At first glance, stargazing in Washington state might seem like a fruitless endeavor. The constant clouds and drizzle west of the Cascades, not to mention the bright lights of the Seattle area, could put a bit of a damper on things.
While those things can certainly be true of the Puget Sound region, there are plenty of other places to watch a meteor sky under pitch-black skies. The eastern two-thirds of the state and the Olympic Peninsula are far less developed and have very little light pollution. You can even find a few dark oases for stargazing in Seattle if you know where to look!
Read on to learn about the best places to stargaze in Washington state.
Best Places for Stargazing in Seattle
Let’s start with the elephant in the room: the glittering lights of the Emerald City will definitely put a damper on your stargazing abilities. Seattle also experiences over 300 cloudy days each year, so you'll need the weather to cooperate if you’re going to spot any constellations here. You can still see plenty of bright stars, but don’t expect the Milky Way to be visible from anywhere near downtown.
Theodor Jacobsen Observatory
Located on the University of Washington campus, this is the spot to visit for stargazing in Seattle. On the first and third Tuesday from April to September, the observatory is open to the public. You’ll need reservations to look through the main dome telescope, but there are plenty of smaller telescopes in the parking lot that anyone can use!
It’s less than four miles from downtown, but Alki Beach feels a world away from the bright lights of the city. This is especially true when looking west or north across Puget Sound. Plus your views will be framed by the silhouettes of the Olympic Mountains across the water.
RV Parks Nearby: Take the ferry across Puget Sound to Manchester State Park where there’s less light pollution and fewer crowds.
Pick up a Cruise America RV rental at our Seattle (Everett) location and start stargazing!
The Best Places for Mount Rainier Stargazing
Washington’s tallest mountain is also one of the premier stargazing locations in the state. The national park encircling the mountain limits light pollution while providing a bevy of great campgrounds to stay in.
If you’re a serious stargazer, you’ll want to get as far as you can from any development. That includes campgrounds, where the headlights of returning cars can spell disaster for your night vision. Mowich Lake Campground avoids this problem as a walk-in campground, where you’ve got some distance from the parking area without embarking on a backpacking trip.
Sunrise Visitors Center
Don’t have a telescope of your own? Head to Mount Rainier National Park’s Sunrise Visitors Center, where there’s usually a good-sized contingent of stargazers during the summer months. The Park Service puts on the occasional star party, so check their website for upcoming events.
RV Parks Nearby: South Prairie Creek RV Resort is conveniently located between Mount Rainier National Park and the amenities of Tacoma.
Stargazing on the Olympic Peninsula
While only a short ferry ride from downtown Seattle, the Olympic Peninsula has a decidedly isolated vibe that lends itself to stargazing adventures. Most of the Peninsula is occupied by Olympic National Park where there’s almost zero development and some of the darkest skies in the state.
To experience total darkness on the Olympic Peninsula, you’ll have to work for it. Deer Park is less than 20 miles from Port Angeles, but the gravel road to get there is steep, narrow, and incredibly winding. The payoff is clear skies — Mount Olympus blocks the clouds and moisture coming off the Pacific Ocean and a complete absence of artificial light.
Hoh Rain Forest
Another option on the Olympic Peninsula is the famously wet Hoh Rain Forest, the western entrance to Olympic National Park. You’ll have to watch the weather as clouds are ubiquitous here.
RV Parks Nearby: Try the Olympic Peninsula/Port Angeles KOA near Olympic National Park’s Hurricane Ridge entrance or the Forks 101 RV Park for something closer to the Hoh Rain Forest.
Other Places To Stargaze in Washington State
The Evergreen State is much more than the narrow strip of land between the Cascades and the Pacific. In fact, further east is where you’ll find the best stargazing in Washington state as the smaller cities out there have minimal light pollution to contend with.
This spot is only open during the summer as the access road, the Mount Baker Highway, is covered in snow the rest of the year. During those few snow-free months, you’re privy to some amazing 360-degree views of the night sky. To the east is North Cascades National Park, which has almost zero light pollution. The areas to the north, west, and south are largely wilderness with only a few campgrounds and small communities.
One of the premier attractions in the North Cascades region, Baker Lake, welcomes thousands of boaters, paddlers, and swimmers to its pristine waters every summer. It’s no slouch when the sun goes down either, having some of the darkest skies west of the Cascades. The enormous peaks that surround Baker Lake shield it from any light pollution from coastal communities.
Mount Saint Helens
The notorious mountain that blew its top in 1980 is easily one of the best places to stargaze in Washington state. Due to the volcano’s devastation, there’s almost no development near the mountain, making for pristine night skies. The Johnston Ridge Observatory north of the mountain hosts the occasional star party.
Fish Trap Recreation Area
Spokane’s Astronomical Society hosts most of their star parties on this BLM-owned patch of land thirty miles southwest of the city. Unlike some of the other places to stargaze in Washington state, this doesn’t require navigating any lengthy gravel roads — all but the last two miles are paved. The views are spectacular as Spokane’s light dome extends primarily to the east.
RV Parks Nearby: The Silver Fir Campground is the closest option near Mount Baker and Artist Point. In the southwest by Mount Saint Helens, there’s the Longview North KOA. If you’re stargazing in the eastern part of the state, the Ponderosa Falls RV Resort is a great choice.
Cruise America has a convenient Spokane rental location for exploring all the stargazing options in the area!
Take in the Wonders of a Dark Sky With Cruise America
Whether you’re touring the Cascades or camping out in the Seattle area, we’re here to help. Cruise America has a number of locations across Washington state with a great selection of RV rentals to suit your needs. If you’re ready for a splendid night of stargazing, contact Cruise America today to learn about RV rental options available for your next adventure!