Stargazing during peaceful, quiet evenings brings a sense of mesmerizing childlike wonder. Pitch a tent, camp out and lay out a blanket to gaze at the stars under glittering Tennessee skies. Amateur astronomers and seasoned stargazers can learn the names of galaxies and constellations, make star charts, take star trail photography workshops, and even have star parties. These beautiful scenic destinations will have you reaching for the stars.
The Obed Wild & Scenic River National Park is designated as an International Dark Sky Association International Dark Sky Park. One of the park’s primary goals is to reconnect life and nature by discussing the value of quiet, solitude and even darkness in the noisy world. Starry night skies are an important part of the special places the National Park Service protects. Since 2013, the park has offered year-round astronomy and dark sky interpretive programs, supported by a collaboration with local amateur astronomers from the ORION Astronomy Club in Oak Ridge and the Knoxville Observers in Knoxville. The Lilly Arch near the end of Point Trail is made with Pennsylvania sandstone, and is the only one of its kind in the park. Pro tip: Stargaze on a moonless night for the best viewing.
The one thing stargazers need is a clear sky and minimal light pollution. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers a peaceful and perfect place to stargaze. Once crowds are gone for the day, the traffic dies down and the sun sets, the park becomes an entirely different world and the light show in the sky starts. Newfound Gap Trailhead in Townsend is a favorite spot for stargazers. The parking lot at the trailhead is 6,000-feet above sea level providing unobstructed views. Pro-tip: Be sure to turn off your flash and use a prolonged exposure to photograph the stars.
Harrison Bay State Park near Chattanooga is a haven for stargazers, campers, fishermen, golfers, and boaters. The park’s position on the eastern bank allows you to watch the sunset out over the water before stargazing. The park closes at 10 p.m. ET, so if you want to see the stars, check out one of the 128 RV campsites or 21 primitive tent-only campsites. The 1,200-acre park with approximately 40 miles of Chickamauga Lake shoreline was originally developed as a Tennessee Valley Authority recreation area in the 1930s. The parklands are rich in history because the Cherokee Campground consisted of three villages which were ruled by a Cherokee Chieftain. Pro tip: Check the clear sky forecast for perfect stargazing.
Pickett CCC Memorial State Park and Pogue Creek Canyon State Natural Area earned the Silver-tier International Dark Sky Park designation in 2015 for their commitment to preserving the natural beauty of the night sky. It became the first state park in the Southeast to earn this recognition. Stargazers can enjoy sweeping, rich views of the night sky. The astronomy field at the Pogue Creek Canyon State Natural Area's parking lot on Highway 154 is available for the public to use for stargazing year-round with scheduled star parties throughout the year. Please contact the park office for additional information. The park has cabins and campsites for a perfect star lover’s getaway. Pro-tip: Bring your binoculars to point at the moon and the night sky to notice star patterns.
Fall Creek Falls State Park also has astronomy weekends and star parties. Fall Creek Falls State Park, located an hour south of Cookeville, is known for its waterfalls, and offers several cabin and campground rental options where visitors can enjoy the captivating night sky. Stargazers can observe distant galaxies, planets, exploding stars through telescopes and discuss the night sky and spatial relationships in the solar system. Many parks partner with local and regional astronomy clubs to offer programs, dark sky viewings, stair trail photography workshops and parties. Most programs take place in the evening and last a few hours, but stargazers can also stay overnight. Pro-tip: Reserve your cabin, campsite, or inn online for timely availability.
Edgar Evins State Park is on the banks of Center Hill Lake in the steep, hilly Eastern Highland Rim, just 70 miles east of Nashville. Visitors can spot abundant wildlife, including three different owl species and wintering bald eagles. An observation tower at the Visitor Center offers a spectacular view of the lake and surrounding hillside. The tower is perfect for stargazers to search for clear horizons with wide expansive views. Park staff has shot amazing night photographs looking out over the water. They even offer classes on nighttime photography. The park closes at 10:30 p.m., so make sure to rent a cabin or a campsite. The 6,000-acre park offers cabins, campsites, an on-site marina with a restaurant and one of the most beautiful reservoirs in Tennessee. Pro-tip: You can learn to distinguish constellations by learning the triangles, curves and straight lines among the stars.
Bledsoe Creek State Park, less than an hour outside Nashville, is rich in history and was once a prime hunting ground for the Cherokee, Creek, Shawnee, and Chickamauga Native American tribes. Bledsoe Creek has more than five dozen campsites to find the perfect spot to gaze at the stars. The park hosts many stargazing events and activities throughout the year. Pro tip: Bring layers of clothing due to temperature changes at night.
Visitors interested in viewing the night sky near Memphis can gaze out over the Mississippi River. Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park is 18 miles north of downtown and offers westward views out over the water. The park closes at 10 p.m. CT, so check out one of the cabins or campsites to take advantage of night sky views. The state park is a 12,539-acre hardwood bottomland area featuring mature Bald Cypress and Tupelo swamp. Most of the facilities are on top of the majestic Chickasaw Bluffs that rise from the bottomlands and are covered with large oaks. Visitors can spot plentiful wildlife throughout the forest, including deer, turkey, otter, beaver, foxes, and bobcats. Over 200 species of birds, including American Bald Eagle can be spotted. The park also features more than 20 miles of hiking trails. Pro-tip: The night sky is a beautiful thing. Just make sure to obey the rules and don’t trespass into areas that are off-limits. Check with the park office before venturing onto trails at night.
Stargaze in style at Stillwater Farms in West Tennessee. Grab family and friends to glamp in a remodeled 1982 Airstream with updated amenities and a bath house nearby. The glamper sleeps up to five guests and is available for short-term and monthly leases. Stillwater Farms also has a two-bedroom cottage that sleeps up to eight guests and is fully furnished with unique antique collectibles. The 150-acre farm is also a nature preserve with gorgeous farm vistas, plenty of space for you to peer up at the stars. After your peaceful stay, be sure to stop at the Silo farm store for artisan products handcrafted on the farm, including soaps, lip balms, soy candles, photography, and art. Pro-tip: Disconnect from devices and technology to truly soak in the stargazing experience.
Watch the sun set over gorgeous Reelfoot Lake and gaze up at the sky. Blue Bank Resort has fishing, hunting and outdoor packages available. The resort also has cabin and hotel room style options for guests. Savor the dishes at the Blue Bank Fish House & Grill, which focuses on fresh local foods, including a variety of vegetables, herbs, and spices right from their garden. Don’t miss a stroll through the beautiful butterfly garden. Outdoor dining offers the perfect view for the lakeside sunset, to spot bald eagles and enjoy the fire pits. During the day, visitors can also find inspiration and history of the area at the world-class Discovery Park of America museum and 50-acre heritage park. Pro-tip: If you want to take stargazing to the next level, keep an eye out for astronomy community events and courses. Local universities, museums and planetariums may host public programs.