The stars are only a step away in Utah, with the state having the highest concentration of International Dark-Sky Association-certified locations. This certification means anyone who wants to experience the cosmic wonder of the stars can do so in one of Utah’s 19 parks.
The International Dark-Sky Association is the leading authority on light pollution. International Dark-Sky parks are protected by the IDA and possess an exceptional view of the starry night.
IDA parks closest to Southern Utah University include Bryce Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Cedar Breaks National Monument and Kodachrome Basin State Park.
IDA parks located in southeastern Utah are Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park, Goblin Valley State Park, Hovenweep National Monument, Natural Bridges National Monument and Rainbow Bridge National Monument.
Northern Utah is home to the remaining IDA parks, which are Antelope Island State Park, Dinosaur National Monument, East Canyon State Park, Jordanelle State Park, North Fork Park, Rockport State Park, Steinaker State Park and Timpanogos Cave National Monument.
The process of becoming a Dark-Sky Park is long and intricate as the IDA does not send individuals of their own to the potential location.
Certification comes when a group or individual nominates the site with detailed knowledge. The location has to meet the IDA criteria within their selected guidelines, such as community, reserves and sanctuaries.
The latest park inducted into the Dark-Sky Park certification was Utah’s East Canyon State Park, located in Morgan County Utah, which joined Aug. 21, 2020.
Of all the locations classified by the IDA as excellent stargazing spots, for the students of SUU the closest one is Cedar Breaks National Monument. Located near Brian Head, it’s only a 45-minute drive from Cedar City.
Cedar Breaks National Monument offers various hiking trails and a modern campground that accommodates both tents and RVs. However, camping is only available from mid-June to mid-September, with variations based on weather.
Another option for SUU students is the famous Bryce Canyon National Park.
Bryce Canyon is best known for its towers of red rocks and offers various unique hikes through these canyons. In winter, some activities include snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
With so many parks in Utah, there’s every opportunity imaginable to experience the stars. The dark-Sky parks offer fantastic ways to experience the galactic dance of the cosmos.