Dark Sky Viewing

Tennessee State Parks are exceptionally well suited to night sky viewing. Many parks partner with regional and local astronomy clubs to offer astronomy programs, dark sky viewings, star trail photography workshops and star parties. Programs are suited to all levels of interest and ability from amateur astronomers to seasoned stargazers. Topics and activities vary from park to park but often include: astrophotography, eclipses, telescopes, the milky way, making star charts, learning the names of constellations and other fun astronomy activities. Most programs take place in the evening and last a few hours but there are a few overnight options available.

International Dark Sky Park Designation

In 2015, Pickett CCC Memorial State Park and Pogue Creek Canyon State Natural Area earned Silver-tier International Dark Sky Park designation. It became the first state park in the Southeast to gain this prestigious recognition. Visitors can enjoy sweeping, rich views of the night sky similar to those found in many of the Western states. 

Annual Astronomy Events

Pickett CCC Memorial State Park and Fall Creek Falls State Park have dedicated astronomy weekends and star parties. These immersive weekends are a great way to observe distant galaxies, planets, exploding stars through telescopes, discuss the night sky and spatial relationships in the solar system.

Whether you choose to view the night sky on your own, or participate in a Dark Sky program at a park, viewing the night sky and learning about astronomy is a rewarding hobby and can bring hours of enjoyment.

Already know where you want to stay for your dark sky adventure?

Reserve a cabin, campsite, or inn room online

Dark Sky Viewing Tips

  • Look for sites with clear horizons that offer wide expansive views.
  • The darker the better. Go out on moonless nights for the best viewing.
  • In cooler weather, dress warmly. Temperature drop swiftly at night, especially just before dawn. Standing on cold ground can feel up to 10 degrees colder.
  • Bring a folding chair and weather appropriate clothing. You may be outside for an hour or two, and you will want to be comfortable.
  • You don't need any special equipment to view the night sky. Binoculars and sky charts can add to the fun, but are not necessary.
  • Use a red low light flashlight to keep light to a minimum. It can take up to an hour for your eyes to adjust to the dark sky. Low light flashlights make reading your star chart easy, without disturbing your night vision.

To see if there are dark sky programs at a park near you, please visit the Tennessee State Park event calendar.