What better way to experience the great outdoors than camping in a national park under a star-filled sky?! Whether you're in the desert, on a mountain, or at the coast, nature at night is a compelling way to connect with the park environment.
Look up! Many of national parks provide the best opportunity for seeing starry night skies — some dazzlingly so. Campsite views to the stars, Milky Way, meteors, Aurora Borealis, and other celestial bodies are a "Wow!" way to end your day. Relax. Be inspired. Can you find the Big Dipper? What constellations do you know? Enjoy the night alone, or with a group: many parks offer stargazing, interpretive programs. Ask a park ranger.
Look around you. The natural features of land and trees take on a unique appearance under the powerful glow of a full moon or twinkling starlight. Let your eyes adapt to the dark. Soon unexpected patterns and images will emerge. Individual objects will begin to set themselves apart from the surrounding darkness. Notice how they emit light and cast shadows from these natural light sources.
Engage all your senses. Night brings opportunities to engage our senses differently than by day. What do you smell? Juniper, pine, wildflowers, and other plants have a presence of their own. Can you see or hear any animals? Nearly 70% of animals are nocturnal. Nighttime provides a critical function in park ecosystems and requires different protective strategies. Animals are sensitive to sounds and lights at night. As you enjoy camping at night, remember not to disturb them or your fellow travelers. The NPS wants to provide a quality nighttime experience for wildlife and its park visitors.
Use your judgement and stay safe. Research and learn about possible risks with the park environment and your camping trip before you go.