Las Vegas is known for its lights, action, and excitement. Images of the infamous Strip with the miles of flashing neon lights are iconic. However, what few people don’t realize is that just beyond the dazzling lights, a few miles into the high desert is a vast dark wilderness that makes for a perfect stargazing adventure.
What are the best places for stargazing near Las Vegas? The best places for stargazing around Las Vegas, Nevada are:
- Red Rock Canyon
- Exploration Peak Park
- Sunrise Mountain
- Mt. Charleston Lodge
- Pioneer Saloon
- Valley of Fire State Park
There are many places within a short drive of Las Vegas that host some of the best stargazing conditions in the United States. These remote and pristine areas are popular with amateur as well as professional astronomers, photographers, and stargazers.
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First, Can You Really See Stars in Las Vegas?
Before I tell you where the best stargazing is in Las Vegas, I want to quickly address the question people often ask in regards to being able to see the stars from a very brightly lit city like Las Vegas.
Because Las Vegas has so many lights, it’s nearly impossible to see the stars from the Strip (or any other central areas of the city for that matter). Having said that, however, Las Vegas is unique in that there are literally no other big cities around it in any direction for many, many miles.
So even though Las Vegas is one of the brightest and most light-polluted city’s in the world you’ll find that within just a short drive of the lights and action on the Las Vegas Strip are some of the best places in the US to gaze upwards. Once you get to the outskirts of the city and start heading into the desert it gets dark very quickly.
Nearby Las Vegas Stargazing
The opportunity to see stars, galaxies, meteors, and, perhaps, even the international space station abound near Las Vegas. Here are the top six spots close-by to catch the nightly show.
Red Rock Canyon
Red Rock Canyon is a National Conservation Area and offers much more than just stargazing. To get the full benefit, arrive a few hours early and drive the scenic route around the canyon for some amazing views and photographic opportunities.
There are only a few designated areas to stop on the loop drive and the scenic drive itself closes at sundown. Instead, head to one of the trailheads that are scattered around the park and hike off a few hundred yards. If you are brave enough, hike the trail to the top of Blue Diamond Hill, where you have not only great stargazing but also an incredible view of Las Vegas.
- 24 miles from the Las Vegas Strip (google maps)
- Wide, dark vistas of the night sky along State Route 160 and 159 are great for stargazing
- Visitors Center with restrooms.
- Stargazing parties hosted throughout the year by the park staff. Check the events calendar on the park website.
You can also check out our in-depth article about visiting Red Rock Canyon and areas of interest nearby for more information.
Exploration Peak Park
For an afternoon and evening of fun, take a trip to Exploration Peak Park. This 80-acre park and 2845-foot-tall mountain are a perfect family outing just 10 miles from Las Vegas. There are playgrounds for an afternoon of fun, and the top of Exploration Peak is a great place to stargaze after dark.
You can easily navigate the trail down off the mountain after dark. The park at the bottom of the mountain is a recreation of an old west town and an Indian village. There are public restrooms and picnic facilities as well.
On top of the mountain, you will find wide expanses of desert views with Las Vegas to one side and Red Rock Canyon to the other. At night, you are far enough away from Las Vegas that there is little light pollution and the sky seems to burst with stars.
- 10 miles from the Las Vegas Strip (google maps)
- Replica western town and Indian village
- Restrooms and other amenities
- Unparalleled views of the night sky from the top of the mountain
If you live in Las Vegas or visit frequently enough to be familiar with the area, you will know that the sunrises each day over a mountain to the east of Las Vegas. The locals affectionately call this “Sunrise Mountain.”
Sunrise Mountain rises 3,366 feet above the desert floor. The only way to the peak is to hike the 4 miles up the ridge to the top. From the top of Sunrise Mountain, you will have some of the best stargazing available in Nevada. The additional altitude and the distance from any other light pollution make this a prime spot to see the night sky.
Be aware that during the summer months, the temperatures at the base of the mountain can be extremely high, and on top of the mountain, the nights can be quite chilly. Plan properly and take great care coming back down the trail at night.
- 18 miles from the Las Vegas Strip (google maps)
- Don’t be tempted to try the off-road trails toward the mountain. The land around Sunrise Mountain is BLM land, and they are known to crack down on off-roading.
- The whole sunrise mountain area is a wilderness, so plan accordingly. There are no facilities or water.
- Check with the BLM office for more information on overnight camping.
