STARGAZING IN DEATH VALLEY: A COMPLETE GUIDE
Photo by Ivana Cajina
Stargazing in Death Valley is something that every stargazing enthusiast should do at least once in their life. The picture you get of the sky, in Death Valley California, is truly breathtaking and unforgettable.
Now, we know you’re probably wondering how Death Valley can be remotely good for anything. Sure, it’s extremely hot and has death in name, but did you know it’s one of the best places to stargaze in the country? It even has a gold tier rating for stargazing.
Due to the low level of light pollution in the area, you’ll be more than just impressed by the night sky, you’ll be blown away. Not only can you see the stars, but you can really develop a bond with them in Death Valley. You’ll have plenty of time and space to really get in tune with the universe, and we’ll help you every step of the way.
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If you’re looking for an interesting stargazing adventure, you’re definitely in the right place. We’ll be showing you everything that makes Death Valley a great place to explore the stars, and exactly what to do and use when you get there.
So without wasting any time, let’s dive right in, and take a look at why stargazing in Death Valley should be your next stargazing adventure.
Are you ready?
When should I head out to Death Valley?
This is probably one of the most important aspects of stargazing in Death Valley. With a name like Death Valley, it can be quite an intimidating place to go. You’ve probably heard about high temperatures, dangerous wildlife, and other horror stories about the area.
Well, believe it or not, Death Valley can actually be quite pleasant depending on when you go. So if you’re curious, pay close attention, we’ll show you exactly when to head on down to Death Valley.
The best time to go to Death Valley is during the New Moon phase in the Moon cycle. This can be during anytime of the year, but the winter months should prove to be a bit more bearable than others. Plus, in the February months, The Oasis at Death Valley invites astronomers to come out and aid you in your stargazing endeavors. So if you really want to get the most out of stargazing in Death Valley, going in early February might just be your best bet.
Why the New Moon?
When it comes to stargazing in Death Valley, you’ll want to keep light pollution to a minimum. Believe it or not, the Moon can actually add light pollution, so going when you can’t see the moon will only help you get the best viewing experience when it comes to stargazing in Death Valley.
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Are there any tour options I can participate in?
Sure, Death Valley may seem like a place everyone tries to avoid, but there are actually plenty of great tour options you can partake in. The groups are usually small and personal, and tend to run almost every night. So if you’re looking for some additional guidance stargazing in Death Valley, you’re about to find out exactly where and who to go to. So without wasting time, let’s look at the best tour you can go on.
The Tonight’s Sky Tour
This tour is a truly immersive experience, because national park rangers partner with astronomers to bring you a truly comprehensive experience. This tour tends to start at 8pm, and this typically depends on the event listings, so keep a close eye on those when you plan a trip. The astronomers will help show you what to look at, and will provide you with plenty of equipment to do so. While this is not exactly a physical tour, it’s a tour through the universe.
Park Ranger Tours
These tours are dependent on when you go, but believe it or not, park rangers hold tours after dark Death Valley National Park all throughout the spring. These events typically occur during the early spring months, when temperatures are more bearable, and focus on many aspects of stargazing.
Plus, if you enjoy the Moon, some of these rangers sponsored tours even include Moon viewing. These tours can be a great way to do some stargazing in Death Valley, but can also be a great way to take a look at the park grounds after dark. These depend on the area you stay, so make sure you check before you plan your trip.
What areas should I look for?
Once you arrive in Death Valley, you’ll start to understand how it got the name. Sure, there is plenty of sightseeing to do, but where do you start? It can be hard to find a great place to start stargazing in Death Valley, so let us lend you a helping hand.
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The entire valley region is a dark zone, which means that there is little to no light pollution. So if you want to get the most out of your experience, you’ll need to head on down to the valley. It’s pretty huge, so we’ll be showing you the 3 best locations to visit for the best stargazing experience. Please keep in mind that it takes your eyes about 20-30 minutes to adjust to darkness, so if you find yourself not seeing much at first, please remain vigilant.
Ubehebe Crater will provide you a great Death Valley experience. When it comes to stargazing in Death Valley, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better location than Ubehebe Crater. The crater was formed from a volcanic eruption many years ago, don’t worry it’s safe now, and provides a unique stargazing experience. The visibility of the sky might be a bit reduced, but the crater truly provides you with a great horizon to peak up at the stars. Plus, if you have some daytime adventuring in you, a hike through Ubehebe Crater can be truly breathtaking.
Harmony Borax Works
Harmony Borax Works is a great location to visit, and it’s very easy to get to. Located near the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, you won’t have to travel too far to get a great stargazing experience. Harmony Borax Works is also a great location, because there is little to no obstruction. Death Valley can prove to be a hassle due to the mountains, but the elevation of Harmony Borax Works will provide you with plenty of clear sky to view.
