Upstate New York is dark enough to see a whole world of astronomical wonders, and this stargazing guide will tell you everything you need to know.
Upstate New York, not New York City, is why New York is called the Empire State. Rich in natural resources and natural beauty, there are many treasures to discover in this region. One of them you can find out just by looking up on a clear night.
Many of us in the United States have been spoiled by our ability to grow up in areas with relatively low light pollution, which distorts our view of the night sky. But for many, this is not the case. Have you ever seen a city kid crane his neck, truly gazing up at the night sky for the first time in his life?
Even those used to seeing stars will be amazed by the sights at these upstate New York state parks.
Golden Hill State Park – Barker, NY
On the south shore of Lake Ontario is Golden Hill State Park which was acquired by New York State in 1962. Nighttime accommodation options here are a bit creative, including yurts and even the historic Thirty Mile Lighthouse which is available for rental year-round. The lighthouse allows a breathtaking view of the stars above the lake. This area is also quite close to Olcott Beach which is another highly recommended destination for stargazing.
- Travel – 52.3 road miles northeast of Buffalo NY / 54.4 road miles west of Rochester NY
- Main entrance – 9691 Lower Lake Road, Barker, NY 14012, USA
- Park activities – camping, fishing, boating, hiking along the shore, picnicking, nature walks, walking tours of the lighthouse site, snowmobiling and snowshoeing.
- Entrance cost – Vehicle entrance fees: Cars $6 / Non-profit buses $35 / Commercial buses $75
- Cost for campsites – $15 to $31/night * Additional $5/night for non-NYS residents
- Cost of yurts – $83.75 per day / $335 per week (NYS residents) $90.00 per day / $360 per week (non-NYS residents)
- Cost for the lighthouse, without tip – $200/night-$800/week.
- Cost for the lighthouse, high season – 200$/night-1250$/week.
Letchworth State Park – Castile, NY
Known as the “Grand Canyon of the East” Letchworth State Park is not just a great stargazing destination. It’s also a popular hiking and camping destination, with the Genesee River winding its way through the gorge and over its three main waterfalls. Some of the cliffs here are over 600 feet high! Open after 8 p.m. and with plenty of open space, Letchworth State Park is a great destination for stargazing after an adventurous day in the park.
- Travel – 58.8 road miles east of Buffalo NY / 39.3 road miles south of Rochester NY
- Main entrance – 1 Letchworth State Park, Castile, NY 14427, USA
- Park activities – Hiking, horseback riding, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, walks and guided tours, rafting, swimming and hot air balloon flights.
- Entrance cost – $10 per vehicle / Non-profit buses $35 / Commercial buses $75
- Cost for camping – $27 to $30/night
- Cost of cabins – $132 to $568 per week (per night: daily rate is 1/4 of weekly charge)
Allegany State Park – Salamanca, NY
Being one of New York’s most remote and largest state parks, Allegany State Park allows for absolutely stunning night sky views with minimal light pollution. The area around Quaker Lake at the southern end of the park offers stunning views of the Milky Way galaxy. The park closes at dusk though, so unless you’ve booked a cabana, you won’t be able to stay late enough to enjoy the view. The Quaker Lake area of the park is definitely worth booking a cabin or campsite, as there are plenty of activities to keep you busy during the day.
- Travel – 76.6 road miles south of Buffalo NY / 63.9 road miles north of Saint Marys PA
- Main entrance – Allegany State Park Rte 3, Salamanca, NY 14779, USA
- Park activities – Camping, swimming in the lake (sandy beaches), canoeing, kayaking, hiking and picnicking.
- Entrance cost – Vehicle use fee: $7 / Non-profit bus: $35 / Commercial bus: $75
- Launch vehicle fees – $6
- Cost of camping – $18-30/night * $5 charge per night for non NYS residents
- Cost of cabins – $154-$568, per week (daily rate is 1/4 weekly fee) * $7 nightly fee or $28 weekly fee for non-NYS residents
Some Stargazing Tips
- be sure to choose a dark area with as little light as possible. You may be able to stay in your car, with all the lights off, but if you can’t, it’s a good idea to bring a chair and/or blanket for extra comfort.
- Sometimes finding an elevated spot can also help, especially if there is light pollution near you.
- The weather is important. Star gazing is recommended from late spring to early fall. This is especially true in upstate New York, where snowfall can occur for much of the year.
- If you have binoculars or a telescope, it is advisable to bring them. If you’ve made the effort to find such a prime spot for stargazing, give yourself the best view possible.
- If you’re not already familiar with constellations, there are many useful tools on the internet, including apps that can help you locate them.
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