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10 Twinkling Places to Stargaze in the Bay Area

Gaze up at the stars from one of these local vantage points.

Mt. Hamilton / Lick Observatory

One of the highest publicly accessible summits in all of South Bay, Mt. Hamilton is popular amongst wannabe and well-seasoned astronomers alike. Perched 4,500-plus feet above sea level and about an hour from San Jose, the darkness afforded by the area’s non-existent light pollution makes it one of the best vantage points to stargaze south of Bernal Heights. For the extra curious among us, the UC owned-and-operated Lick Observatory is located off Highway 130, just shy of Mt. Hamilton’s peak. Feel free to walk the planetary grounds from noon to 5pm Thursday through Sunday to learn even more about the constellations and meteor showers that light up Bay Area skies. // Mt. Hamilton Rd. (San Jose), alltrails.com

Editors’ tips:

  • Refilling stations are few and far between here, so fill your canteen to the brim at home.
  • Mt. Hamilton is dog friendly, just be sure to keep Spot on a leash.

Skyline Ridge Open Space

Few know that such a secluded, dark space can be found just 15 minutes from Silicon Valley. But sitting on over 2,000 acres of pristine scenery, Skyline Ridge Open Space ebbs and flows with rolling hillsides, most of which are accessible via well maintained trailheads. Whether it’s appreciating a star-studded sky from a trail bench or seeing the moonlight refract off either Horseshoe Lake or Alpine Pond, there’s little this place can’t offer celestial enthusiasts. // Page Mill Rd. and Skyline Blvd. (San Jose), openspace.org

Editors’ tips:

  • Trails are easy to moderate in difficulty; no need to bust out the hiking sticks.
  • Packing a picnic? Alpine Pond has two tables adjacent to the pond.
  • Parking along Page Mill Road is plentiful.

Mt. Tamalpais

Ahh, Mt. Tam—how we love your rich hiking trails and windswept vistas. But rarely do we stick around to partake in the stargazing opportunities afforded by the summit and surrounding highlands. Friends of Mt. Tam frequently put on astronomy classes, helping all who attend explore the vast universe on the other side of Karl the Fog. // 801 Panoramic Highway (Mill Highway), parks.ca.gov

Editors’ tips:

  • The campgrounds around Mt. Tam are among the few places you can have a bonfire in the Bay Area without repercussions.
  • No drones can be flown overhead here—leave it at home.
  • Tables, drinking fountains and restrooms can be found by East Peak off Verna Dunshee Trail.

Point Reyes National Seashore

Few natural spaces can compare to the awe-inspiring beauty and sublime stillness supplied by Point Reyes’ oceanside viewpoints. Limantour beach is one of the better, less popular beaches within the confines of Point Reyes National Seashore, perfect for laying out a blanket and taking in Cassiopeia. // Bear Valley Road and Shoreline Hwy (Point Reyes Station), nps.gov

Editors’ tips:

  • Check out AccuWeather to see if the night’s appropriate for stargazing.
  • Pick up fire and camping permits at Bear Valley Visitor Center.
  • Bring your coat—temps along the shore are often several degrees cooler than what you see on Weather.com.

(Courtesy of SF Citizen)

Strawberry Hill, Golden Gate Park

Smack in the middle of Stow Lake, Strawberry Hill is an isolated island where greenery and scenery merge into jaw-dropping views. Space is tight at the overlook so don’t bother lugging up your telescope: A good pair of binoculars will do the trick. Wear your hiking boots! // 50 Stow Lake Dr. (Golden Gate Park), goldengatepark.org

Editors’ tips:

  • Pack some snacks and bottles of water for the trek up.
  • Check local forecasts to ensure they’ll be minimal cloud coverage.
  • Check for park closures before heading out.

(Photo courtesy of SFAA)

Land’s End and Point Lobos

In the northwestern corner of the Golden Gate National Recreational Area sits two geological gems: the higher elevations at Point Lobos and the ocean vistas at Land’s End, each perfect for stargazing. San Francisco Sidewalk Astronomers occasionally host an amateur’s star watching night at both locations, but its BYO binoculars and telescope. // 80 Point Lobos Ave. (Sea Cliff), nps.org

Editors tips:

  • Check local forecasts to assure clear skies for the evening.
  • Bring flashlights for trail navigation; wear hiking shoes.

The Presidio

With soft mulch and ample parking spaces, the low-light areas within the Presidio offer quality, easily accessible stargazing opportunities within the confines of the city. Plus, SFAA often hosts lectures inside the grounds, sharing insights on what exactly you’re straining your neck toward. // Veterans Blvd and Hwy-101 (Presidio), presidio.gov

Editors’ tips:

  • Crissy Field and Southern Wilds are known for being two of the calmer, quieter parts of the grounds.
  • No need for hiking shoes here.

(Photo courtesy of Berkeley Side)

Grizzly Peak

Sip a chocolate shake, munch on a burger, and ponder your special place in the big ol’ thing we call the universe. An East Bay favorite, Grizzly Peaks is thought of as the Twin Peaks of the East Bay, offering up Instagram-worthy landscapes. Just fill up your tank and go—and maybe stop at your favorite drive-thru on the way. // Old Fish Ranch Rd. (Berkeley), yelp.com

Editors’ tips:

  • Parking can be tight here, so try to get there before 9pm.
  • Bring a pair of binoculars, if you wish.

Sibley Volcanic National Reserve

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more enchanting, light-pollution-free area in the Bay Area than Sibley Volcanic National Reserve. Now, this one’s a hike, so be sure to lace up your boots, fill your water bottles, and enjoy the acres upon acres of open space. Stop by the quarry pit labyrinth on your way back to the car. // 6701 Skyline Blvd. (Berkeley), bahiker.com

Editors’ tips:

  • The clearings are adequate for the use of both binoculars and telescopes.
  • Bring your four-legged best friend on a leash.

Redwood Regional Park + Chabot Space and Science Center

Every Friday and Saturday evening, weather and light permitting, the Chabot Space and Science Center’s observatory is open to the public, free of charge! Just park, follow the signs to the back of the center, and be amazed by the cosmos. If you’re yearning for more, head back toward the entrance and grab a general admission pass to explore the entire center. // 10000 Skyline Blvd. (Oakland), chabotspace.org

Editors’ tips:

  • Nighttime viewing starts at 7:30pm and ends at 10:30pm.
  • Notice that access to the observatory is free, not access to the entire center. Make sure to enter in the back gate for access to the observatory.

Source: 7×7 sf 10 Twinkling Places to Stargaze in the Bay Area

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