Harmony Borax Works also provides you with a taste of history to enjoy during your stargazing breaks. At Harmony Borax Works you’ll be exposed to plenty of historic buildings, mule carts, and interesting pieces of forgotten history to look at. How can you beat that?
Badwater Basin is an excellent place to go, and will definitely provide you with a great experience. The thing about Badwater Basin, is that a lot of the area is obstructed by mountains due to being at a lower elevation.
Now you might be wondering why we would suggest Badwater Basin if viewing is obstructed right?
While your stargazing may be a bit obstructed, you’ll still have plenty of sky to look at. The reason this area is so great, is due to the ability to avoid light pollution and it makes a great location for truly beautiful pictures of the night sky.
The mountain horizon, paired with the beauty of the night sky, will immerse you in a fully unique experience that only Death Valley can offer. If you’re going to be stargazing in Death Valley, why not get a true Death Valley experience? Plus, believe it or not, it’s only 17 miles away from Badwater Road which is not too hard to find.
If you don’t want to do heavy climbing, or want convenience mixed with beauty, Badwater Basin is a great place to do some stargazing in Death Valley. While these places are popular, and will be great for stargazing in Death Valley, you might want to bring a guide with you to get the best experience.
What guides should I bring with me?
Be sure that you bring a good guide book with you before you set out stargazing in Death Valley. In this section we’ll cover four very good ones you may want to consider picking up on Amazon before you go.
Hiking Death Valley Guide
The Hiking Death Valley Guide will provide you with everything you need to know about the hiking trails of Death Valley. If you’re looking for some great locations to setup your telescope, this book can really help you get into the right areas for stargazing in Death Valley. While it won’t show you what to look for in the sky, it’s a great way to get a feel for the area.
You can find this book on Amazon here.
The Explorer’s Guide
If you’re looking for another guidebook of the area, the Explorer’s Guide is the book for you. Not only will it help you navigate Death Valley, but it can provide some great insight about the area. When traveling to an unfamiliar place, it’s important to have some knowledge of the area.
You can find the Explorer’s guide on Amazon here.
The Guide to the Stars
Now that you know a bit about the area, it’s time to start stargazing in Death Valley. When it comes to looking up at the stars, you’ll need to know what you’re looking for, and the Guide to the Stars has you covered. Not only will this guide show you what’s up there in the night sky, but it will also help you pinpoint certain locations.
Every stargazer should have this guide handy, and you can find it on Amazon here.
The Night Sky 40 50
If you’re looking to save some money, and still want a great guide, then The Night Sky 40 50 guide is perfect for you. It will provide you with a comprehensive view of the night sky from various different angles, and comes with all the guidance you need for stargazing in Death Valley.
Plus, believe it or not, this guide will help you pinpoint large stars as well. The guide uses latitude zones to really help you get an idea of what you’re looking at. So before you dive right in, make sure you brush up on your latitude and longitude.
You can find this guide on Amazon here.
What equipment should I bring for the best experience?
If you’re going to be doing some stargazing in Death Valley, you’re going to need the right equipment. We mentioned some equipment briefly in the last section, but now it’s time to really get a look at some top notch portable equipment to bring with you on your adventure. So let’s dive right in, and take a look at a couple of great telescopes and binoculars to bring with you.
The Meade Infinity
The Meade brand is one that has been making high quality telescopes for years, and the Meade StarNavigator NG 102 is no exception. With this telescope, you’ll find plenty of viewing power, and everything you may need comes right out of the box. You’ll also be pleased to know that there is 30,000 celestial objects pre-programmed and at your fingertips. This will help you pinpoint everything you need to find when stargazing in Death Valley.
Some features you should be aware of on the StarNavigator are:
- 102 millimeter aperture for great viewing capabilities
- Astronomical software
- Over 30,000 celestial objects programmed in
- Red dot viewfinder
- Slow motion controls for accurate alignment
- Light weight for a GoTo scope
- 2 different eyepieces for multiple zoom powers
- Very beginner friendly
Exceptional telescope and you can find this Meade model for a great price on Amazon here.
The Orion SpaceProbe
Orion is a great brand for any occasion, and their telescopes are always affordable and easy to use. Plus, with the Orion SpaceProbe line of telescopes, you’ll be exposed to plenty of equalizing technology that allows you to align your viewing space with ease. Also, you should know that Orion comes packed with it’s own EQ-2 technology and a tripod for easy alignment. The entire telescope is lightweight, and will prove very useful when it comes to portability.
