Cedar Breaks' Summer Star Party Wins Best National Park Night Experience

DC's Monuments by Moonlight Night Tour in second place

Most travelers visit national parks during the daylight, but there's a whole lot more going on in parks after dark! From star parties to full moon hikes, these 10 experiences, nominated by 10Best editors and the National Park Foundation and voted to the top by 10Best and USA TODAY readers, offer visitors the opportunity to experience the national parks in a different light.

  • Summer Star Party
    Cedar Breaks National Monument

    Every Saturday evening from May through the end of July, visitors to Cedar Breaks National Monument can attend a Summer Star Party. Park rangers at Point Supreme give a presentation on a night sky-related topic, and once it's dark, guests can see the sky through park telescopes or take a laser-powered tour of the constellations.
    Photo courtesy of NPS Photo

  • Monuments by Moonlight Night Tour
    National Mall and Memorial Parks

    One of the most popular tours through the National Mall and Memorial Parks in our nation's capital occur after dark. Old Town Trolley Tours take passengers on a trip to see the city in a different light, with stops at the illuminated Iwo Jima, FDR, Lincoln, Vietnam Veterans', Korean War and Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorials.
    Photo courtesy of NPS Photo

  • Sunset Safari
    Rocky Mountain National Park

    You haven't fully experienced Rocky Mountain National Park's Trail Ridge Road unless you've driven it by day and at night. The Rocky Mountain Conservancy's Sunset Safari takes passengers to the top of the road to watch the sun set over the Never Summer Mountains, with stops on the way to discuss night-related topics, like the hearing and sight adaptations of nocturnal animals.
    Photo courtesy of NPS Photo

  • Chaco Night Sky Program
    Chaco Culture National Historical Park

    The Chacoan people were close observers of the skies, and visitors to Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico can learn about their astronomical practices over 1,000 years ago, as well as gaze at the stars through a modern telescope at the Chaco Observatory's Evening Night Sky Programs.
    Photo courtesy of NPS Photo

  • Star Party
    Craters Of The Moon National Monument & Preserve

    On select nights in June and September, representatives from the Idaho Falls Astronomical Society host Star Parties at Craters Of The Moon National Monument & Preserve. The evening starts with a night sky presentation at the campground amphitheater, followed by telescope viewing in the Caves Area parking lot. 
    Photo courtesy of NPS Photo

  • Full Moon Hike at White Sands
    White Sands National Monument

    During a full moon at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, the moon reflects off the dunes to create a surreal setting for a nightime guided hike. Rangers point out the adaptations that allow animals to live in this harsh desert environment.
    Photo courtesy of Matt Howry / Flickr

  • Starry, Starry Night
    Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

    Starry, Starry Night, a weekly ranger-led program at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan, visitors take a tour of the night sky while learning about the legends associated with the various stars and constellations. The Grand Traverse Astronomical Society also teams up with the park for monthly star parties.
    Photo courtesy of NPS Photo

  • Full Moon Guided Hike
    Great Basin National Park

    Shortly after sunset on full moons during the summer months, "Dark Rangers at Great Basin National Park lead visitors on a 2-mile hike by the light of the moon. Tickets are free and available on the day of the hike from the Lehman Caves Visitor Center.
    Photo courtesy of DJANDYW.COM / Flickr

  • Night Sky Observing
    Badlands National Park

    On Friday through Monday nights during the summer, evening ranger programs at Badlands National Park's Cedar Pass Campground Amphitheater culminate in night sky observing with telescopes provided by Celestron and the Badlands Natural History Association.
    Photo courtesy of NPS Photo

  • Night Sky Program
    Arches and Canyonlands National Parks

    In spring and fall, rangers from Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah team up to help visitors better appreciate the wonders of the night sky. Programs rotate between the three parks and typically include stargazing and telescope viewing.
    Photo courtesy of NPS photo by Jacob W. Frank

The top 10 winners in the category Best National Park Night Experience are as follows:

  1. Summer Star Party - Cedar Breaks National Monument
  2. Monuments by Moonlight Night Tour - National Mall and Memorial Parks
  3. Sunset Safari - Rocky Mountain National Park
  4. Chaco Night Sky Program - Chaco Culture National Historical Park
  5. Star Party - Craters Of The Moon National Monument & Preserve
  6. Full Moon Hike at White Sands - White Sands National Monument
  7. Starry, Starry Night - Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
  8. Full Moon Guided Hike - Great Basin National Park
  9. Night Sky Observing - Badlands National Park
  10. Night Sky Program - Arches and Canyonlands National Parks

Additional nominees included Explore the Dark Skies at Hovenweep National Monument, Full Moon Hikes at Hurricane Ridge at Olympic National Park, Full Moon Hikes at Bryce Canyon National Park, Logan Pass Star Parties at Glacier National Park, Moon & Star Programs at Death Valley National Park, New Moon Stargazing at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Night Sky Watch at Virgin Islands National Park, Nightwalk at Bandelier National Monument, The Park After Dark at Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve and Stars Over Yosemite at Yosemite National Park.

Congratulations to all our winning national park programs and experiences.

License the 10Best Readers' Choice Award Logo

AlertThe Experts

David French

David French

10Best Editors

10Best Editors