In today’s fast-paced society, it’s hard to find the time to look up from our screens. And even if you’ve found yourself with a bit of time to breathe, the skies are usually clouded by New York City’s perpetual light. And this is true for most places in and around major cities. Nearly 80 percent of North America is covered in artificial light. But finding time to slow down and contemplate more than the minute details of our daily lives is surprisingly beneficial, crucial even, to our well being. And just because the city lights cast shadows on the sky, doesn’t mean the stars are impossible to see. It is easy to find the best places to stargaze in New Jersey if you’re up for a drive.
According to research led by the University of Exeter and published in Scientific Reports, only two hours a week spent in nature could improve your mental health. Stargazing in night’s sky will make you feel small, in the greatest possible way. It will afford you a new perspective. One where you don’t need to consistently be tethered to screens or your level of productivity. You might even get to make a few memories. We’re all on this giant rock floating through space for a finite period of time. Try not to miss out on the experience.
5 Best Places to Stargaze in New Jersey
If you ever find yourself curious enough to peer into our Universe, this list includes the clearest parts of the Garden State sky. I’ve included the light pollution map that I used to find these parks (the lower the value below the park name, the clearer the sky) so that you can look for some of your own spots as well. Here are the five best places to stargaze in New Jersey, based on light pollution:
1. Wharton State Forest
Light Pollution: .22
Wharton State Forest is the largest state forest in New Jersey, with over 100,000 acres of land divided between Burlington, Camden, and Atlantic counties. Throughout Wharton are gorgeous views of its lakes, ponds, and fields that give stargazers in New Jersey access to the clean, open sky. In addition, the park also offers tent camping and cabins, for $20 a night and $25 a night for non-residents.
2. High Point State Park
Light Pollution: .23
Favored among many stargazers, High Point Monument is elevated 1,803 feet above sea level and offers a stunning panorama of the skies in the tri-state area. High Point State Park, in addition to its vast views of forestry and rolling hills, also offers quiet camping grounds for $20 a night, $25 for non-residents.
3. Bass River State Forest
Light Pollution: .27
Located in Ocean Township, Bass River State Forest offers several trails bordering its 67-acre Lake Absegami. However, you don’t need to travel down any trails to get to the beach area, which provides an ideal spot to catch a shooting star or two.
4. Horseshoe Bend Park
Light pollution: .39
Located in Kingwood Township, adjacent to the Delaware River, this 736-acre park provides several ideal spots to look up into the night sky. If you’re feeling adventurous, there are 11 miles of trails that take hikers through the rolling hills and high meadows of Horseshoe Bend. If you don’t want to travel that far, near the North entrance of the park extends a 7-acre dog run. Horseshoe Bend also preserves multiple fields perfect for setting up a telescope or a blanket. Even the wide parking lots provide a low-polluted view of the stars.
5. Wawayanda State Park
Light Pollution: .47
Within Wawayanda State Park, there are multiple trails of all skill levels, leading to extraordinary landscapes within Sussex County. Also located inside the park are lush green fields and small beach areas surrounding Lake Wawayanda. Both are great locations to ponder the vast cosmos.
Things to Consider When Stargazing in NJ
- The light pollution meter included for each park indicates the visibility of the night sky in that area. In relation to artificial lighting (cities, baseball fields, etc.), the darker the color on the map, the more visible the sky will be.
- It’s recommended that you contact the park before taking your trip. Many of them close after dusk but will allow you to stargaze in New Jersey with a special permit.
- Try to go during the new moon (no moon) so that its light doesn’t interfere with your stargazing.
- If you’re bringing gear such as telescopes and cameras, be prepared to walk a little bit! Try to bring a backpack to make it a little easier.
- Once you’re there, remember that it takes a bit for your eyes to adjust to the dark. Keep your artificial lights (phone, headlights, flashlights, etc.) down to a minimum so that you can get the most out of where you are.