Best place to see stars near San Francisco?
December 29, 2013 7:34 PM   Subscribe

I have a hunger to see the night sky in all its glory. Where can I go to within 50 miles of San Francisco to be awed by a sky full of stars?
posted by mono blanco to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (10 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
you'll need a car, but you can basically just head north. in far less than 50 miles you have your choice of either beach, or mountain vantage. point Reyes, Muir Beach, Mt. Tam and a bout a million places in between.
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 7:47 PM on December 29, 2013

The Montebello Open Space Preserve is a well-known destination for Bay Area telescope enthusiasts. It's at the top of Page Mill Road in Palo Alto. You can apply for a free permit to gain access to the parking lot after-hours. My husband does it a couple of times a month - so say hi if you see him! Be warned it's quite cold after dusk this time of year, so bring warm clothes and ideally a folding chair or something to sit on. Del Valle Reservoir near Livermore also has an observing site, although I don't have experience (via my husband) with that one yet. A bit further out of your 50-mile range, Pinnacles National Park (which is where my husband is tonight!!) is also a destination I can vouch for, as well as Yosemite and Death Valley National Parks. Happy star gazing to you!
posted by handful of rain at 7:56 PM on December 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yes, to get furthest from urban light pollution, the quickest route is north along the coast. I'd head to Pt. Reyes National Seashore.
posted by TDIpod at 7:59 PM on December 29, 2013

Where can I go to within 50 miles of San Francisco to be awed by a sky full of stars?

posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:28 PM on December 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

You may be interested in the Dark Sky Map. Note that to get a truly dark sky by that map's standards, you'd have to travel almost 100 miles north, around Salt Point State Park. However, you'll still see a marked difference in the number of stars you can see if you're in the blue regions on the map, or even the green ones.
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:35 PM on December 29, 2013 [5 favorites]

Gorda mountain los burros rd on the south coast of Big Sur is a little farther then 50 miles but worth the extra mileage because BigSur.
earth at night
posted by hortense at 8:40 PM on December 29, 2013

I was near Point Reyes Station last week, and the night sky was glorious.
posted by zippy at 8:42 PM on December 29, 2013

East Bay people usually head to Tilden Park to check out meteor showers. May not be as clear-sky as you like though.
posted by psoas at 12:33 PM on December 30, 2013

There are hostels at Pigeon Point Lighthouse and Point Montara Lighthouse. The lighthouses do emit light, but they're otherwise very isolated and on a clear winter night you get a pretty great sky. Also, you can just pop out at 2 AM since you're staying at the hostel and all.
posted by GuyZero at 4:04 PM on December 30, 2013

I second the suggestion for the dark sky finder map that Johnny Assay mentioned. I've been to two locations in California specifically for stargazing, near Williams, CA (125 miles) and Mammoth Lakes, CA (330 miles). I know that's outside your desired range. Both of these sites are in a blue section of the dark sky map and provided great viewing on clear nights. My parents' house on the east coast is in a green section of the map, and I can see a whole lot of the night sky there as well. I don't recall enough to give you a comparison of green versus blue, but I'm definitely willing to travel a good distance to get to a green section.

Another planning concern should be horizon obstacles. Both of the sites I mentioned had significant obstacles, limiting the amount of visible sky. If you're the type of stargazer that wants to locate specific sky objects when they might be low in the sky, I recommend looking for a place where the horizon is clear of tall buildings, mountains, cliffs, etc.

I'm hoping I'll have a future opportunity to do an all-night visit to Lembert Dome in Yosemite, at an elevation of 9450 feet with 360 degrees of visibility.
posted by germdisco at 10:43 PM on December 30, 2013

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