Lonely Planet Writer

Joshua Tree National Park is set to draw in stargazers as it becomes a Dark Sky Park

Travellers already flock to Joshua Tree National Park in California to enjoy the whimsical beauty of its namesake trees and rock structures, but soon even more stargazers will be drawn there to celebrate its new designation as an International Dark Sky Park.

"Light Painted" Joshua Trees photographed under the Milky Way, moon and twilight glow in Death Valley. The new moon appears full and one can still see the twilight glow in this exposure due to the amount of light retained by the camera.
Joshua Tree National Park will be a destination for stargazers. Image by Marc Adamus/Getty Images

The park will receive the honor in August, according to Visit Greater Palm Springs. The distinction will come from the International Dark-Sky Association, an organization that preserves and protects dark sites in order to keep starry nights and nocturnal environments available for educational or scientific purposes and for public enjoyment.

While the designation is new, the park is already a destination for people who come to stargaze. It is also located near to another dark sky region, the town of Borrego Springs, which is a Dark Sky Community, the only one of its kind in California. A Dark Sky Community is one that preserves night skies through the implementation of proper outdoor lighting.

Joshua Tree National Park, Mojave Desert, California
Enjoy the beautiful sunsets at Joshua Tree only to be followed by a dark, starry sky. Image by ©S.Borisov/Shutterstock

The International Dark-Sky Association describes Joshua Tree National Park as a virtually unique setting when it comes to dark skies, as it is located near a metropolitan area of about four million inhabitants on its western side and is “the last pool of natural darkness remaining in Southern California in its eastern extremity”. The association says that for most of the 18 million people in the greater Los Angeles area, it’s the most convenient place to go star-gazing.

The park also actively maintains a program of education and outreach for visitors when it comes to dark skies, and has even made a number of efforts to preserve them, such as convincing neighboring jurisdictions to make improvements to their lighting systems.

Enjoy the stars when Joshua Tree National Park becomes a dark sky park.
Enjoy the stars when Joshua Tree National Park becomes a dark sky park. Image by Greater Palm Springs CVB

There will also be a new attraction for star-loving travellers in Greater Palm Springs in early 2018. A new research-quality telescope will open at a new observatory in Rancho Mirage next to the Rancho Mirage Public Library. The observatory will have a rotating dome and open deck area for visitors to set up their own telescopes.