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Casual sky observers have no excuse for missing this year’s Perseid meteor shower (August 11 and 12), set to be one of the best in years. The predawn hours—after the waxing moon has set—promise the best viewing, says Robert Stencel, director of the University of Denver’s historic Chamberlin Observatory. For a good look, escape the city lights. These three locations come with relatively dark skies—and nearby breakfast spots where you can grab a bleary-eyed bite once the show’s over.
Pawnee National Grassland
Distance and Drive Time: About 105 miles; 2 hours*
Remote Crow Valley campground ($12) inside the grassland boasts some of the state’s best birding, so a soundtrack of rising warblers and swallows will likely accompany your morning stargazing session.
If you’re ravenous, tackle the Butters Challenge: Finish eight stacks of pancakes and a side of bacon in 30 minutes and your meal at this Greeley favorite is on the house. Opens at 7 a.m.
Distance and Drive Time: About 20 miles; 30 minutes
Lookout Mountain Nature Center and Preserve’s park closes an hour after dusk, but Lookout Mountain Road offers plenty of pull-offs for prime viewing. There is a neighborhood close by, but it doesn’t emit nearly the same level of light pollution as Denver, so you’ll still have a nice vista of the shooting “stars” above.
Eat: Bonfire Burritos
Loop through Golden for a Burro breakfast burrito from one of Bonfire’s two food trailers. Opens at 7:30 a.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. Sunday
Distance and Drive Time: About 45 miles; 50 minutes
The Denver Astronomical Society has a dark site (a place that’s dark enough for clear astronomical observation) in Deer Trail, a small town east of Denver, but it’s not open to the public. Improvise by finding a spot in nearby Strasburg along quiet Strasburg Road south of I-70. Just watch for signs to make sure you’re not trespassing.
Eat: High Plains Diner
As the sun rises, refuel in Bennett with chicken-fried steak smothered in country sausage gravy. Opens at 6 a.m.
Editor’s Note 08/11/2016: A previous version of this article incorrectly quoted Pawnee National Grassland’s distance and drive time from Denver. We regret the error.