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As our beloved leaf-peeping season ends, winter’s chill clears the way for another Colorado wonder: expansive, star-filled skies. Mid-fall and early winter offer some of the best times to go stargazing (when the sky is clear, of course). The farther away you travel from the city’s lights—and the urban light pollution—the brighter the stars will be. But stargazing in the Centennial State doesn’t mean that you need to drive to the middle of nowhere. Here, a few of our favorite nearby places (within two hours of Denver) to cozy up under the stars and watch them shine.
Note: It can take up to 30 minutes for our eyes to adjust to the dark, so if you do decide to drive away from the Mile High City’s glow, be sure to bundle up and be patient.
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Distance from Denver: 17 miles
Things to know: For this quick little getaway, you can park in Red Rocks’ lower lot and pull out your chairs. To get a more panoramic view of the stars over Denver, hike up to the amphitheater, spread a blanket or cushion on the stairs, and take in the night. Red Rocks is also a great location to view a full moon rise, which happens as the sun sets.
Distance from Denver: 20 miles
Things to know: Lookout Mountain Park is an ideal place to leave your vehicle and walk to the overlook. Park anywhere along the road—as long as you’re in a designated parking area—face west, and you’re guaranteed an incredible open view.
Distance from Denver: 38 miles
Things to know: Set up at Panorama Point—a place popularized for its expansive views of the Continental Divide, just outside the Aspen Meadows Campground—and enjoy the view.
Location: Idaho Springs
Distance from Denver: 56 miles
Things to know: From the parking lot, hike up about 10 minutes past the restrooms, until you reach a dirt landing. Face your chairs south for a breathtaking view of Mt. Bierstadt, and east for the warm backdrop of Georgetown in the distance. If you’re patient enough, you may even see a shooting star or two.
Location: Larimer County
Distance from Denver: 70 miles
Things to know: Just about any view in this park is spectacular. We recommend either heading up Trail Ridge Road (weather permitting), or driving down to Bear Lake. If you’re in for an adventure, head to Bear Lake trail an hour or so before sunrise and hike just past Nymph Lake to a wall of rocks you can climb up to stargaze. Hang out long enough to see the sunrise—it’s well worth it.
Whether you’re headed to Golden, Larimer County, or Idaho Springs, prep with warm clothing, a headlamp, a blanket and/or chairs, and maybe even a thermos of hot cocoa. And be sure to bring a companion to share in Colorado’s twinkling wonders.