Compass Rose Lodge – Huntsville, Utah

The Best Hotels for Stargazing and Astro-Tourists

BY Keri Bridgwater | March 5, 2024

Night skies blanketed in stars used to be the easiest form of escapism. No matter where you were, you could just look up and there they shined, free of charge. But with nighttime light pollution now affecting nearly 80 percent of the world, starlight has turned into another commodity: dark sky hunting is a burgeoning trend in travel. What’s more, with a total solar eclipse sweeping across North America in April, plus the annual Perseid Meteor shower and a partial lunar eclipse in August, 2024 looks like it will be a banner year in astro-tourism. Top stargazing destinations like Alaska, Hawaii and West Texas will likely be at the center of the action, and hotels and glampsites are tapping into the trend too, with guided star tours, night sky photography workshops and celestial wayfinding journeys. Here’s where to check in and gaze up at distant planets and glittering galaxies – no astronomical knowledge required. 

Adero – Scottsdale, Ariz.

Photo by John Woodcock for ADERO Scottsdale Resort

The only Autograph Collection hotel located in a certified Dark Sky Zone, the ADERO in Scottsdale has seasonal Friday stargazing sessions with local astronomers dubbed the “Star Dudes.” High-definition telescopes can also be delivered to rooms and suites for self-led stargazing as part of the resort’s “Find Your Way” experience. All ADERO guests receive complimentary access to the Star Walk 2 mobile app, which shows a real-time interactive sky map of the stars, planets and constellations.

Americana Motor Hotel – Flagstaff, Ariz.

Photo courtesy of Practice Hospitality

Fact: Flagstaff, Ariz. was designated the world’s first Dark Sky Community in 2001 for its pioneering work preserving the night sky. Also fact: the city’s retro-cool and revamped Americana Motor Hotel on Route 66 is one of the best places to stay if you’re headed to the area to stargaze. Americana rents telescopes to all guests so they can explore the night sky without stepping off the property. For extra perks, like two tickets to the Lowell Observatory and admission to the “Meet a Scientist” event on Saturdays, book the Look Up Stargazer package.

Autocamp – Joshua Tree, Calif.

Photo courtesy of AutoCamp

Boutique glampsite AutoCamp Joshua Tree has partnered with the 29 Palms Astronomy Club for its educational stargazing experience. Usually held on the second to last Friday of each month, it’s led by local astronomer and astrophotographer Steve Caron, who points out and identifies planets, distant nebulae and constellations in the Mojave Desert night sky using a large aperture telescope. Aptly soundtracked with cosmic DJ sets by Other Desert Radio, it’s an evening best paired with drinks and snacks from the AutoCamp general store. 

Borealis Base Camp – Fairbanks, Alaska

Aurora Landscape, Borealis Basecamp. Photo courtesy of Phil Kingsley.

If the northern lights dancing over a heated geodesic igloo in the Alaskan wilderness appeals to you, consider Borealis Basecamp for your next Arctic, stargazing-adjacent adventure. Located just north of Fairbanks, Alaska and set on 100 acres of boreal forest, you can sign up for an aurora photography session (midnight until 3 am), hike with the camp’s resident reindeer or dogsled along a section of the 800-mile Trans-Alaska Pipeline. With just 28 boutique cube and igloo accommodations (they have luxe linens and en suite bathrooms), there’s a waitlist for this season (which ends April 10), but you can book ahead for winter 2024/25.

Castle Hot Springs – Morristown, Ariz. 

Castle Hot Springs at Night photographed by Robert Pflumm

Astro-tourists with deep pockets should consider wellness resort Castle Hot Springs to marvel at the Milky Way, Saturn’s famous rings and the Andromeda Galaxy on a series of special stargazing events which are being held through June. Astronomer-led presentations and guided viewings will be part of regular all-inclusive offerings, including meals, hot spring soaks and select outdoor and spa activities at this secluded Sonoran Desert retreat.

