5 places to spend the night under the stars

August 18, 2016  |  Permalink

There is something about sitting out under the night sky. On a clear evening with a new moon, the canopy of stars engulfs you, evoking  a sense of wander and mesmerizing pleasure.

So where do you go to see such beauty? Many of our cities and modern conveniences pollute the night sky. This light pollution makes it difficult to enjoy the splendor of the stars. Fortunately, there are several great parks in Tennessee where you can, “Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.”*


Pickett CCC Memorial State Park



If you missed the Perseid Meteor Shower, then check out Chris Alley's video!

Posted by Pickett Civilian Conservation Corps Memorial State Park on Tuesday, August 16, 2016


The best place to start your stargazing adventure is at Pickett CCC Memorial State Park. Located an hour north of Crossville, Pickett was the first state park in the Southeast to earn the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) certification. This designation means the park has a low level of light polluting the night sky. You might be asking, “how dark is dark?” Well, the park took a series of measurements and converted them to the Bortle Sky Scale. This scale ranges from one to nine, with one representing “inky black darkness”. Pickett has Bortle Class 3 skies.

Pickett CCC Memorial State Park hosts many astronomy days and viewing parties throughout the year. The park has cabins and campsites that make it a perfect star lover’s getaway.

(Video of Perseid Meteor Shower on August 12, 2016 courtesy of Chris Alley)



Fall Creek Falls State Park



Star trails around Polaris (the North Star) at Buzzard's Roost, waiting on the Perseid meteors.

Posted by Fall Creek Falls State Park on Thursday, August 13, 2015


While the park is famous for its overlooks and waterfalls, Fall Creek Falls State Park offers several locations where visitors can enjoy the captivating spectacle of the night sky.  Located an hour south of Cookeville, this is another great park to attend astronomy and star gazing events throughout the year. If you’re planning to view the stars, that means you’ll be at the park pretty late in the evening. The park has inn, cabin and campground rental options for stargazers needing a place to lay their heads.


(Photo Credit: Ranger Cara Alexander)


Edgar Evins State Park



Star trails shot by Ranger Mark Taylor in the early morning hours of August 12 during the Perseid meteor shower. This...

Posted by Edgar Evins State Park on Saturday, August 13, 2016


Situated on the banks of Center Hill Lake, Edgar Evins State Park is a great location for night sky viewing. Park staff has shot some amazing night photographs looking out over the water. They even offer classes on nighttime photography. The park is the closest and most accessible for night sky viewing in the Nashville area. It is just 70 miles east of the city. The park closes at 10:30 PM, so if you want to experience the night sky here, you’ll need to rent a cabin or campsite.  


(Photo Credit: Ranger Mark Taylor)


Harrison Bay State Park


Posted by Friends of Harrison Bay State Park on Saturday, July 11, 2015


If you’re searching for the stars close to Chattanooga, look no further than Harrison Bay State Park. Harrison Bay sits on Chickamauga Lake, 18 miles northeast of downtown. The park’s position on the eastern bank allows guests to watch the sunset out over the water, and to follow that up with a stargazing encore. The park closes at 10:00 PM ET, so if you want to see the stars you’ll need to rent one of the RV or tent camping sites.




Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park


Posted by Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park on Wednesday, July 15, 2015


If you want to view the night sky near Memphis, what better way than looking out over the Mississippi River? Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park is 18 miles north of downtown, and offers westward views out over the waters.  The park closes at 10 PM CT though, so you’ll need to stay in one of the cabins or campsites to take full advantage of the night sky.



Remember to Follow Park Rules

The night sky is a beautiful thing, and we want you to enjoy it at our parks. We just want to make sure you do it in a safe and respectful way. Obey all park rules during your visit. Remain mindful of your surroundings and do not trespass into areas that are off limits or closed.  Check with the park office before venturing on to trails at night. Many trails close after certain times.


Total Eclipse of the Park 2017

On August 21, 2017, a total eclipse will sweep across North America in the early afternoon. This is the first time in over 500 years that the area of land now known as Tennessee will experience a total eclipse. The moon will fully cover the sun, producing a halo of light around the moon’s black silhouette. Edgar Evins and Fall Creek Falls will both experience more than two minutes of total darkness around 1 PM CT. The parks are planning activities and events for the weekend, and are preparing for abnormally high numbers of guests. We encourage anyone who is interested in viewing or photographing this spectacle to consider doing so at one of our parks. Book now to ensure that you have a place at the “Solar Eclipse of the Park.”



*Marcus Aerelius

About the author

Josh Gibson