If you’re looking for a different adventure this year, try escaping the city lights and take in the natural wonders of the night sky.
Check out some of our favorite spots to view the night sky in Tennessee.
Fall Creek Falls State Park
Known as Tennessee’s largest and most visited state park, the 26,000-acre Fall Creek Falls offers wide panoramic views of the night sky. The park sometimes even has star parties that bring local astronomers and stargazers together. During these events, you can get a closer look at the stars and planets through high-tech telescopes. Be sure to check out the activities page for dates.
Pickett Memorial State Park
Located northeast of Jamestown, Pickett Memorial State Park was the first state park in the southeast to be listed as a certified dark sky viewing location by the International Dark-Sky Association. You’ll find an astronomy field that’s available for public use year-round, along with the occasional star party.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Despite being the most visited national park in the United States, The Great Smoky Mountains is an ideal spot for stargazing. Located far from any major cities, the park offers plenty of dark areas where light pollution won’t interfere.
Keep in mind that if you do decide to stargaze in the Smokies, you’ll want to avoid mountain peaks. High points in the mountain range will give you great panoramic views of the sky, but can also expose some light from surrounding cities that smaller peaks would otherwise block from view. We recommend other picturesque locations like Cades Cove and Newfound Gap.
Learn about more family fun activities in Tennessee.
Edgar Evins State Park
If you’re located in Middle Tennessee, check out Edgar Evins State Park. It sits just 30 minutes outside of Cookeville and is a little over an hour’s drive from Murfreesboro. You’ll find plenty of open space to check out the night sky right on the lake. If a few hours isn’t enough for you, feel free to set up camp for the night with Edgar Evins cabin rentals.
Natchez Trace State Park
Travel a little over an hour and a half from Memphis for a spectacular celestial display at Natchez Trace State Park. The park is located about halfway between Nashville and Memphis, making it a great spot for residents of both areas. This family-friendly natural park is located along the Tennessee River and provides a wide array of viewing areas to see the stars.
Henry Horton State Park
Just an hour south of Nashville, Henry Horton State Park is located on the shores of the historic Duck River. Finish up a day of hiking and spend your evening looking up at the sky. You’ll be amazed by what you can see when you escape the city lights. If you wind up too close to a streetlight or building, try to find a more dimly lit area of the park for a better view.
Big Hill Pond State Park
Just short of a two-hour drive from Memphis, Big Hill Pond State Park is worth the trip. Due to its distance from most of the light pollution in the area, you can expect a spectacular celestial display of the night sky. During the day, your family can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities ranging from hiking to horseback riding to fishing.
There are several areas in Tennessee that will work for dark sky viewing. But before you make the trip, be sure to check out these key tips to dark sky viewing from the official Tennessee State Parks website to get the most out of your stargazing experience. You can also use this dark site finder to see where light pollution is at a minimum near you.
Do you have a favorite spot to stargaze? Let us know in the comments.
Most outdoor activities have some level of risk, and you may need to consult an expert before engaging in the activity. Always check the current weather conditions before embarking on any outdoor activity.