Dark skies are beautiful and scientifically valuable. Humans have been contemplating their meaning for centuries. The National Park Service and its partner organizations invite you to discover the night sky through a series of astronomy programs. Every year, AstroFest provides the opportunity for visitors to experience this threatened resource, and learn about how important it is to protect. Come celebrate with us!
This year will highlight the night skies along the Gunnison River corridor, in three separate public land areas:
Thursday, September 14 events will take place in the town of Montrose, Colorado, in cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management and Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area.
Friday, September 15 events will be at the South Rim of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
Saturday, September 16 events will be held at the Elk Creek district of Curecanti National Recreation Area.
Weather Update, September 14, 2023:
Events and locations subject to change due to weather conditions -- updates will be posted here and on Facebook as soon as they are available.
Thursday, September 14 - Telescope Viewing CANCELLED. See below for NEW EVENTS.
Things to Know:
Due to very limited parking at event sites, carpooling is strongly encouraged for all events, particularly on Friday at Black Canyon.
There is limited cell service at event sites; plan accordingly.
Protect participants' night vision by only using flashlights with red lenses, NOT white lights.
Dress warmly and prepare for the evening's weather conditions.
Bring food and water, and bring a comfortable campchair, if desired.
All events are free, but park entrance fees still apply at Black Canyon.
This year's schedule of events:
Thursday, September 14: Montrose, Colorado
7:00–8:00 pm: Guest speaker Dr. Bob Grossman (Retired Professor of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Colorado Boulder) discusses dark sky preservation; Montrose Public Safety Complex Community Room, 434 S. 1st Street.
8:00-9:00 pm: Special presentation on the Astronomy of Chaco Canyon, by Dr. Erica Ellingson (Professor of Astronomy, University of Colorado Boulder)
8:30–10:00 pm: Stargazing with telescopes; Flat Top OHV Staging Area, Flat Top Road (via 6530 Road, on the north side of Montrose). Flat Top Road is a dirt road suitable for passenger vehicles, unless wet or muddy. (Event will be cancelled if raining.) See bottom of page for directions.
Friday, September 15: Black Canyon National Park
3:30–4:30 pm: Ranger-led solar telescope viewing; South Rim Visitor Center.
7:30–8:30 pm: Guest speaker Aaron Watson (Colorado Chair of DarkSky International) discusses dark sky conservation efforts; South Rim Campground Amphitheater.
8:30–10:00 pm: Stargazing with telescopes; various South Rim sites.
Saturday, September 16: Curecanti National Recreation Area
3:30–4:30 pm: Ranger-led solar telescope viewing; Elk Creek Visitor Center.
7:30–8:30 pm: Ranger-led evening program: “Stories of the Stars” (cultural perspectives of night skies); Elk Creek Campground Amphitheater.
8:30–10:00 pm: Stargazing with telescopes; Elk Creek Campground Amphitheater.
All events are subject to change or cancellation due to weather.
**Location changes or cancellations will be listed in the Alerts section of this website, and posted to the park's Facebook page.
AstroFest is made possible through our partnerships with, and support from, these agencies and organizations. Visit their websites to learn more:
Directions to the BLM Flat Top site: From North of Montrose: Travel South on Highway 50. Follow signs for Hwy 50 left at the San Juan Bypass traffic light. Continue for 1.1 miles, then turn left onto 6530 Rd. From South of Montrose: Travel North on Highway 550. Turn right at Main & Townsend. Follow signs for Hwy 50 and turn left at the San Juan Bypass traffic light. Continue for 0.3 miles, then turn right onto 6530 Rd. From East of Montrose: Travel West on Highway 50. Follow signs for Hwy 50 and turn right at the San Juan Bypass traffic light (Taco Bell on left before turn). Continue for 0.3 miles, then turn right onto 6530 Rd. Once you are on 6530 Road: Continue for 2.4 miles. You will pass San Juan Gardens on the left and Montrose Forest Products mill on the left. The road turns to dirt at the mill. About 1000 feet past the main entrance to the mill, turn right at the top of the rise onto Flat Top Rd. Continue for 0.8 miles. The Flat Top BLM parking lot is on the right. We will set up east of their across the road. Coordinates: Location of site is 38.52 North, 107.86 West
Last updated: September 14, 2023
102 Elk Creek
(GPS/physical address = 9800 Highway 347, Montrose, CO)