated, in fact, that they traded in WiFi for it.
Green Bank is home to the Green Bank Telescope, the world’s largest fully steerable telescope. Just how big are we talking, here? It’s nearly 500 feet tall and weighs 17 million pounds (by the way, it’s the largest moving structure on land).
Scientists from around the world use it to study the great beyond. In order for the telescope to work in peace, the government mandates a National Radio Quiet Zone, limiting cell phones, WiFi and— in extreme cases— microwaves for surrounding areas.
Where to sleep: Set up shop in the shadow of the telescope during the annual Green Bank Star Quest, a 4-day event of presentations, clinics and unlimited stargazing! Snowshoe Mountain Resort is just a half-hour drive away, as well.
4. Dolly Sods
The Dolly Sods wilderness has some of the most spectacular scenery in the East. The high plateaus are made up of wind-carved rocks, stunted spruce, grasslands, bogs and vistas reminiscent of a place much farther north.
While it’s spectacular in the daylight, the real show comes after the sun goes down. Up there, you’re among beautifully untouched wilderness. Enjoy untainted skies while crickets supply the soundtrack.
Where to sleep: You don’t need permits or fees to camp in the Dolly Sods wilderness, so pitch a tent and enjoy. If roughing it isn’t your style, take your pick of cabins lining the ridgetops. We hear hot tubs are a great way to take in the stars, too.
Where will you explore the night skies?