Doughton Park, Blue Ridge Parkway, mm 241
Amateur astronomers consider Doughton one of the best sites in the Southern Appalachians. On clear nights and “new moons” expect to dozens of astronomers pointing telescopes at the sky.
Cherohala Skyway, Hooper’s Bald Trailhead, Nantahala National Forest
At 5,000-feet, this site sits above the summer haze. During clear skies, the Milky Way and several star clusters are visible with the naked eye.
Whitetop Mountain, Mount Rogers National Recreation Area
The parking area sits at 5,520 feet, well above the moisture and far enough from big towns for a clear view of the heavens above. Expect stars galore on a clear night. The Omega Centauri is often visible with the naked eye.
Groundhog Mountain Park, Blue Ridge Parkway, mm189
Sitting at 3,035 feet along the remote Blue Ridge Parkway, the closest city is Mount Airy, N.C., some 25 miles away. The skies are dark, the viewing is good, and the Milky Way is bright.
Big Meadows, Shenandoah National Park
At 3,500 feet in elevation, this wild, open meadow is popular with park visitors of all kinds, but the starry night tends to steal the show. Big Meadows in the Shenandoah National Park offers some of the darkest skies within two hours’ drive of Washington along with decent horizons and glorious, unobstructed views of the Milky Way.