Some features you should be aware of on the Orion SpaceProbe are:
- 5.1 inch aperture
- The tube is only 2 feet, which makes it great for portability
- EQ-2 shortmount
- Up to 62x zoom power
- Starry night software comes included, which helps you get a great perspective of the Universe with guidance
You can find the Orion SpaceProbe on Amazon here.
The Celestron NexStar 4SE
The NexStar 4SE is a telescope that gives you plenty of bang for your buck and should be on everyone’s short-list. For about $450 this scope will give you an unbelievable viewing experience. Should you really sell your stargazing in Death Valley experience short?
Luckily, the NexStar 4SE comes packed with plenty of great technology to help you do more than just stargaze. Believe it or not, the NexStar 4SE comes packed with over 40,000 stargazing viewing ideas and mapping. If you want to get the most out of your experience, and you want to do it with portability, the NexStar 4SE is bound to be a great candidate.
Some other features in the NexStar 4SE to look out for are:
- SkyAlign technology
- 4 inch primary motor for easy viewing alignment
- Over 40,000 objects to look at
- Fully automated go mount
- SkySense technology
- GPS capability
You can find the NexStar 4SE on Amazon here.
Oh and don’t worry, because if you prefer binoculars, there are plenty of those as well.
Let’s face it, sometimes it can be hard to lug a telescope around. Plus, if you’ll be hiking out to a location, you’ll want something that’s lightweight and easy to carry around with you. This is especially true for stargazing in Death Valley, because the temperature can be unbearable at times. This is where binoculars come in. So sit back, relax, and take a look at two of the best options out there.
The Gosky Titan 20×80
Gosky makes some pretty great binoculars, and the Gosky 20×80 binoculars are definitely no exception. With two zoom options, like the name suggests, of 20x and 80x, you’ll be able to see everything you need to see. Plus, at the end of the day, binoculars really come down to comfort.
With the Gosky 20×80 you can do all of your stargazing in Death Valley with rubber protection for your eyes. You’ll never need to feel a lack of comfort as you take in the night sky.
The features you’ll find with the Titan binoculars are:
- A tripod and smartphone mount are included
- A carrying case
- 20x zoom
- Rubber protection for your eyes to help with extended viewing
- Cleaning cloth
- Lens protection
You can find the Gosky Titan binoculars on Amazon here.
The Barska Waterproof Binoculars
Barska might not be your first choice when it comes to binoculars, but there is a reason you’ll want to hear about the Barska 20×80 binoculars. These binoculars come packed with everything you need to have a truly portable stargazing experience. These binoculars feature a wide array of viewing, great light absorption, and excellent eye relief. You’ll never have to put them down, and when you’re stargazing in Death Valley, this is crucial.
Some features you’ll find with the Barska brand are:
- Lightweight for great portability
- Tripod mount capabilities
- Coated optics
- Carrying case
- Plenty of zoom power (20x)
- Close focus
- Rubber eye relief
You can find the Barka 20×80 binoculars on Amazon here.
Are there any good places to stay in Death Valley?
The name might make it seem like Death Valley is a baron wasteland, but believe it or not, there are actually a few great places to stay in Death Valley. So if you’re curious about where to stay when it comes time to do some stargazing in Death Valley, please pay close attention. Let’s take a look at the two most popular locations Death Valley has to offer you.
The Oasis at Death Valley
The Oasis at Death Valley is one of the best places to stay in Death Valley, because they partner with astronomers from Las Vegas to bring you a truly immersive experience. The resort itself is beautiful, and has plenty of amenities to keep you happy during your Death Valley experience. The area is completely surrounded by desert, so if you want to stargaze on the grounds, you’ll have no issues there.
The Oasis at Death Valley offers you with:
- A pool
- A golf course
- Great rooms at an affordable price of $199
- Great stone design to really immerse yourself in the Death Valley experience
- A gym
Tecopa Hot Springs Resort
If you’re looking for a more affordable stay, you can’t do better than the Tecopa Hot Springs Resort. This resort comes packed with plenty of great amenities, and is only 11 miles away from Death Valley National park. If you’re looking to do some stargazing in Death Valley, you can definitely do much worse than Tecopa. Plus, you definitely won’t be disappointed by the hot springs.
Tecopa Hot Springs Resort offers you:
- Hot springs
- Physical activities
- Reasonable priced rooms that hang around $80-105 per night
- Camping excursions
- A bathhouse for those who choose the cabin options
You really can’t go wrong with Tecopa, and the location makes it great to do some on sight stargazing in Death Valley.
How is the food?
You might not think that Death Valley has much to offer aside from cactus in the way of food or drinks, but believe it or not, Death Valley might shock you. If you’re looking to take a break from stargazing in Death Valley, there are plenty of places for you to rest up with a quality meal. So let’s take a look at some great places for any cuisine you might desire.
