Where to see the stars in Colorado’s winter night sky
As the temperatures drop, the humidity in the air crystallizes, making winter the perfect time for stargazing.
Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre has wide, terraced stairs where you can just sit or spread a blanket.
Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park have several stargazing areas. The Rocky Mountain Nature Association offers Trek Adventures at Dusk, a custom educational experience for children led by a local naturalist. It is available via an evening snowshoe tour or bus tour. At the Estes Park Memorial Observatory, visitors can explore the night sky with a Mead 12 inch LX200 Schmidt-Cassergrain telescope in a private observation session or during a pre-scheduled public viewing.
Horsetooth Reservoir near Fort Collins has an uninterrupted view of sparkling night skies. A short hike to Horsetooth Rock boasts a view of Fort Collins on one side and rugged mountains framed by Horsetooth Reservoir and the night sky on the other.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, just outside of Montrose in southwest Colorado, offers numerous opportunities to turn one’s eyes heavenward. There is little-to-no light pollution to impair star viewing. Ranger-guided stargazing programs are offered throughout the year (as well as an Astronomy Festival each summer).
OPUS Hut is tucked between 13,000-foot peaks in the San Juan Mountains. At an altitude of 11,800 feet, the hut is a sought-after retreat for backcountry climbers and skiers. Rates, which include dinner and breakfast, are just $70 per night. The hut offers solar-powered electricity and hot water, two wood-burning stoves, indoor plumbing and restrooms. Backcountry skiing and snowshoeing are available nearby.
Chimney Rock National Monument in southwest Colorado’s San Juan National Forest is the country’s newest National Monument, having received its official designation from President Barack Obama on Sept. 21. The U.S. Forest Service offers free Full Moon Programs on the 5,000-acre site. Visitors can watch the moon rise, learn about the ancestral Puebloans and archaeo-astronomy theories, and participate in Night-Sky Archaeo-Astronomy Programs and sunrise outings.
The UFO Watchtower in Alamosa boasts minuscule light pollution. Local legend has it that the San Luis Valley is an extraterrestrial hotbed, with dozens of UFO sightings rumored to have occurred in the area since 2007.
Gunnison Valley Observatory offers great stargazing conditions at an elevation of more than 7,700 feet and with virtually non-existent air and light pollution. The volunteer-operated observatory has powerful telescopes now closed for the season.
Planetariums and observatories