Compass Rose Lodge – Huntsville, Utah

Photo courtesy of Compass Rose Lodge

Skiers might love this boutique farmhouse stay in the Old West town of Ogden for its proximity to Snowbasin Resort, but stargazers in the know come for the onsite astronomic and lunar observatory. Constructed around a high-tech, Celestron Edge11 HD telescope, nightly star tours at HALO — short for the Huntsville Astronomic and Lunar Observatory — reveal secrets of the cosmos to lodge guests who use the telescope to view deep-sky objects like the rings of Saturn or Jupiter’s Galilean Moons in superb detail. 

Evergreen Lodge – Yosemite, Calif.

Photo by Kim Carroll

Miles from the nearest city lights, Yosemite National Park is a great place to look at the stars, but visiting this summer between April 13 and August 15 will require a reservation made using a complicated system.  One loophole that bypasses the reservation rigamarole: staying at Evergreen Lodge, located one mile from the park’s western entrance, and joining one of its Yosemite stargazing tours. Star Guides use high-powered laser pointers to pick out constellations, nebulae and star clusters with a 4.5” aperture digital Unistellar telescope on hand to give you an even closer look at the night sky.

Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, Hawaii 

Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Maui

Four Seasons Resort Maui has been a visitor and A-list favorite for decades, but really hit cult status among “set jetters” thanks to The White Lotus HBO series filming its first season here. The newest addition to the resort’s Unforgettable Experience series is a splurge-worthy, three-hour small group excursion called A Wayfinder’s Journey, led by Native Hawaiian navigator Kala Baybayan Tanaka. Aboard a Trilogy catamaran, she shares stories about ancient Polynesians and how they used the stars and other natural elements to chart their course as they sailed across open seas. Another way to learn about the stars and Polynesian ancestral history, plus identify important constellations used for navigation – including Maui’s famous fishhook, Manaiakalani – is on Tanaka’s seasonal ‘Hawaiian Star Stories’ program. 

Keweenaw Mountain Lodge – Keweenaw, Mich.

Photo by Chris Guibert

The log cabins at historic wilderness resort Keweenaw Mountain Lodge provide an appropriately rustic setting for seeing the stars and disconnecting from the outside world in Michigan’s forested Upper Peninsula. Thanks to its far northern latitude and low light pollution, the Keweenaw Dark Sky Park (one of only three in the state to pass the rigorous International Dark Sky application process) provides ample opportunities for seeing constellations and meteor showers year-round. The elusive Northern Lights are known to make occasional appearances here, too. The lodge runs monthly stargazing activities, including night sky photography workshops for budding astrophotographers and seasonal moonlit snowshoe hikes

Starstruck Glamping – Terlingua Ranch, Texas

Photo courtesy of StarStruck Glamping

Big Bend National Park has been touted as one of the best National Parks for stargazing in North America by the Space Tourism Guide, and thirty minutes north in Terlingua Ranch, Starstruck Glamping is perfectly positioned to soak in the wonders of the world’s largest Protected Dark Sky Reserve at night – and stark beauty of the mountain landscapes by day. The solar-powered geodesic domes are on the plush boho side and come with push-on fire pits (that use a battery-powered spark ignition system), spa-like bathrooms, and an outdoor dining and kitchen area, but you’ll need to find your own star maps and apps. 

Hotel Jackson –  Jackson Hole, Wyo.  

Thanks to its high elevation, low humidity and limited light pollution, Jackson Hole, Wyo. is rewarded with clear night skies and a chance to see thousands of stars on moonless nights. Cowboy-cool ski spot Hotel Jackson has partnered with Wyoming Stargazing to provide private tours that whisk guests away to a dark sky location in nearby Grand Teton National Park. On this nighttime escape, you’ll be treated to camping chairs, blankets, binoculars and super-powered telescopes plus iPads loaded with the Star Walk app.