Timbisha Taco Shop is a great place to go if you’re looking for delicious tacos and a little taste of Hawaii. This taco shop has a wide variety of cuisine on the menu, and you won’t be disappointed by the portion size and great taste. Plus, have you ever had Hawaiian shaved ice cream? If you haven’t, you need to give Timbisha a try.
BBQ/ bar food
If you’re looking to have a drink, or dine on some great quality bar food, you can’t go wrong with Badwater Saloon. This restaurant has a wide variety on the menu, and you’ll be able to sink your teeth into a delicious juicy cheeseburger with a hearty side of fries. If you’re looking for variety, great booze, and a great time, Badwater Saloon is your best bet.
Is there anything I can do during the day in Death Valley?
We know that you won’t be stargazing in Death Valley the whole time. Sure, that’s the goal of the trip, but there are plenty of daytime adventures you can embark on as well. If you’re curious about what Death Valley has to offer for those daytime hours, get ready to have your mind blown.
If you love to stargaze, why not give sungazing a try? If you’re the curious type, and have wondered what a solar flare looks like up close, then Death Valley might be your best friend. There is plenty of open landscape to setup for sungazing, and once you’re done sungazing, why not make it a marathon and start stargazing right after?
Not a bad way to make a day out of stargazing in Death Valley right?
Plus, believe it or not, Death Valley tends to have plenty of sun for you to look at.
If you’ll be doing some sun gazing in death valley, you’re going to need the right equipment. Whether you need a telescope, or feel more comfortable with binoculars, Meade has your back. This company will provide you with white light lens filters that block out almost 99% of the sun’s rays.
Not only will this keep you from going blind, but it will also help you develop a clear image of the sun and everything it has to offer. The telescope offers plenty of zoom, and the binoculars offer plenty of portability.
All of Meade’s products come with coated lenses, and come at a price around $100. So if you’re looking to do a little sungazing, it doesn’t have to be expensive. Plus, you’ll find that each product comes with plenty of accessories to make travel just that much easier.
You can find the Meade EclipseView binoculars on Amazon for an incredible price.
You can you’re looking for an affordable telescope that will allow you to safely view the sun. Look no further than the Meade Day and Night Telescope on Amazon.
While these two options are great if you want to just bring something along that will allow you to look up at the sun. However, if you’re serious about sungazing, then you’ll want to go for the “big-daddy” of solar viewing telescopes…the Meade Cornado PST.
Let’s take a look at some of the features the Meade Cornado PST comes equipped with:
- 40 millimeter lens with excellent magnification
- Fine adjustment controls that come with the ability to provide highly focused sun viewing
- An H-alpha band-pass for high quality solar viewing, which is great for solar flares and sunspots
- Built in solar viewfinder
- 400 millimeter focal length
- Filtering optics to ensure your eyes are protected
Word of warning, this is not a cheap scope. However, if you’re a serious sungazer, and are looking to get crisp, detailed views of the sun, then this telescope is the one.
Depending on the resort you stay at, or if you love golf, there are plenty of ways to release the inner golfer in you. The Oasis at Death Valley even features its own golf course to keep you entertained at all hours of the day.
If you want to burn off some calories from some of that delicious food, then a hike might be a great idea. There are plenty of trails to choose from, but one of the best is Salt Creek. This trail features plenty of sightseeing along the way, and you won’t melt away in the heat. The trail is not too long, and will truly show you what Death Valley has to offer while you take a break from stargazing. The guide books mentioned earlier will also help you do some exploring as well.
If you want to see everything Death Valley has to offer, all you need is a car and a little ambition. Take a drive down some of the windy roads, or find yourself in Red Pass. This mountain pass is absolutely gorgeous, and your breath will be taken away by the red rocks that surround you. There are also plenty of historic buildings to take a look at around Death Valley National Park, and you definitely won’t be able to see it all in one trip.
Stargazing in Death Valley – Recap
Stargazing in Death Valley doesn’t have to be painful, and at the end of the day, you’ll definitely value the time you spend there. As long as you know where to go, and what to bring with you, it’s hard not to fall in love with everything Death Valley has to offer.
Sure, Death Valley sounds scary, but it doesn’t have to be.
With plenty of great food, places to stay, and things to do, you’ll never become bored in Death Valley. If you want to do some stargazing, Death Valley should definitely be on your list. The memories you’ll make will last a lifetime, and while people may look at you funny when you talk about stargazing in Death Valley, you’ll probably end up heading back there.
The hard part isn’t getting to Death Valley, it’s letting go.
Now that you know what to do, the question is, when will you go?