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Help finding a dark site near Las Vegas

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#1 maelstrom9999

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Posted 23 May 2019 - 12:26 AM

So I floated the idea to a couple of my buddies about going camping somewhere at a dark site where I could set my new scope (Evo 8) this summer.  Late July.  They're totally down with it.

 

I'm in CA, but my buddy from Ohio wants to meet in Vegas, maybe have a little fun for one night, then head out to the desert to camp under the stars for a couple nights.  Does anyone know a good location anywhere in the vicinity of Vegas to do this?  I'm not just talking about some place with low light pollution I can find on a light map, but a location where it's permitted and friendly to astronomers.  Preferably one where we can camp, if at all possible.  I would assume it has to be pretty far from Vegas as I can't imagine a city that's brighter at night!

 

We're also open to driving up to about 6 hours so perhaps the Mojave or Grand Canyon.


Edited by maelstrom9999, 23 May 2019 - 01:08 AM.


#2 Dynan

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Posted 23 May 2019 - 01:19 AM

North Rim of the Grand Canyon:

 

https://www.nps.gov/...grcadarksky.htm

 

Camping:

 

https://www.nps.gov/...visit/cg-nr.htm

 

BUT, you better hurry. It might be booked up already. AND they got 5" of SNOW today!!!!

 

EDIT:

Just checked... In the Campground there are TWO...count 'em...TWO nights available. July 24 and Aug. 1.

Better jump!

https://www.recreati...89/availability

 

There might be camping outside of the park, but not sure...


Edited by Dynan, 23 May 2019 - 01:29 AM.


#3 jimr2

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Posted 23 May 2019 - 01:58 AM

Area around Tonopah-Belmont, NV to your north about 4-5 hrs. drive. Nice and dark there. Not much around for campgrounds however. Is a small USFS "primitive" campground a couple miles south of Belmont. The Las Vegas Astronomical Society has an annual dark sky star party at Belmont each year.

Also the area east of Tonopah on the Hwy to Ely, NV from there at the BLM's "Lunar Craters" Recreation Area--very dark there.

Otherwise, it's Death Vly if you want to stay closer to Vegas.

Good luck!

-jim-
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#4 Astro-Master

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Posted 23 May 2019 - 02:58 AM

Cathedral Gorge Campground 100 miles north east of Las Vegas, it has its own Clear Sky Chart.  It might be too hot in July.  Contact the Las Vegas Astronomical Society they use the site.



#5 Messierthanwhat

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Posted 23 May 2019 - 08:48 AM

I second the Cathedral Gorge recommendation. It's about 2.5 hours from Las Vegas on US Highway 93. I travel through that part of Nevada several times a year, and to me, Highway 93 is one of the highlights of the trip. The Vegas light dome is definitely detectable until you get out near the Alamo - Crystal Springs area, but the stretch of 93 along the eastern side of the state is nice and dark. Cathedral Gorge is just one of at least four state parks in that area with camping. Kershaw-Ryan, Echo Canyon and Spring Valley are others I know of. Spring Valley and Echo Canyon are well off the main road, but the other two are right along 93, which is very nice 70mph road. 

 

Las Vegas gets blistering hot almost every day in July, but most of the rest of the state is extremely mountainous. Nevada and Colorado argue about which is more so, and I think Nevada may have the better case. The area where these parks are located is at about 4500 feet elevation and surrounded by higher mountains. You can probably expect daytime highs in the 90's, but still need a jacket soon after sundown. 



#6 radial195

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Posted 23 May 2019 - 09:33 AM

Try Grand Canyon Caverns between Peach Springs and Seligman on old Rte. 66 in NW Arizona. It'll be about a 3.5 hr. drive for you. Amenities include motel, bar, restaurant, campground, showers, laundry, and of course the cavern tour. SQM reading is 21.7 to 21.9 depending on the night's conditions. Elevation is about 4500 ft. so it'll be cooler. Bring a jacket!



#7 radial195

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Posted 23 May 2019 - 09:52 AM

You could also try Grand Canyon Caverns in NW Arizona off old Rte. 66 between Peach Springs and Seligman. Amenities include a motel, bar, restaurant, campground, showers and bathrooms, laundry, and of course the cavern tour. Skies SQM readings are 21.7 to 21.9 depending on the night's conditions. Elevation is about 5500' so it's cooler, bring a jacket at minimum. It'll take about 3.5 hrs. to get there from Las Vegas. Depending on your time and financial budgets you can also hike, horseback, or helicopter into Supai. The Hualapai Nation (in Peach Springs) has the only 1 day rafting trip through the Grand Canyon, they also have Grand Canyon West (Skywalk, Guano Point, and another site I don't remember the name of) on the way back to LV.



