Want to see breathtaking views of constellations, planets, and even other galaxies? Try visiting the Grand Canyon at night for an unforgettable experience.
In a nation filled with street lights, neon-blinking shop signs, and endless glare from smartphones, it’s tough to find dark skies filled with bright stars, slowly spiraling satellites, and even distant planets. That’s part of what makes a trip to the Grand Canyon at night so special. Even novice hikers can enjoy the vista up above — spectacular by day and even better after the sun sets.
Get a Good View
Two spots along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon— Yavapai Point and Lipan Point — are popular and easily accessible locations to bring a telescope and watch the stars. It takes about a 45-minute drive to Lipan Point from Grand Canyon Village, and Yavapai Point is just a short walk from the parking lot. Oftentimes, the parking lots fill up at sunset, so consider taking the Orange Shuttle from the Yavapai Geology Museum. During the day, these vantage points are also ideal for taking in the purple, gold, and brown rock layers and the famous gash of the Colorado River.
Learn the Lightscape
A natural lightscape — or a sky unblemished by manmade light — is a rare sight these days, but there’s a breathtaking view of constellations, planets, and even other galaxies above the Grand Canyon at night. For a week every year in June, the park hosts a Star Party. In 2016, Jupiter and Saturn joined in the fun, and amateur astronomers could see Venus early in the morning hours.
Pack the Right Gear
To truly enjoy your trip to the Grand Canyon at night, the proper gear is essential. Break in your hiking shoes well in advance of your trip, and bring plenty of full water containers to combat dehydration that can result from the dry conditions. At night, the temperature drops significantly from daytime highs, so dress warmly.
Check with the National Park Service for important seasonal tips if you plan to hike the Grand Canyon, especially at night. Always be aware of the weather forecast, and stay on trails, never hiking alone. Whether traveling down at night on foot or by mule, it takes about four to six hours to reach to the canyon bottom and about twice as long to hike back up. In winter, there are icy conditions requiring poles and crampons, while in the summer the lower parts of the canyon can exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Plan Your Stay
Since a roundtrip hike to the bottom and back in a single day is nearly impossible, decide if you plan to camp overnight or simply hike trails by day. Daytime mule rides are always available; be sure to reserve your spot well in advance. Rather not rough it? There are plenty of historic and beautiful lodges available for a good night’s sleep after stargazing.
Whether by day or night, the Grand Canyon is the subject of some of the nation’s most memorable photos. Are you heading to the Grand Canyon for stargazing after reading this post? Don’t forget your camera and share your best shots with us on Instagram.