One of the best parts of living in the Valley is the fact that, if you look up at the sky at night, you can actually see the stars. Interspersed inside a swath of midnight blue, the twinkling figures are bright spots that connect the constellations and hint at the vast galaxy beyond out planet.
From the comfort of Earth, there’s nothing like packing up a blanket, a pair of binoculars, and a trusty thermos of tea and finding a spot to stargaze in the Hudson Valley. While the to-do has all the makings of a great (affordable) date, it’s equally as perfect for families with aspiring astronauts or friends who want to savor those magical summer evenings in the great outdoors.
Before you go, make sure to check each park’s opening and closing hours. Due to COVID-19 regulations, there may be restrictions relating to parking and number of visitors onsite.
Austerlitz and Canaan
On the eastern side of Columbia County, the 2,018-acre Beebe Hill Multiple Use Area and the 2,007-acre Harvey Mountain State Forest are open for primitive camping and stargazing as long as sites are set a sufficient distance from water, roads, and trails. Arrive early to hike the trails, then stick around to pick out your favorite constellations or – if you’re lucky – a nearby planet.
Quietly situated in Putnam County, Big Buck has no formal trails on its 146 acres. Instead, it keeps its landscape wide open for primitive camping and exploring. There are two small parking lots on Laurel and Ressique Roads, so plan ahead before visiting for a late-night stargazing session.
On the border of Orange County, Gobbler’s Knob is as fun to visit as it is to say. The park extends across 303 acres of grassy areas, with two trout streams and a trail. It’s open for at-large primitive camping and stargazing, so find a comfy spot away from the roads, trails, and streams, and get to gazing.
The Ulster County parkland rests on a forested hillside, so prospective stargazers should plan to arrive early to scout out a spot with a clear line of sight to the sky. The area consists of 83 acres and has unmarked paths and an unpaved parking area, which means it’s a nice and quiet destination for primitive camping or twilight gazing.
This under-the-radar spot in northern Dutchess County spreads across 715 acres. Because it has no marked trails, it’s a local favorite for hiking, hunting, fishing, and paddling. Primitive camping is allowed as long as campsites are at least 150 feet away from the nearest road, trail, or body of water, so pack up the binoculars, roll out a blanket, and see if you can pick out Orion’s Belt from the gaggle of stars above.
Highland and Poughkeepsie
Closes at dusk
With its panoramic vistas of the Hudson River and its east and west banks, the Walkway is just as much of an ideal destination for ogling the Hudson Valley as it is for stargazing. Bring a pair of binoculars to view stars just before sunset or keep an eye out for one of the Walkway’s evening starwalk events.
Closing hours vary: May – October, 11 p.m.; November – April, 10 p.m.
Washington Park might be best known for its breathtaking tulip arrangements that pop up like clockwork for the citywide festival every May, but the Albany park is also a gem for stargazing in the Capital Region. Thanks to the park’s extended hours, visitors can make the most of late-night strolls while stopping to spot the Big Dipper.
Because it’s open for hiking, camping, fishing, and more, the Wassaic Multiple Use Area is the perfect place to retreat for stargazing in Dutchess County. It’s tucked away from the Valley’s more urban corners, making it ideal for spotting constellations on cloudless nights.
Closing hours vary; May 9 – September 7, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. Mon-Fri and 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. Sat-Sun
Stanfordville’s Wilcox Park extends it hours during the summer months, which means it’s the place to go for outdoor fun. During the day, the park is open for fishing, swimming, bird watching, and picnicking. Once night rolls around, stargazers can break out the telescopes, while campers pitch their tents for the evening. Camping is currently by reservation only, so book ahead if you’d like to overnight onsite after an evening of spotting the stars.