The stars at night, shine big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas...
The sky contains a multitude of wonders, but if you never leave the city, you can rarely admire them. Even on the clearest of evenings, experiencing the full brilliance of a starry night sky is no longer a given when you step outside. Artificial city lights obscure natural darkness, resulting in less than majestic skies and an inability to wish upon a star. While modern day electricity and light pollution make chasing the stars difficult in most towns, if you head for the Texas hill country, it won’t be long before the night sky comes alive.
So, pack a bag and a bottle of red, because these Central Austin sites are home to a variety of spots to experience all-star constellations and even to discover a few new ones.
Contributed by Rebecca West
Photo Credit: Images From Texas.com
16710 Ranch Rd. 965 Fredericksburg, TX
This tucked away joy is without a doubt one of the best places to stargaze in Central Texas. Pick any place around the park to sit and soak in the spirituality of the stars. Enchanted Rock’s rural dark skies are enough to view the Milky Way, designating Enchanted Rock as an International Dark Sky Park. Park employees have taken significant steps to minimize nighttime lighting in the park, but still need the help of locals and protection from encroaching city lights. So after a day of play and adventure, respect park rules and enjoy a million points of light shining down in this beautiful and peaceful space.
Photo Credit: Lost Maples State
37221 FM 187, Vanderpool, TX
Explore the sights above Lost Maples, a remote Texas park with landscapes as alluring as its name. Marvel at the stars in a sky void of city lights during the state park's sky parties, or wander the secluded site at your own pace. On top of camp sites and star programs, Lost Maple also offers different hiking trails based on physical condition and skill. Be sure to wear sneakers or boots because these trails are mainly all rock. Lost Maples is truly a magical, sacred space year round and an especially colorful wonderland in the fall months. So take a few friends and behold the breathtaking views both vibrant leaves and glowing constellations!
Photo Credit: Canyon of the Eagles
16942 Ranch Rd 2341, Burnet, TX
This award-winning and pet-friendly park has spectacular views of Texas hills and sunsets and provides something special for everyone. With 10 primitive hilltop sites stacked with fire rings and picnic tables, consider Canyon of the Eagles equipped to make each visit relaxing and an ideal setting for stargazing. Head down to the Eagle Eye Observatory for monthly sky parties hosted by the Austin Astronomical Society. While The Observatory is operated multiple times a week, these monthly events feature additional astronomical equipment from the Society’s private collection. Seriously sick star equipment in a luxury spa setting? Wish you may, wish you might.
Photo Credit: Texas Parks & Wildlife
101 Park Rd 23, Blanco, TX
A stunning small state park available to Texans and travelers for a mere $4 a day. Great for overnights for those who prefer not to plan ahead and ideal for day trips and night skies. Blanco State is located an hour outside of city lights, making the velvet black night sky a feast of celestial lights and colors. Come for an afternoon swim, fishing trip or weekend campout on the banks of the spring-fed Blanco River. Rent tubes or kayaks on-site and embrace the beauty of the Texas waterway and magical overhead views.
Photo Credit: Astronomy on Tap ATX
501 Brushy St, Austin, TX
Astronomy on Tap ATX is held at The North Door on the third Tuesday of every month. Organized by professional astronomers, each month features talks by scientists and professors discussing the latest, greatest, and most interesting discoveries in the world of astronomy. Plus, astronomy in the news, trivia, prizes, and free stuff for all ages. There’s always plenty of time to ask questions and interact with the presenters and other attendees who tag along for the beer. Free booze, dark skies and bright stars. Easy peasy, baby.
Photo Credit: Airbnb
Elgin, Texas: Home to Secret Stargazing Sites. Legit any spot in this town is suitable for star watching and admiring. Just a thirty-minute road trip will get you under these dark skies and shooting stars. Locals are known to set up in scattered spots just past Hwy 95 (left at the Chevron) which also transition well into prime thunderstorm view sites. Post up in an empty parking lot with a picnic basket and loved one and dance the night away under a blanket of stars.
Photo Credit: Reddit
Devil's Cove is the biggest party cove and meeting place for boaters in Austin, Texas. This cove is the spot to tie up with the hundreds of other boaters and enjoy a fun day in the sun. And while not your typical stage for star viewing, stay until sundown for an after party you’ll never forget. Watch the sky fill with stars belly up on the boat deck. Nothing better than surrounding yourself with friends, sunshine, and stars. Bring your boat, or become friendly with a boat owner, for a day to night party that you wish would never end.
Photo Credit: McDonald Observatory
3640 Dark Sky Drive, Fort Davis, TX
McDonald Observatory is located in the Davis Mountains of West Texas under some of the darkest skies in the continental United States. And similar to a handful of the listed parks, even host their own sky parties. Enjoy night sky constellation tours and views of celestial objects through a number of telescopes every Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday evening. McDonald’s “Dark Skies Initiative” sheds light on light pollution and simple solutions to it. Partner up and join the cause to promote light pollution awareness and keep skies LIT.
Photo Credit: Jason Merlo
3630 Park Rd 4 W, Burnet, TX
A little over an hour drive west of Austin is another solid option when you want to try your hand at amateur astronomy. Offering camping, fishing, swimming and hiking, Inks Lake is a wonderful day trip or weekend spot year-round. Check out the park’s "Starry Sky Night Hike," perfect for date nights and evening strolls with the fam. Sleep under the stars in one of the park’s nearly 200 campsites or 22 cabins. A home away from home just far enough from Austin to provide true darkness to stargazers. Secure a night to remember and sip on sangria throughout the sunset, just don’t forget to look up!
Photo Credit: Texas Museum of Science & Technology
1220 Toro Grande Blvd, Cedar Park, TX
If you’re a stargazer looking for less of a commitment, find your way over to the Texas planetarium. This one may be cheating a bit, but it’s definitely a great option for those that want a night of stargazing without all the standing around outside stuff. Featuring a variety of programming including both pre-rendered movies and live star shows with trained scientists, this unique educational experience is awesome for all ages. Plus, planetarium access is covered under general admission pricing. So. Much. Learning.
Photo Credit: The Odyssey Online
234 RR 1050, Concan, TX
Austinites willing to log a few hours in the car and make the trek to Garner State will not be disappointed by the views and starry sights. Just three hours outside of Austin sits this state park, remote enough to get a stellar view of the sky. Do your best thinking under the star power of Garner State, the most overnighted park in Texas. Wake up with the sun for a solar system double feature by staying overnight in onsite cabins. This isolated state park offers quiet dark night skies complemented by the rushing, untamed sounds of the Frio River. Garner State Park, adventure, and beauty at every turn.
Know of another star site around town? Drop us a line at [email protected]