Light pollution has become so prevalent that many people don’t know what it’s like to see a brilliant star-filled sky. But in Siskiyou, the night sky is its own wonder, and great stargazing spots abound! Whether you’re looking for a scenic lookout or kicking it next to your RV, here are a few great stargazing spots that are easy to access and guaranteed to impress on a clear night.
Siskiyou’s iconic Mount Shasta is far enough from human-caused light pollution to provide ideal conditions for stargazing. Rising more than 14,000 feet and drivable up to about 8000 feet, two of the most popular stargazing spots on the mountain can be found at the Everitt Vista Point and Bunny Flat. They’re the location of frequent summer “star parties” where local astronomers bring their telescopes and binoculars for a celestial show. Local outfitters in the area (Shasta Vortex Adventures, Mt. Shasta Fun Guides & Mount Shasta Retreat) also offer nighttime guided stargazing and spiritual hikes or moonlight snowshoe adventures in the winter.
*also note that there has been recent fire activity around the Mt. Shasta area so please check conditions before you go, or hire a guide!
Just across Interstate 5 from Mt. Shasta sits Siskiyou Lake, which is already a favorite photo spot to capture the glassy reflection of Mt. Shasta in the water. But wait for the sun to go down and get yourself in a position to watch the Milky Way rise over Mt. Shasta. It’s an epic display of mother nature at her best and one of the easiest – and greatest – spots to stargaze.
For the lowest amount of light pollution in Siskiyou, you can head west, where Somes Bar in the Marble Mountain Wilderness is nestled among one of the largest roadless expanses of wilderness in the United States. Bigfoot in these parts remains elusive, of course, but the stars here will overwhelm you. Other Klamath river communities along scenic highway 96 also have low light levels, but Somes Bar has the benefit of being in a place where the mountains are a little bit more spread out. Once you make the beautiful trek out here, spend a couple of days in nearby Happy Camp to explore the region’s pristine rivers and swimming holes. You’ll feel like you have the best of nature all to yourself!
Pitch a tent just about anywhere in rural Siskiyou and you’re in for a great view of the night sky, but Shafter Campground has long been considered a great public spot for some “Night Sky Camping,” especially in the fall with meteor showers like Orionids (generally in October) and Leonids (generally in November).
The Lava Beds National Monument
The Lava Beds National Monument is a great place for astronomy enthusiasts, having become a Dark Sky Preserve that protects the spectacular nighttime skies over the monument, including a monitoring program and lighting protocols that restrict artificial light pollution. Their high altitude in a remote area away from urban pollution combined with the clean, dry air make this starry area the makings of a great view. You can even print off a star chart to help you locate specific stars for your astronomy adventure, or join in the ranger-led Annual Star Party Event that generally happens every year in August and is open to the public.
Adjacent to the Lava Beds National Monument, Medicine Lake is a gem of a recreational spot by day and a great stargazing spot by night. The lake sits in the caldera of an ancient volcano called Medicine Lake Volcano and is at an elevation of almost 7000 feet. While there are some tall lodgepole pines around the lake, on the shore all you have to do is look up to see the celestial show.
Want more on Siskiyou’s Dark Skies? Check out our podcast episode on the subject here.