#8 Dynan

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Posted 23 May 2019 - 09:30 AM

Nevada and Colorado argue about which is more so, and I think Nevada may have the better case.

Having spent most of my life in Wyoming, I miss the clear, dark skies. But NOT the incessant wind and cold. But Nevada needs to do a bit of research:

 

Elevation: High, Low, Mean (https://www.netstate...vation_mean.htm)

 

1. Colorado 14,440 feet 3,315 feet 6,800 feet
2. Wyoming 13,804 feet 3,099 feet 6,700 feet
3. Utah 13,528 feet 2,000 feet 6,100 feet
4. New Mexico 13,161 feet 2,842 feet 5,700 feet
5. Nevada 13,140 feet 479 feet 5,500 feet

 

Colo/Wyo would need a decent size drilling rig to get down to Nevada.



#9 maelstrom9999

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Posted 23 May 2019 - 01:31 PM

I second the Cathedral Gorge recommendation. It's about 2.5 hours from Las Vegas on US Highway 93. I travel through that part of Nevada several times a year, and to me, Highway 93 is one of the highlights of the trip. The Vegas light dome is definitely detectable until you get out near the Alamo - Crystal Springs area, but the stretch of 93 along the eastern side of the state is nice and dark. Cathedral Gorge is just one of at least four state parks in that area with camping. Kershaw-Ryan, Echo Canyon and Spring Valley are others I know of. Spring Valley and Echo Canyon are well off the main road, but the other two are right along 93, which is very nice 70mph road. 

 

Las Vegas gets blistering hot almost every day in July, but most of the rest of the state is extremely mountainous. Nevada and Colorado argue about which is more so, and I think Nevada may have the better case. The area where these parks are located is at about 4500 feet elevation and surrounded by higher mountains. You can probably expect daytime highs in the 90's, but still need a jacket soon after sundown. 

Thanks.  I looked at the website for Cathedral Gorge and the photos show a valley surrounded by mountains.  Would a campsite be surrounded by sky-blocking mountains?



#10 Messierthanwhat

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Posted 24 May 2019 - 12:14 AM

Having spent most of my life in Wyoming, I miss the clear, dark skies. But NOT the incessant wind and cold. But Nevada needs to do a bit of research:

 

Elevation: High, Low, Mean (https://www.netstate...vation_mean.htm)

 

1. Colorado 14,440 feet 3,315 feet 6,800 feet
2. Wyoming 13,804 feet 3,099 feet 6,700 feet
3. Utah 13,528 feet 2,000 feet 6,100 feet
4. New Mexico 13,161 feet 2,842 feet 5,700 feet
5. Nevada 13,140 feet 479 feet 5,500 feet

 

Colo/Wyo would need a decent size drilling rig to get down to Nevada.

I venture hesitantly OT in Nevada's defense smile.gif , to point out that elevation is not a measure of "mountainous-ness.".

 

What defines an area as mountainous is "topographic prominence," high peaks towering above nearby valleys and saddles. I think Nevada's claim is based mostly on that feature. As stated by Wikipedia (which I'd concede is not always accurate): "Nevada has 172 mountain summits with 2,000 feet (610 m) of prominence. Nevada ranks second in the United States by number of mountains, behind Alaska, and ahead of California, Montana, and Washington. Nevada is the most mountainous state in the contiguous United States."

 

The state's tourism site, travelnevada.com, counts the  number of mountain ranges, too: "With over 300 individual mountain ranges spanning across the Silver State, this makes Nevada the most mountainous state in the continental U.S. Of those ranges, 42 are named summits over 11,000 feet and 172 have 2,000 feet of prominence." That's actually what struck me. In the past three years, I've traversed the state well over a dozen times from border to border, north, south, east and west, and no matter which direction you're going, it's mountain range after range after range, as far as the eye can see, all the way across the state.


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#11 Messierthanwhat

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Posted 24 May 2019 - 04:56 AM

Thanks.  I looked at the website for Cathedral Gorge and the photos show a valley surrounded by mountains.  Would a campsite be surrounded by sky-blocking mountains?

They some photos that might give that impression, but if you zoom in on Google Maps and click on the campground, you can see some photos that should but that concern to rest.