Mt. Charleston Lodge
Would you like to enjoy the best in stargazing but have all the amenities of civilized life? That is just what Mt. Charleston Lodge offers. At an altitude of 7717 feet, this recreation area gets you up into the pristine, unpolluted air where crystal clear nights bring the heavens just a little closer.
The Lodge is at the center of more than 50 miles of well-marked trails with options for beginner to expert hikers. The altitude makes the average temperatures about 30 degrees cooler than the Las Vegas valley (which you’ll really appreciate in the summer months), and you can enjoy alpine vistas with mahogany, aspen and juniper trees.
After dark, the skies open and the immensity of the star-filled heavens is awe-inspiring. Best of all, you can make it an all-day affair by enjoying the excellent cuisine and entertainment available at the Lodge. You can hike in the afternoon, stargaze at night, and then warm-up in front of the Lodge fireplace.
- 42.5 miles from Las Vegas (google maps)
- Nestled into Kyle Canyon, the Lodge is a full-service restaurant and bar.
- There can be snow during the fall and winter months, so plan accordingly.
To add just a little more pizzazz to your stargazing, you should consider an outing to the Pioneer Saloon. The Pioneer Saloon has been the setting for several Hollywood movies. The atmosphere is western-themed and is a fun time itself.
In addition to food and spirits, the Pioneer Saloon is a stargazing specialty stop. The saloon offers access to 18 telescopes and a guide who can help you with the equipment and advice on getting the most from your stargazing adventure.
The cost can be a bit expensive (book the Pioneer stargazing tour here), but it’s far less costly than buying the type of equipment you’ll get to use, and the knowledge of the expert guide is priceless. Of course, you can still take a blanket and a pair of good binoculars and do it yourself in the clear night air around the Pioneer Saloon.
- 33.1 miles from Las Vegas (google maps)
- Great atmosphere and fun time before or after stargazing
- Make reservations for a telescope early.
Valley of Fire State Park
Valley of Fire State Park is an incredible adventure waiting to happen. The 40,000-acre state park has more than just a front row seat to an amazing night sky. It also provides:
- Fantastic limestone outcrops
- Petrified trees
- Petroglyphs more than 2,000 years old
- The visitors center offers information, tours, and exhibits about the park and the surrounding area.
Located a bit more than 50 miles from Las Vegas, Valley of Fire State Park is open from sunrise to sunset. However, don’t be disheartened that you can’t stay in the park to do your stargazing. Numerous campgrounds within the park offer 24-hour access. A weekend getaway with some camping, hiking, and stargazing is the way to enjoy the Valley of Fire State Park.
Take the scenic drive, set up your tent, and hike away from the campground on one of the well-marked trails and settle in for some prime stargazing in this beautiful park. There is plenty to keep you entertained during the day and some of the finest stargazing found in the Las Vegas area.
- 53 miles from Las Vegas (google maps)
- Campsites include shade structures, grills, and water.
- Stop at the visitor’s center of trail maps and advice on the best places to stargaze.
- Programs about native plants, animals, and peoples happen regularly.
Best Time of Year for Stargazing Around Las Vegas
So what’s the best time of year to view the stars at night in Las Vegas? Vegas boasts almost 300 days of sunshine annually. As a result, the skies are clear of clouds at night for unrestricted access to the stars just about as often. This makes the deserts around Las Vegas to be the perfect area to get a good view of the starry skies almost every night of the year.
That being said, there are a couple of things to consider in order to have the best nighttime viewing experience.
Temperature – Most of the year the temperature in Las Vegas is quite nice to be outdoors in the evenings. During the summers, however, (June through the middle of September) is another story. During this time you can expect the temperature at midnight to still be over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Be prepared and bring lots of water.
The winters here are quite mild overall but evening temperatures can get down to freezing in December and January so you’ll want to dress appropriately if you’ll be out at night for an extended period of time.
Milky Way – If you’re interested in viewing or photographing the Milky Way, the best time of year to see it (in fact the only time of year to see it in the Northern Hemisphere) is from late March to early October. Otherwise, the majority of the Milky Ways constellations will be out of sight below the horizon.
Get out and See the Stars
If stars, planets, and meteors are your passion or if you’re just fascinated with the objects in the night sky, the surrounding Las Vegas area offers some of the best stargazing conditions in the US. The desert and mountains around Las Vegas offer some of the best conditions for stargazing you can find including:
- Clear desert air,
- High elevations
- Remote areas with little or no manmade light
You will be amazed at some of the amazing night vistas you’ll encounter. Grab a blanket, your hiking boots, and a pair of binoculars and look up!