Winter evenings make for great stargazing. Visit these spots around NC for an ideal view.
We asked skilled stargazers around the state where they like to enjoy the night sky. Pick a location from the list below and plan a late night trip of your own.
1. MacRae Meadows–Linville, NC
MacRae Meadows is closed in the winter, but you can still park at the gate & walk inside.
Directions: From the the stop light in Linville, take Rt. 221 towards Blowing Rock for 1.8 miles. Take the third entrance for MacRaeMeadows/Campground on the left. If you come to the entrance for Grandfather Mountain Park, you’ve gone too far.
2. Blue Ridge Parkway
Most overlooks along the Parkway offer spots for parking & enough space to sit and enjoy the view. Some recommended overlooks include Craggy Dome Overlook (milepost 364.1), Tanbark Ridge Overlook (milepost 376.7) & Stoney Bald Overlook (milepost 402.6).
3. Stone Mountain State Park–Roaring Gap, NC
A one night reservation for one of Stone Mountain’s many campsites starts at $17. Visit its website for more information.
Address: Stone Mountain State Park, 3042 Frank Parkway, Roaring Gap NC 28668. Telephone: (336)957-8185
4. Pilot Mountain State Park–Pinnacle, NC
A one night reservation for a campground in Pilot Mountain State Park starts at $10. Visit its website for directions and more information.
Address: 1792 Pilot Knob Park Road, Pinnacle, NC 27043. Telephone: (336) 325-2355
5. Town Creek Indian Mound–Mount Gilead, NC
This historic site closes at 5 pm, but it occasionally stays open late for seasonal stargazing. Visit its website to stay updated about these events.
Address: 509 Town Creek Mound Rd., Mt. Gilead, NC 27306. Telephone: (910) 439-6802
6. Jordan Lake–Apex, NC
Jordan Lake offers a number of camping areas that are open year-round. Visit its website for directions and more information.
Address: 280 State Park Rd, Apex, NC. Telephone: (919) 362-0586
7. Bladen Lakes State Forest–Elizabethtown, NC
The lack of lights near this state forest makes it a prime place to look up at the night sky. Camping is permitted in designated areas. Call ahead for more information.
Address: 4470 Hwy 242N, Elizabethtown, NC. Telephone: (910) 588-4964.
8. Bald Head Island
This remote island is only accessible by ferry from the town of Southport and does not allow cars. Visit its website for more information.
Telephone: (910) 457-9700
9. Ocracoke Island
Ocracoke Island offers 13 miles of undeveloped oceanfront land. Although the campgrounds are closed during the winter, you can take a night stroll along the beach to catch crystal clear views of the stars. Visit its website for more information.
Telephone: (252) 928-6711
10. Lake Mattamuskeet–Hyde County, NC
Lake Mattamuskeet is the largest natural lake in North Carolina and it’s home to the Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge. Enjoy its natural serenity late at night. Visit its website for more information.
Telephone: (252) 746-4221
- If you’d like to observe the night sky indoors, look for an observatory in your area. The GTCC Cline Observatory in Jamestown and the Morehead Planetarium in Chapel Hill both offer public viewing hours.
- The North Carolina Science Festival is coordinating a statewide Star Party on Friday, April 5. All North Carolinians are invited to participate. The Star Party will involve public skywatching sessions at dozens of sites across the state, weather permitting.
- Look for astronomical society near you to meet other stargazers and learn about public night sky observation events.
- Make sure to bundle up and bring a warm drink to endure the late night temperature drop.
- Call ahead to make sure parks and roads are open before making your trip.
- Early January will be a good time for meteor showers.
Thanks to Tom English at GTCC’s Cline Observatory, Karen Kornegay at Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, Johnny Horne, Bernie Arghiere of the Astronomy Club of Asheville, Marcia Thompson & the officers of the Forsyth Astronomical Society and Tom Jacobs of the Cape Fear Astronomical Society for their contributions.