When one goes to a state park for stargazing, there is a lot to consider, both in terms of weather and gear, but also in terms of the park itself. In this article, we will provide state park stargazing tips that we have tried and tested in our travels to state parks across the Pacific Northwest, regardless of how familiar one is with the state park.
The best tips that we can provide starts with doing some research on the park, which is the best and only way to learn about the options available for stargazing. Maybe the park closes at a certain time and is off limits to stargazers, or maybe the stargazing area isn’t available during the time desired due to repairs. Moreover, there might be events being held that night such as a movie night which would interfere with stargazing. None of this will be figured out and determined until research is done, which can be done by utilizing a few reliable resources. A great first option to check out our Unique Astronomy Map as we not only link the official state park website in each of our entries, but it also tells you about which if any amateur astronomy groups use the site. The official state park website of the desired site is going to be able to show the events, hours, and any potential information regarding closures. In addition to the website, calling the rangers can also provide information as well including permit information.
Checking the amateur astronomy clubs websites that utilize the area can help provide information that is crucial to stargazing as easily as possible, including any permits, events they are holding, and other information they publicly provide to their members. A good example is this article by the Rose City Astronomers showing what is required to stargaze at Stub Stewart State Park in Oregon.
Another important factor to consider is our guide to star party and general star gazing etiquette, which can be found here. Please make sure to review these before going out to stargaze at a state park around others, as the last thing that astronomers like or want is someone who cannot follow best practices. Not following these best practices can be seen as a way to not make friends with other astronomers in the area, who are often ones friend when observing, regardless of how often one has been to that location.
Moreover, after doing online research and considering all the facts available, it is highly recommended to check t see if Google Maps provides any street view images of the area. This will help first time visitors get an idea of what the area looks like before arriving.
Nevertheless, the last tip is to show up early and be prepared. Showing up early will allow you to get the best spot and get setup before nightfall. This means that following best etiquette can be followed and allows proper setup and prevent unexpected issues to come up. There might only be a limited number of spots that are available, so getting there early will help ensure that you can get into an ideal spot with plenty of time.