Photo by Bureau of Land Management.
Alaska earns accolades for many things, like its wildlife and its landscapes. But one of its best qualities often flies under the radar: its stargazing opportunities. The long, cold nights of Alaska’s winter provide dark skies excellent for viewing stars, aurora borealis and everything else the night sky has to offer.
Even without a telescope, you can view and identify constellations with very little light pollution. A smartphone or tablet app that works with GPS can go a long way toward helping you decipher what you’re seeing. Here are four of the best places to go stargazing along the southern coast of Alaska.
Chugach National Forest
The northernmost national forest in the United States, the Chugach National Forest covers an area the size of New Hampshire from the Kenai Peninsula to Prince William Sound. Much of the forest is near enough to Anchorage to avoid a long trip but far enough to get away from the city lights. The Forest Service even maintains cabins along the Sound, so you can reserve a place to stargaze multiple nights in a row in case you get stuck with some cloudy nights.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve
This park is not only the largest national park in the Unites States, it’s also the largest wilderness area in the National Wilderness Preservation System. This makes it good for a lot of things, including wildlife and landscape preservation. But it’s also good for seeing stars, since it’s far from the light pollution of cities of any size and very sparsely populated.
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
Along Alaska’s panhandle, west of Juneau, lie the wild islands and coastal lands of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. Its remote, intact wilderness makes it a perfect place to visit for stargazing. The glaciers and bays that give the park its name are themselves enough to draw visitors during the daytime hours, but get everything you can out of a visit to Glacier Bay by staying through the night.
A boat off the coast
Much of Alaska’s land is public and wild, making it an ideal place to visit if you’re into night skies and astronomy. However, one of the best places to stargaze might actually not be on land, but in a boat. A surefire way to get a clear view of the night sky away from city lights is to take a cruise away from shore. And thanks to Alaska’s huge tourism economy, cruises aren’t hard to come by.
The golden North Star shown on Alaska’s flag represents both the state’s northern location and the star’s role in helping explorers navigate to Alaska. What better way to view it—and all the northern constellations—than from Alaska itself?