A new stargazer's paradise has been named and it's just outside one of America's largest cities!

Only two hours from Los Angeles, Joshua Tree National Park is now designated a Dark Sky Park. Joshua Tree is already a wilderness paradise, named for the unique plants which grow only in this region. With miles of hiking trails traversing nearly 800,000 acres of Mojave desert, we just got a whole new reason to visit.

Joshua Tree is the 10th International Dark Sky Park in the U.S. and the 83rd worldwide. The designation is awarded by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA). This group is dedicated to managing light pollution and advocating new ways to keep the sky dark. And with 28% of visitors making specifically for stargazing, the association's work is vital. They view the night sky like any other natural resource. Conservation is key to our continuing access.

Due to close locations such as the Southern California metropolis, the park earned a silver rank for mid-level dark skies. This designation is hard-earned, however. Nearby residents have partnered with the association to reduce bright halogen light bulbs in favor of softer light. And the results speak for themselves!

While on your trip to Joshua Tree, park staffers encourage visitors to photograph these surreal skies. Most digital cameras have the special long exposure features necessary to capture breathtaking images starlight. And the main attraction is an unmarred view of the Milky Way galaxy, something nearly invisible in LA!

In order to see all this location has to offer, a couple of tips may come in handy:

  • Only use red light to investigate your surroundings. Harsh white light from lanterns or headlights will reduce your ability to see faint starlight.
  • Hold off on campfires. Wait to light your fire until later in the night to prolong your viewing experience. But as it gets colder…
  • Don't forget to bundle up! Located in a desert environment, Joshua Tree's temperatures plummet as soon as the sun sets. Make sure to prepare and dress in warm clothes.

Joshua Tree's designation as a Dark Sky Park is an exciting opportunity to see a kind of natural beauty not usually found so close to LA.

Next time you're in California, take a trip away from the city and into another world. Come prepared and get comfortable with the dark!

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