The national parks and monuments of the Colorado Plateau have long been popular destinations for travelers. In addition to their stunning landscapes and rich cultural history, these areas share another resource: some of the darkest skies remaining in the contiguous 48 United States.
The darkness of a moonless night at Arches surprises many visitors. As few as one in ten Americans lives in an area where they can see the estimated 2,500 stars that should be visible under normal conditions. In many cities, the night sky is completely obscured by the glow of urban settlement. At Arches, the naked eye is sufficient to witness a wealth of stars. Under the right conditions, common binoculars may even reveal the rings of Saturn.
However, a clear view of the Milky Way is more than an aesthetic experience. Research indicates that light pollution severely impacts the ability of many animals, especially birds and insects, to navigate. On many occasions, thousands of birds have died in a single night by following artificial lights into towers, buildings, smokestacks and even the ground. Read more about the importance of dark night skies.
Arches' relative isolation from the artificial light of urban areas makes it an ideal place for viewing the night sky. Park staff have also worked to reduce ambient light from within the park by replacing park lighting with "night-sky friendly" lights and fixtures. Arches preserves a wealth of resources. Many, like natural darkness, have become more significant as they become increasingly rare outside the park.
Where to Stargaze
On a clear night, you can see great stars just about anywhere in the park. Areas off the main park road with few obstructions of the sky are best. The farther north you drive, away from the lights of Moab, the darker the sky will be.
Try stargazing at these areas:
- Balanced Rock Picnic Area
- The Windows
- Garden of Eden Viewpoint
- Panorama Point