Cherry Springs State Park

Top choice state park in Pennsylvania Wilds

Considered one of the best places for stargazing east of the Mississippi, this mountaintop state park seems to have plenty of space, but be sure to book well ahead in July and August, when the Milky Way is almost directly overhead. There's a $6.50 transaction fee for making overnight reservations.

Cherry Springs is one of only five parks in the US (the others are in Big Bend, TX; Death Valley, CA; Natural Bridges, UT; and Clayton Lake, NM) to have received the highest rating or certification by the non-profit International Dark-Sky Association (www.darksky.org), which speaks against out light pollution and advocates for protecting the night sky.

Essentially two large open fields (one a former runway at an elevation of 2300ft), Cherry Springs is blessed to be surrounded by the hills of the 262,000-acre Susquehannock State Forest, which tend to block any artificial light. The area also has an extremely low population density. Beginning about an hour after sunset on Friday and Saturday nights from Memorial Day to Labor Day (Saturdays only from mid-April to the end of May and September to the end of October), the park hosts free laser-guided and telescope-assisted tours of the constellations. Crowds of several hundred people are common on clear nights in July and August.


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