Stargazing can be difficult when it’s cold outside and light pollution makes it difficult to see much of anything, but balmy summertime evenings and a dark night sky make for a perfect combination. San Diego is a big city, but luckily there are a few dark retreats that provide ample opportunities for summer stargazing. Get out those binoculars and don’t forget to pack some warm clothes, a blanket, and that thermos of hot chocolate!
Torrey Pines State Beach
Sipping hot chocolate or wine while lying on the beach and trying to pick out constellations and shooting stars sounds like a pretty great way to spend a warm summer evening. Torrey Pines isn’t the most ideal place for stargazing, but it is definitely one of the darkest places in San Diego to do so! Optimal viewing begins about an hour after sunset when twilight has just faded; if you want to make a whole night of it, show up early for a sunset picnic and then, while twilight is winding down, pack up the car and walk south to find a good spot. Head over to 12600 North Torrey Pines Road in La Jolla to start your adventure!
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Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
California’s largest state park remains one of the best places within an hour of the coast to see night skies. Nearby small town Borrego Springs was actually designated by the International Dark Sky Association as the second “Dark Sky Community” in the world. The isolated Little Blair Valley on the west edge of Anza Borrego gets rave reviews from seasoned stargazers and is the perfect spot to set up camp.
The mountain is probably most well-known for its 200-inch Hale telescope; unfortunately, the observatory is only open during the day for public tours, so you won’t be able to do much stargazing out of it at night. Luckily, the U.S. Forest Service’s Observatory Campground is just two miles away. It’s a full-on astronomy-themed campground that has special concrete pads designed for telescope setup. If you aren’t really in the mood for sleeping out, Lake Henshaw down the road has resort lodging that often plays host to star parties.
Most people just think of apple pie and cider when they think of Julian, but its night skies are dark enough that the town is actually host to an astronomy-themed bed and breakfast – complete with an observatory – called The Observer’s Inn. If you’re looking to do something more solo, there’s also the nearby William Heise County Park with a quiet campground and wilderness cabins for rent. Or simply head east on Route 78 past the bottom of the Banner grade, about 8.5 miles from town, and find a wide pullout in the broad valley east of the Volcan Mountains.
Interested in stargazing but don’t want to invest in your own telescope? You’re in luck! At dusk on the first Wednesday of each month, members of the SDAA (San Diego Astronomy Association) set up telescopes west of the Fleet on the Prado in Balboa Park for public sky viewing. The viewing is free to the public following the monthly “Sky Tonight” planetarium show in the Fleet Science Center’s Space Theater. Get the chance to talk with local experts about the night sky and look through world-class telescopes to see constellations and stars you wouldn’t be able to with the naked eye!
Do you have any favorite spots for stargazing? Share with us in the comments below!
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