Find supreme spots to stargaze at parks and observatories across Oregon.
By day, you’ll savor Oregon’s wide-open spaces and sparkling waters. By night, these beautiful panoramas transform into awe-inspiring backdrops for the majesty of the cosmos. Look up and discover the universe at prime sky viewing spots state-wide, then learn insider tips and tricks for planning the perfect Oregon stargazing adventure.
Oregon’s Unforgettable Stargazing Locations
Oregon’s high elevation and dark skies mean that you can see incredible views of the stars from almost anywhere in the state. Amateur stargazers and advanced astronomers alike will love spending time at Oregon’s parks and public lands, fabulous settings for sky watching. In Lakeview, Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge’s remote location and high altitude make for sublime views. For a unique vantage point, see celestial bodies from natural pools at the refuge’s Hot Springs Campground. Prineville Reservoir State Park is Oregon’s first International Dark Sky Park, which means that it’s been globally recognized for its uniquely dark, clear skies. Stay in on-site lodgings for overnight viewing or obtain a stargazer permit to visit for the day. Near the town of Tiller, Acker Rock Lookout and Pickett Butte Lookout are remote lookout towers offering overnight stays under the panoramic skies of the Umpqua National Forest.
Parks aren’t the only places to take in superior views of the skies; stop by Oregon’s observatories to get a close-up look at heavenly bodies through high-powered telescopes. In Sunriver, Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory boasts the largest publicly accessible collection of telescopes in the USA; it’s been designated a Dark Sky Place, so you’re sure to catch a one-of-a-kind glimpse of the marvels of our universe at the on-site Oregon Observatory. Twenty minutes away, the Pine Mountain Observatory offers stunning night sky views and the chance to interact with University of Oregon researchers. If you’d like to enjoy a frosty pint with a side of celestial wonder, head into Bend to visit the Hopservatory, a beer garden-meets observatory located on the top floor of Worthy Brewing.
High-powered telescopes at the Oregon Observatory show visitors unique celestial views
Stellar Events and Special Occasions
Oregon is beautiful year-round, but those looking to spend their time admiring the stars may want to consider scheduling their visit during certain key times. Every April, Oregon institutions celebrate International Dark Sky Week with special programs and extended hours. It’s the perfect time to visit Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory and Prineville Reservoir State Park, Oregon’s two certified Dark Sky Places, for arts and crafts programs and scientific talks. Check out the Oregon Star Party, an annual five-day outing to Ochoco National Forest geared toward amateur astronomers. Shop from local vendors, hear scientific lectures and win prizes for completing your Observer Log Sheet. When in the Portland area, connect with Rose City Astronomers, an organization dedicated to promoting a love of astronomy. The group holds regular star parties and workshops throughout the year.
Consult the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s blog detailing each month’s celestial happenings to find the best times to visit Oregon’s parks and observatories. On select nights, embark on unique guided expeditions; tour operators like Wanderlust Tours offer special after-dark experiences, like Starlight and Moonlight Canoe tours.
Camping under the stars at Prineville Reservoir State Park, an International Dark Sky Place
Know Before You Go
Come prepared to make your Oregon stargazing excursion an unforgettable experience. Consider these suggestions and insider tips to make the most out of your time under the Oregon skies:
- Go with a group. If you’re new to night-time excursions consider joining a guided night hike, attending a star-party event or participating in a ranger-led stargazing experience offered at places like Prineville Reservoir State Park in Central Oregon.
- Check the weather. When clouds cover the sky, stars are harder to spot. For the best visibility, schedule your stargazing excursions on clear nights.
- Mind the moon. The brightness of the moon can greatly impact how many stars you can see. Night skies are darkest within a few days of a new moon.
- Pack a paper map. Some of Oregon’s most stunning panoramas can be found in remote areas where cell service is limited. Make sure you’ll be able to navigate no matter what.
- Keep Oregon beautiful. Support nearby small communities by making sure not to leave any belongings or trash behind.
- Take photos! Most stargazing spots allow visitors to bring in cameras and tripods so you can take home a memento of your time under the Oregon skies.
- Dress in layers. Many observation sites are at high elevations, so they can get cold at night, even in the summer.
- Consider bringing the USA’s National Park Service’s Ten Essentials, a list of handy items to have if you’re planning to spend a significant amount of time exploring outdoors.
Nebulas and starry skies over Summer Lake Hot Springs in Southern Oregon
Fly into Portland International Airport (PDX), then rent a car to explore hot stargazing spots statewide.