In August, Bryce Canyon was certified an International Dark Sky Park, which makes it the 15th such park in the state of Utah. A few weeks before that, Arches National Park became a certified Dark Sky Park. Canyonlands is certified, too. Utah could have 20 of these by 2020 -- national parks, state parks, national monuments, county parks -- more than any other state in the country.
MORE: The best destinations for stargazing -- and star parties -- around the US
International Dark Sky Sites are only certified after a rigorous evaluation process that takes into consideration the darkness of the site in question’s night sky, of course, but also the steps park custodians have taken to install “night-sky friendly” lighting that’s environmentally sustainable and also cuts down on glare.
Summer, of course, is the most popular time of year for visiting national parks. And many of our national parks do look their best in the fall. But the best time of year for stargazing in Utah’s national parks is the winter. In the months ahead, the dry desert air above Utah’s Dark Sky parks will hold even less moisture than it does the rest of the year, which makes stars easier to see with the naked eye, and also easier to photograph.
MORE: How seven travel photographers and influencers get their perfect shot