Best Stargazing Spots in California
When you think about camping, you probably imagine exploring new trails or snapping photos of wildlife. One of the most amazing camping experiences, though, happens at night. Once you leave the lights of the city behind, you will be able to clearly see the stars in all their glory. It doesn’t matter if you are an active stargazer or not. You cannot help but be enchanted by the beauty of the stars lighting up the dark as you explore the best stargazing spots in California. On your next RV outing, visit some of Southern California’s most popular star-gazing destinations. In this blog post, we will focus on the two primary desert regions in the southern half of the state.
High Desert Star Gazing Destinations
To the north of San Gabriel and the San Bernardino Mountains, the higher elevations of the Mojave Desert offer some amazing opportunities to view the stars as you camp out in your El Monte RV. Located between 2,000 and 4,000 feet above sea level, these remote locations are far from city lights that obscure the depths of the night sky and make them some of the best stargazing spots in California.
Red Rock Canyon in Kern County, CA
This state park is a popular star-gazing spot for RV enthusiasts. It is just a convenient drive from Southern California’s urban corridor, yet far enough to offer a darker backdrop at night. It features pit toilets and fresh water, and overnight camping for a nominal fee. Although the campground features gas lighting, you need only venture a short distance away to get the darkness necessary for some great star gazing.
Afton Canyon in San Bernardino County, CA
Just 40 miles from the town of Barstow, a Bureau of Land Management campground at Afton Canyon is another great place to view the night sky. Located along the well-traveled Mojave Road ORV route and sited along the year-round Mojave River, it tends to get a bit busy on weekends. Take your El Monte RV to this remote site during the week if you crave solitude and exceptional star gazing. You can listen to the lonesome sounds of passing trains and spot big horn sheep in the high hills during daylight.
Amboy Crater BLM Scenic Area
This beautiful high desert location is an undeveloped BLM site near the old Route 66 highway. Although it tends to get quite windy, the parking lot of Amboy Crater offers solid ground to set up your telescope and a good place to park your RV, although there are no overnight facilities. Once you have finished star gazing, head back to Barstow, which is 80 miles, Joshua Tree or Needles for food and a bed for the night. With approximately 15 million acres of BLM land throughout the state, you shouldn’t have to travel far to find a place to camp.
Grandview Campground in the Inyo National Forest
Grandview Campground draws astronomers from across California and beyond. At an elevation of 8,500 feet in the White Mountains, you can almost reach up and touch the stars. A 20-mile drive from Big Pine over a paved road, Grandview is well away from the artificial lighting of the town and the Owens Valley below. Not only is the night sky a major attraction to all sorts of astronomers, but just across the valley in daylight, you get a bird’s eye view of the magnificent Sierra Peaks. You are welcome to the best stargazing spots in California and to camp for a nominal per-night fee, but be sure to have your RV tank filled with water because there’s none available at Grandview Campground.
Town of Bridgeport in Mono County, CA
There’s no need to head far out of town when you are RV camping in Bridgeport, a small town that radiates a modicum of light, according to this dark sky mapping tool (https://www.darksky.org/our-work/conservation/idsp/finder/), making star gazing not only possible but spectacular. You need not go out in search of one of the many remote spots in the National Forest of Mono County, although there is a wealth to choose from if you’re up for the adventure. Bridgeport is the county seat and nestles along Highway 395, a busy traffic route. Nevertheless, it’s a great place to stay, star gaze and marvel at the shimmering trail of the Milky Way, which stretches from one horizon to the other.
Benton Hot Springs
Benton Hot Springs is another fantastic stop for star gazing. Like Bridgeport above, it is part of Mono County, but it is a 40-mile drive from Route 395. Benton Hot Springs shares its desert home with sagebrush and soothing waters, and you’ll find there’s no better way to stargaze than when you’re enjoying a soak beneath an enchanting night sky. The town is a quiet oasis offering only a grocery store and an inn. Fortunately for the RV crowd, the inn offers campsites too, complete with Hot Springs tubs.
