A Magical Night of Stargazing
Stay up until midnight or get up before dawn to sightsee around Ridgway’s dark skies
1 Night of Heavenly Sights
So, unlike the majority of the United States, Ridgway has amazing scenery up above. There’s nothing quite like seeing the Milky Way rise high over the San Juan Mountain peaks.
Incredible views of the planets, stars, constellations, and Milky Way are available year round, especially on moonless nights, but consider scheduling your night sky viewing during a meteor shower for bigger impact. Whether you are a morning person or a night owl, you can enjoy the skies in the middle of the night or the wee hours of the morning. Just be sure to plan a time at least an hour or two after sunset or before sunrise to get some good viewing in.
Top of the Pines, a recreation area on a mountaintop above Ridgway, was designated an International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association in 2021. The park hosts a summer astronomy week in August. Another good time to visit for sky viewing is during the annual Astro Fest at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, typically scheduled in September.
Special thanks to Val Szwarc for helping provide information for this page.
Astrophotography provided by Val Szwarc, Gary Ratcliff (Ouray Image), and Cutler Connaughton.
Since you’ll be spending the dark hours outdoors, why not spend part of your day indoors. Visit the Ouray County Ranch History Museum to learn about our area’s history, and enjoy some shopping in downtown Ridgway. Make time in your wanderings to visit Cafe Ridgway a la Mode to get a delicious ice cream, sundae, shake, or float.
El Agave Azul
Early Evening Activity: Catch a show!
Evening or Early Morning Activity: Sky Viewing
In Town: Local astronomers recommend the athletic fields at Frontier Park just south of Chipeta Drive on County Road 23. The grassy, multipurpose sports fields provide a dark corner in our community with wide open views, plus it’s a great place to gather when you want a few friends to join you for stargazing.
In the Mountains: Top of the Pines (TOP) Recreation Area, up County Road 5, is an outstanding place for sky viewing.
In fact, the high-alpine outdoor adventure area has been nominated as an International Dark Sky Park, and hopes to earn designation in late 2021.
Use a digital SLR camera if possible, and a wide angle lens, the wider the better, is best
Use a sturdy tripod, and if you have one, a cable release.
Make sure you have fresh, fully charged batteries, and backup batteries.
Visit photograph shops in the Ridgway area like Kane Gallery and Ouray Image for more tips from our local photographic experts.
Know before you go
High-Elevation TemperaturesStaying outside at night, anytime of year in the Ridgway area, can get cool. Be sure to dress in layers, and in winter, plan for really low temperatures and prepare with good boots and outerwear.
Comfort is KingBring something to sit or lay on, with a padded layer. Not only will reclining help keep your neck from getting sore, but having a good pad between you and the cool air flowing below your seat or the cool ground will help keep you warm.
Naked Eye vs. TelescopeExperts recommend that new astronomy buffs just use their eyes (with contacts or glasses if necessary) to start out your viewing experiences. There’s plenty of great sights clearly visible in the dark skies of Ridgway, Colorado. A decent pair of binoculars are a great next step to seeing more detail and a much smaller investment than a telescope.
Get some App-titudeGreat phone apps to help you navigate the sky are: Sky Guide or Sky Safari. Just be aware that some mobile phone service carriers don’t pick up a signal in some of Ridgway’s remote locations.