Stargazing in Zion

Jagged cliffs silhouetted by a starry night sky
Angels Landing sits silhouetted by a starry night sky.

NPS / Serena Wurmser


Many Zion visitors like to stay for sunset to take photos of cliffs glowing vivid orange in the late day sun. Then, as the last sunlight fades from the sky, a steady stream of cars file out of the park toward homes, hotels, and other destinations. But for those few who stay later or spend the night nearby, an entirely different and memorable Zion experience awaits: the dark night sky, filled with thousands of stars, above the jagged silhouette of cliffs.

Zion is a great place to connect with the night sky, whether you are an avid astrophotographer or this will be your first view of the Milky Way. As an International Dark Sky Park, Zion protects our incredible dark skies for present and future generations by not degrading the night with artificial light. This means that after sunset, the park is very dark. Be prepared!

The Milky Way stretches over the Watchman.
The late-summer night sky, with The Milky Way stretching over the Watchman.

NPS photo

Plan Ahead and Prepare

Before getting to Zion, prepare for your stargazing experience.

Check the Moon phase.

When the Moon is above the horizon, its light will wash out fainter features of the night sky, including the Milky Way. Plan to stargaze before the Moon rises or after the Moon sets. Search "Moon rise and set time in Springdale, Utah" online to get Moon rise and set times during your visit. The darkest nights always occur during the week leading up to a New Moon.

Pack stargazing essentials.

  • Clothing layers: Although days in Zion can be scorching hot, the desert becomes chilly once the sun goes down. Bring jackets and blankets to stay warm.

  • Snacks: At night, there is no access to food in Zion. Plan to bring all the food and water you need.

  • Red light:. White light, including car headlights, cell phones screens, and headlamps, will impair your night vision. It takes your eyes 20-30 minutes to adjust to the dark after seeing white light! Red light has much less impact on your night vision, so use only red light or a white light source covered with red cellophane.

  • A star map: If you are curious about what you are looking at while stargazing, consider packing a planisphere (a paper star map) or downloading a phone app before arriving at Zion. Do not plan on having cell service in the park.

  • Binoculars or a telescope: This is optional, but if you have binoculars or a telescope, consider bringing them! Viewing a magnified night sky is a different and wondrous experience.

Have a plan for where to sleep.

Camping is only allowed at designated campsites or with some Wilderness permits, so make sure to plan for where you will sleep after enjoying the park’s night sky.

Stars in a twilight sky, over a mesa crossed with snowy lines
Checkerboard Mesa, located on the East Side of Zion, is an ideal place to stargaze.

NPS Photo

Where Should I Stargaze in Zion?

Zion has dark night skies throughout the park. To help with planning, here are some easily accessible night sky viewing areas:

Zion Canyon

  • Pa’rus Trail
  • Human History Museum patio (ADA accessible)

East Side

  • Checkerboard Mesa Pull-off

Kolob Terrace Road

  • Lava Point Overlook. Closes seasonally when snow falls. Check current conditions before you go.

  • Wildcat Canyon Trailhead

  • Left Fork Trailhead

Kolob Canyons

  • Timber Creek Parking Lot

These locations are all outside of Zion Canyon Scenic Drive and are open to drivers year-round. Destinations on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive are only accessible by shuttle for most of the year. Check the shuttle schedule before you make plans to stargaze along Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.

Although you can see the Milky Way from anywhere in Zion, the darkest skies are on the east side of the park and along Kolob Terrace Road. As you travel, please be careful not to hit nocturnal wildlife on roadways. All of these locations have access to restrooms except for Checkerboard Mesa Pullout.

If you are planning on bringing a personal telescope, consider setting it up at Checkerboard Mesa Pullout, Lava Point Overlook, or Timber Creek Parking Lot. These three locations have wide views of the sky and flat ground to set-up a telescope.

Red cliffs, a starry night sky, and an empty road stretching through the canyon.
While waiting for your eyes to adjust to the darkness, admire the way that Zion's cliffs frame the night sky.

NPS photo

Once Arriving at Your Selected Location

Wait for full dark

The night sky is darkest beginning 1.5 hours after sunset and until 1.5 hours before sunrise. The park is open 24 hours a day, so no need to worry about entering or exiting.

Give your eyes time to adjust

Sit back, relax, and give your eyes at least 20-30 minutes to adjust to the dark. You’ll be amazed how many more stars appear after waiting for 30 minutes!

Respect the landscape

Do your part to conserve the park. Don’t go off trail, pack out trash, and reduce your noise so you don’t disturb nocturnal wildlife and other visitors.


What will I See in the Night Sky?

The park’s night sky and nighttime landscape are constantly changing based on the time of year and the phase of the Moon.

The milky way stretching behind the silhouette of a tree
The summer night sky holds the richest views of the Milky Way.

NPS/ Jesse Nelson

Time of Year

The night sky changes gradually over the course of the year, such that there are entirely different stars and constellations visible in the summer and winter night sky. Learn more about the different seasons in Zion.

  • Summer: You will look toward the center of our galaxy. August and September are the best months to see the Milky Way stretching overhead. Summer is also the warmest time of year to stargaze in Zion, but be prepared to stay out late! In June and July, it’s not fully dark until after 10 pm MT. In mid-August, keep an eye out for meteors as part of the Perseid Meteor Shower.

  • Fall: Soon after it gets dark, you’ll likely see the Milky Way setting to the west. Directly overhead, the park’s dark skies allow you to observe the Andromeda Galaxy with unaided eyes or with a pair of binoculars.

  • Winter: Although nights are chilly, the stars of the winter night sky shine vibrantly. In the winter you will look toward the core of our local arm in the Milky Way–this is why there are so many bright stars! You will see popular constellations like Orion and the Pleiades. In mid-December, look up to see the bright meteors of the Geminid Meteor Shower.

