The best spots in the US to watch the Perseid meteor shower this summer
The Perseid meteor shower is one of the best astronomical events of the year, visible in 2019 from 17 July to 24 August. What makes this meteor shower so special is a combination of factors: a high peak of average meteors per hour (up to 80 per hour!) and warm weather in the northern hemisphere bring out crowds to see all the shooting stars during the most active days of the year, 13 to 14 August.
Whether you've seen this shower in years past or have never seen a meteor shower before, the Perseids are one worth planning to try and see. Read on for some of the best dark sky locations near major cities across the northern hemisphere.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
While a lot of stars live in Los Angeles, it can be pretty hard to actually see the astronomic ones from this huge city. Instead, head out to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park – a local favorite for astronomers who want to enjoy the night sky without too much more time on the road than you'll experience during rush hour. Anza-Borrego has been a certified Dark Sky Park since 2018.
There are no formal events planned for the Perseid meteor shower at Anza-Borrego yet, but keep an eye on the events calendar for this state park as they do host regular stargazing events.
Cherry Springs State Park
In eastern USA, it can be hard to find a view of the dark sky. Massive urban and suburban development have slowly reduced the opportunities for residents and travelers to marvel at the stars. Cherry Springs State Park, located in the northern part of central Pennsylvania, is one of those remaining spots where you can see the night sky, and its 2008 designation marks it as one of the world's earliest Dark Sky Parks. It's a trek to visit this spot from major metro areas like New York City and Philadelphia, so it's best to make it a weekend trip.
On the weekend of 10-11 August, Cherry Springs State Park rangers and local astronomers will be gathering in the park to admire the Perseid meteors as well as the first-quarter moon that will be visible. Pre-registration is required to manage impact on the park; the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources events page has all the details.
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
Texas is known for its big open skies, and this is especially true once the sun sets. Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is well known by locals in Austin and San Antonio as a dark sky site worth traveling for. It's a busy weekend to visit and one of the best spots in the US to see the Perseid meteor shower from Dallas-Fort Worth or Houston, but it's possible if you plan ahead. Book a campsite now for the weekend of 10-11 August if you want the full experience.
There's no formal event to view the Perseids at Enchanted Rock, but two good events hosted by park staff include the Sunset Summit Hike on 10 August and the Full Moon Hike on 15 August. Both of these will give you a chance to see shooting stars on nights near the evening of peak meteor activity.
Middle Fork River County Forest Preserve
One of the more recently-designated Dark Sky Parks in the US according to the International Dark-Sky Association, Middle Fork River County Forest Preserve is one of the best stargazing destinations for Chicago locals and residents from other Midwest US cities. A refuge for wildlife in central Illinois, Middle Fork River County Forest Preserve was recently retrofitted with light pollution-reducing fixtures that help ensure everyone who visits the preserve at night can enjoy the night sky.
There aren't currently any events planned for Perseid viewing at Middle Fork River County Forest Preserve, but you can book a campsite for the weekend and hold your own unofficial star party.
Want to know more about Dark Sky Parks around the US? Find out which one is right for you.