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stargaze at Lake Mead National Recreation Area - milky way over a dry lakebed

Under the Desert Sky: 7 Prime Spots to Stargaze in Southern Nevada

When you think of Las Vegas, images of glitzy neon casinos, neon hotels, bustling streets, all filled with celebrity sightings as their latest residency, restaurant, or bar opens up. However, there’s another side to this vibrant city that often goes unnoticed – the stunning celestial stars that dominate the night sky in the rural cities that surround the neon glow.

From Goodsprings to Moapa Valley and Mesquite, and plenty of places in between, there’s something magical about escaping the urban hustle and bustle to bask in the quiet splendor of the cosmos. Here’s just seven of the best spots to stargaze in Southern Nevada. 

Mt. Charleston

📍Approximate Distance From The Strip: 49 Mins. 42.6 Mi.

Southern Nevada is mostly known for its beautiful desert landscapes, but in just under an hour you can travel north west of the valley and find yourself in the luscious mountain forest views. In the winter months the mountain is capped with snow, making it a hot spot for winter sports. The rest of the year the temperature is about 30 degrees cooler than Las Vegas, offering a great reprieve from the heat, and a relaxing place to stop and stargaze at night. There are plenty of great trails and campgrounds, but take the advice of Las Vegas resident Trent Keenan, who offers up tips on visiting his favorite spot to stargaze on the mountain – Cold Creek Canyon.

Mt Charleston LVT Perseid Meteor Shower 1024x730

Red Rock Canyon

📍Approximate Distance From The Strip: 34 Mins. 22.9 Mi.

While the official national conservation area and state park may be closed at night, Red Rock Road is a roughly 15 mi. stretch that winds through the area and is open 24/7. Connecting Summerlin to Blue Diamond and flanked by the majestic red peaks, there are plenty of areas to pull over and stargaze. For those who want to stay a little longer and take in the beauty of the stars, camping is available by reservation only.

Red Rock Canyon LVT Perseid Meteor Shower 1024x730

Lake Mead National Recreation Area

📍Approximate Distance From The Strip: 34 Mins. 24 Mi.

Open 24/7, and surrounded by mountains that block the light pollution, this man-made lake offers a wide variety of outdoor adventures by day, and fantastic dark skies to stargaze at night. With nearly 1.5 Million acres of land to explore, accessing Lake Mead is easy. You can either visit the Southern end near Boulder City after visiting the Hoover Dam, or take a trip up north through Moapa Valley and Mesquite to access beautiful serene views such as the one featured here at Stewarts Point. 

Coming to Vegas soon? SETI and the Las Vegas Astronomical Society is hosting a stargazing party “Astronomy in the Park” at Lake Mead on March 16 at 7 p.m.! The event takes place at the Water Safety Center near Boulder Beach Campground. Plan your trip now!

Dry lakebed foreground, lake background and milky way above

Valley of Fire

📍Approximate Distance From The Strip: 51 Min. 49.6 Mi.

Valley of Fire is a great place to combine your love of hiking stargazing.  This state park hosts stellar moon walks typically during full and new moons from September – May, you can view their calendar here. While you’re there, don’t miss the chance to get outdoors camping with stays in one of its 72 campsites (first come, first serve).

Stargaze at Valley of Fire and see the Milkyway. Pic is at Elephant Rock

Gold Butte National Monument

📍Approximate Distance From The Strip: 2 hr. 58 Min. 112 Mi.

Ok, sure there you have to drive quite a bit to get to this one, but it is worth the trip! As far as Dark Skies go in Southern Nevada, this is one of the best places to stargaze. Gold Butte is a considerable distance from any largely populated cities, and is only minimally impacted by light pollution from nearby communities and Las Vegas. This has led it to become a great location for amateur astronomers, astrophotographers, and night skies photographers to hone in on their skills. The roads within the Monument area are primitive and rough to where you should use a high-clearance, 4 wheel-drive vehicle. It’s super cool, but always be prepared as it’s not unheard of to get a flat tire or two, and cell service is spotty to non-existent. If you decide to visit Gold Butte, make sure to spend the day visiting the Mesquite and Moapa Valley nearby, which offer many attractions, restaurants, and overnight lodging should you choose to stay for the night rather than make the drive back to Las Vegas.

Gold Butte LVT Perseid Meteor Shower 1024x730

Seven Magic Mountains

📍Approximate Distance From The Strip: 24 Min. 21 Mi.

By day, Seven Magic Mountains paints the skyline with its colorful rocks which visitors come from all over the world to see. By night, the sky is painted with a mesmerizing tapestry of twinkling lights that leave visitors spellbound. Its close proximity to The Strip, and insta-worthy art, make it a great two-for-one spot to visit. 

Night sky view at the art installation of seven magic mountains a gathering spot for the Perseid Meteor Shower

Goodsprings

📍Approximate Distance From The Strip: 33 Min. 33.2 Mi.

Also near Seven Magic Mountains is the unincorporated community of Goodsprings. With a population of 229, and being located 30+ miles from The Strip, protected from light pollution by the Spring Mountains, this ghost town offers some stellar views of the night sky. While you’re there, be sure to stop by Pioneer Saloon, Southern Nevada’s oldest bar, for a burger and a brew. As Clark County’s oldest bar dating back to 1913, Pioneer Saloon has had its fair share of visitors over the years, including the paranormal.

An image of Pioneer Saloon in its courtyard area with the milky way present. Very vibrant colors from glow of the courtyard.

Stargaze Nevada

If you are looking to get a little out there, Travel Nevada has even more dark sky opportunities and unique attractions if you’re up for a road trip around the silver state. Here’s a sneak peak at stargaze opportunities. Below left: Great Basin National Park on a clear, moonless summer night is home to thousands of stars and the milky way  readily visible.  This designated international dark sky park is a 4.5 hour road trip from Las Vegas. Below right: The Black Rock Playa in northwestern Nevada covers 200 square miles. It is one of the largest, flattest, surfaces on Earth. Home to the Burning Man Festival, the road trip is about 3.25 hours from Reno, Nevada. 

Great Basin National Park - International Dark Sky Park
Desert Playa at Black Rock at night with aurora's of green, pink and orange. The Black Rock Playa in northwestern Nevada is one of the largest, flattest, surfaces on Earth, covering approximately 200 square miles.

No matter what destination you choose to take you to the cosmos, make sure you bring plenty of water and snacks to make your time more enjoyable. If possible, a folding chair or blankets are also recommended so you have a comfortable place to sit as you stargaze. While not required, a red light flashlight will also be helpful to provide illumination on the ground without adding too much light pollution or dilating your pupils too much. Lastly, for added fun download a night sky app to help point out constellations and celestial objects as you gaze. Enjoy the night!

There’s plenty more to enjoy in southern Nevada. We all play a part in caring for nature and the places we love. Recreate responsibly. Let’s take care of these gifts. Ready to plan your trip? We’ve got plenty of resources for you!

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