Death Valley’s Emigrant Campground, Inyo County, CA
If you are serious about your best stargazing spots in California, you have to visit Emigrant Campground in Death Valley National Park. The northern part of the park is known as the darkest spot in Southern California at night. The only illumination comes from passing cars on Route 190 and the slightest glow from Las Vegas, which is hours away. The campground itself offers you the luxury of running water and flush toilets. It’s an ideal spot to get a clear look at the starscape above you and of course, the Milky Way, bright enough to cast your shadow. You can even see distant star groups, such as the Triangulum Galaxy, without a telescope.
Mesquite Springs Camp, Inyo County
If even a whisper of light at night is too much, keep on the road 50 miles past Emigrant Campground to an even darker place. Set in the northernmost region of Death Valley, Mesquite Springs Campground provides a perfectly black canvas that shows off the Milky Way, the planets and the stars at their brightest. When the darkness is complete around midnight, you can catch a glimpse of “gegenschein,” the faint reflection of sunlight on the cosmic dust in the atmosphere. Cue the nightly chorus of local coyotes, and you can check “ultimate star gazing experience” off your bucket list.
Desert Star Gazing in the Low Country
Once you have found the ideal RV for sale, your next stop is to enjoy some of the best stargazing spots in California in the Southern California low desert. This area spans most of Riverside County as well as all of Imperial County. To the east, the low desert extends a bit into San Diego County too. Although the bright city lights from Palm Springs to Mexicali illuminate a corridor of about 125 miles through this desert terrain, there are still plenty of dark star-gazing spots. The remote eastern edge provides the black velvet backdrop at night that highlights the beauty of the heavens. Continue the adventure with the best stargazing spots in California by exploring the following places that are perfect for star seekers.
Ana-Borrego Desert State Park, San Diego County
Just a couple hours east of San Diego, the largest park in the state system, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, awaits. Recognized as one of the top sites to stargaze anywhere, this state park can accommodate RVs up to 35 feet in length, so if you are the proud new owner of an El Monte motorhomes for sale used, you’re covered. Two prime locations within the park for viewing the night sky include “Astronomy Way” and the Carrizo Badlands Overlook in the southern section.
Salton Sea, Imperial and Riverside Counties, CA
Far enough from the city lights of Coachella and Imperial Valleys to offer a great dark night experience, Salton Sea is a State Recreation Area that follows the eastern shoreline of the land-locked water body. With day-use areas that stay open 24 hours and camping from October to May, Salton Sea State Park is a mecca for amateur astronomers. Reserve your camping spot on the California State Parks website.
Joshua Tree National Park, Riverside County, CA
The low desert half of the well-known Joshua Tree National Park offers dark nights and amazing skies. Pinto Basin is one of many prime spots to stargaze, and RV camping is available on a first-come, first-served basis at Cottonwood Campground. While recent commercial development in Coachella Valley, just over the Orocopia Mountains, may eventually interfere with the pristine dark, for now, the best stargazing spots in California in the park is well worth the trip.
Midland Ghost Town, Riverside County, CA
For those with a sense of adventure, what could be better than a dark night sky above a desert ghost town? Free campsites, concrete pads that offer firm bases for telescopes and good accessibility are just the side benefits. Services are a short 22-mile jaunt in the small town of Blythe. Midland Ghost Town has been vacant since the 1960s when the U.S. Gypsum company closed down its mining operation.
Milpitas Wash, Imperial County, CA
Nestled in the shadow of the Palo Verde Mountains, Milpitas Wash enjoys the kind of dark nights that make star gazing a must. Dispersed campsites welcome those with four-wheel-drive vehicles, but if you plan to camp, bring your own water and supplies.
Best stargazing spots in California
Many of the high and low desert best stargazing spots in California are RV-friendly, but be sure to check ahead, when possible, for accessibility. Your El Monte RV dealer can help with the right RV for sale to get you there. Remember that we have a motorhome for sale used selection suitable for star gazing in Southern California and beyond. Get in touch today.