#12 maelstrom9999

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Posted 25 May 2019 - 10:53 AM

Thanks for all the replies.  We're seriously considering having my friend fly into LA instead of Vegas, and going to the Mojave instead.  If anyone has suggestions regarding the Mojave, that would be great.  We haven't ruled Nevada out yet.  Just considering options.



#13 Kendahl

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Posted 25 May 2019 - 01:54 PM

Use https://www.lightpol...rs=B0FFFFFTFFFF to find dark places. The Mohave National Preserve, on the way to Las Vegas, looks promising. https://www.nps.gov/...sit/camping.htm discusses camping..



#14 maelstrom9999

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Posted 25 May 2019 - 03:48 PM

Use https://www.lightpol...rs=B0FFFFFTFFFF to find dark places. The Mohave National Preserve, on the way to Las Vegas, looks promising. https://www.nps.gov/...sit/camping.htm discusses camping..

 

Yeah, that's what I'm looking at, the preserve.  Hole-In-The-Wall or Mid Hills campgrounds seem to be most recommended.  Also a bonus is that they're at 4000'+ elevation for cooler temperatures and better viewing.


Edited by maelstrom9999, 25 May 2019 - 03:49 PM.


#15 Alex McConahay

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Posted 27 May 2019 - 10:03 AM

Anybody know about Valley of Fire State Park?

 

Alex



#16 vsteblina

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Posted 28 May 2019 - 06:37 PM

Anybody know about Valley of Fire State Park?

 

Alex

The state park is basically a suburb of Las Vegas.  You really don't want to go there for astronomy. There is a free camping area with a wide open sky on National Park Service land just east of there.

 

However, I would go to just north of Alamo, Nevada.  Exactly two hours from Las Vegas. I camped on BLM land just across from the wildlife refuge campground entrance. Meter reading was 21.82 with a small light dome to the southwest from Las Vegas.

 

North of Alamo, there is plenty of BLM land that you can camp on for free. Contact the BLM for additional information. IF you go an half hour north of Alamo, no light dome....and probably the darkest skies your friend has ever seen.

 

More info here:

 

http://usbackroads.b...-93-nevada.html



#17 Alex McConahay

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Posted 28 May 2019 - 11:27 PM

>>>>>> The state park is basically a suburb of Las Vegas

 

Well, it is an hour away (or more, depending on where you are in the park).  Granted, Vegas has quite a light dome. But there is not a whole lot of lights north of Las Vegas. If you are looking for something quick, that area is a thought. 

 

Alex



#18 akulapanam

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Posted 04 June 2019 - 12:03 AM

>>>>>> The state park is basically a suburb of Las Vegas

 

Well, it is an hour away (or more, depending on where you are in the park).  Granted, Vegas has quite a light dome. But there is not a whole lot of lights north of Las Vegas. If you are looking for something quick, that area is a thought. 

 

Alex

Your better off going to cold creek.  Higher, an easier drive, and has a mountain between you and the worst of the lights.


Edited by akulapanam, 04 June 2019 - 12:03 AM.


#19 jlster

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Posted 04 June 2019 - 12:27 AM

Several have suggested 2 to 3 hours jaunts to dark skies.  If O.K. with that, I will suggest Southern Utah... specifically the St George area (about 2hrs).  There is plenty of BLM land camping available where dark sky areas are easily found, or you could punch on up to Cedar Breaks (another hour+) to 10,500ft and some of the darkest skies you'll find.  In fact: Cedar Breaks Monument is an IDA dark sky (with frequent Star Parties that you can join); absolutely stunning like all really dark areas, but CB advantage is its altitude: great seeing most of time.  Also a lot cooler than St George and other lower altitude dark sky areas.  If you want to know more, contact St George's astronomy group at SGAG.club.

 

 

 



#20 akulapanam

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Posted 09 June 2019 - 12:22 AM

A couple of additional thoughts based on some driving I have done over the last couple of nights.

 

  • Anywhere north of Coyote Springs (which hopefully never gets built).  Pahranagat national wildlife refuge had several good spots to pull off + a campground.  Far better here than Valley of Fire .  Once you get to past Alamo into the Hiko area or towards Rachel you are talking about class 1 skies.  Makes the Atoka, OK DFW club site look like a class 4 location.  You also gain some altitude.
  • I hadn't been to Charleston at night in awhile and it was better than I remember.  Challenge is finding a place to actually park and setup.  Maybe the campground.  Cold Creek still has some advantages namely more mountain between you and the city.

Edited by akulapanam, 09 June 2019 - 12:28 AM.



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