This post was written by Keith Howells of Howells Outdoors. For more trip reviews, gear reviews and more, visit howellsoutdoors.com/ or follow Howells Outdoors on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature and Selected Essays.
Why is camping in southern Utah so great? The night sky does not disappoint. EVER! The remoteness of the area cuts the light pollution down to almost nothing, and that means the stars shine. In many of these areas the Milky Way can be seen in full view and striking beauty.
Get out of the cities and see the stars.
Here are several great places to view the night sky when visiting Utah:
The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument - High Plateaus
This area of possibly the most controversial monument is located east of Kanab, UT. It stretches from the Utah/Arizona north to the Bryce Canyon National Park boundary. This is the land I grew up in.
I worked for a wilderness therapy program that was out on GSENM. We backpacked for weeks in the land. It was great to have kids come from large cities across the United States and the first night they were out there see the stars.
“Wow, I could never have imagined a view like that,” is a common statement they would say about the stars and Milky Way.
If you’re ever in southern Utah, I suggest camping in the Grand Staircase for a night.
The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument - Escalante Canyons
Now I know this and the last one are both on the GSENM, but it is a huge area and to travel between the two areas is actually a long ways to go.
There are amazing places to see in this area. Here some of the sites you can see while you are there: Camping along the Hole in the Rock Road.
I have taken several Southern Utah University courses, as well as personal trips to come out here. There are AMAZING night skies and solitude out here. When you have little light pollution, you have peace of mind.
Cedar Breaks National Monument
Located just east of Cedar City, this NPS monument is probably the easiest to visit, but that means it is also the most at risk of losing a beautiful night sky.
Take a drive from Cedar City up US-Highway 14 to reach this area. You’ll be happy you did.
Cedar Mesa - southeast Utah
I lived in Bluff, UT over the 2014 summer. West of the town is a large area called Cedar Mesa and this place is fantastic for the night sky. Although the sky was amazing in the town of Bluff, getting out to places like Natural Bridges National Monument and Grand Gulch will change your understanding of what a night sky should look like.