  • Spring: You will see the bright winter stars setting to the west and the summer night sky, including the summer Milky Way, rising to the east.

At any time of year, expect to see satellites, meteors (also known as shooting stars), and thousands of stars when you look up at the night sky. The location of planets changes year by year, so search "planet rise and set time in Springdale, Utah" online to see which will be visible during your trip to Zion.

A full moon rising over red cliffs
A Full Moon rise is a beautiful moment to witness, but plan ahead—the cliffs of Zion Canyon will block the moment that the Moon crests the horizon. From the Pa'rus trail, it can take over an hour for the Moon to rise above the canyon walls.

NPS photo

Time of Month

The night sky changes every night based on the phase of the Moon. To determine what the Moon phase will be during your time in Zion, search “Moon rise and set time in Springdale, UT.”

  • Before a Full Moon: Come a few days before a Full Moon to see the canyon illuminated by moonlight (but be aware this moonlight will wash out views of the dimmer stars and the Milky Way). This is a great time for night hikes along the Pa’rus Trail.

  • Before a New Moon: The week leading up to a New Moon offers the best views of a dark night sky. This is the best time to see the park’s dark night sky, the Milky Way, and any deep sky objects (such as nebulae, star clusters, and galaxies) through binoculars or a telescope.


Why Protect Dark Night Skies?

The dark night skies that you see while stargazing in Zion are no coincidence. As an International Dark Sky Park, Zion works hard to protect our night skies in a world where fewer and fewer communities have access to a night sky filled with stars. Light pollution—excess light that scatters in the sky—is growing alarmingly fast, and recent studies have found a 9.6% per year annual increase in sky brightness between 2011– 2022 (Kyba et al 2023). Greater than 80% of Americans can no longer see the Milky Way from their backyard.

Humans are not the only creatures impacted by a brighter night sky. Nocturnal animals and insects rely on darkness to hunt or hide. Circadian rhythms of many plants and animals are negatively affected by light pollution. Amid a nighttime landscape illuminated by light pollution, Zion and other national parks are some of the few places left in the country with dark night skies.

Although light pollution may seem grim, it is hopeful too, because it disappears instantly once lights are turned off. Here in Zion, we reduce our light footprint by turning out lights when not in use, using outdoor lights only where necessary, shielding outdoor lighting so that it points downward, and using warm color light bulbs such as amber or red. These are all actions you can do at home as well. By working to reduce your light footprint and educating your neighbors about responsible outdoor lighting, you can take the park’s night skies home with you.


Observando las Estrellas en Zion

Podrá disfrutar de cielos nocturnos oscuros en todo Zion. Mientras observa las estrellas, permanezca en los senderos y en las zonas de estacionamiento, recoja su basura y reduzca el ruido. El parque no cierra por la noche, pero algunas zonas pueden no ser accesibles durante todo el año.
  • Zion Canyon
    • El sendero Pa’rus
    • El patio del Human History Museum
  • Lado Este
    • Estacionamiento de Checkerboard Mesa
Kolob Terrace RoadMirador de Lava Point (cierra por temporadas)
    • Inicio del sendero Wildcat Canyon
    • Inicio del sendero Left Fork
  • Kolob Canyon
    • Estacionamiento de Timber Creek
Solo se puede acampar en los campamentos designados o con algunos permisos para áreas silvestres. Planee dónde dormirá después de disfrutar del cielo nocturno del parque.

Zion National Park protege los cielos oscuros utilizando luz artificial sólo cuando y donde es necesario. Esto significa que después del atardecer, el parque está muy oscuro. ¡Esté preparado!

Revise la fase lunar.
  • Cuando la Luna está visible, su luz oculta los elementos más tenues del cielo nocturno, incluida la Vía Láctea. Planea observar las estrellas antes de que salga la Luna o después de que se meta.

Lleve lo esencial para observar las estrellas.
  • Lleve ropa de abrigo, comida, agua y linternas de luz roja. No use luz blanca, ya que arruinará su visión nocturna.

Espere a que oscurezca por completo.
  • El cielo nocturno está más oscuro a partir de 1.5 horas después del atardecer y hasta 1.5 horas antes del amanecer.

Dele tiempo a sus ojos para que se adapten.
  • Pase 20-30 minutos sin mirar ninguna luz blanca, incluyendo las pantallas de celulares y cámaras. ¡Le sorprenderá cuántas estrellas más se ven!

Los cielos nocturnos oscuros que se ven al observar las estrellas aquí no son una coincidencia. Como Parque Internacional de Cielo Oscuro, Zion trabaja duro para proteger nuestros cielos nocturnos.

Los cielos nocturnos oscuros son cada vez menos comunes. Más del 80% de estadounidenses ya no pueden ver la Vía Láctea desde sus casas. Reducir la contaminación por luces en el parque permite disfrutar de un cielo nocturno oscuro y protege el hábitat de plantas y animales nocturnos.

Zion comparte los horarios de los programas de astronomía actuales y las condiciones del cielo nocturno en los centros de visitantes y en línea.

Want to Learn More About Dark Night Skies?

Visit other International Dark Sky Parks

See what night sky sites may be close to you!

The Zion IDA sign, with blue cliffs, a deer in the foreground, and the purple IDA logo.
Lighting Projects in Zion

Read about what Zion is doing to protect our dark night skies.

A full moon above red cliffs
Learn about the Night Sky in the NPS

Explore the work that the NPS is doing to protect and preserve dark skies.

Return to the Things To Do page.

Last updated: March 29, 2024

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Zion National Park
1 Zion Park Blvd.

Springdale, UT 84767


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