There’s no other way to put this: The Black Canyon area of Colorado is a magnificent place for stargazing.
If you’ve been waiting for a chance to visit and do some stargazing of your own, you won’t want to miss the upcoming Black Canyon Astronomy Festival, or simply AstroFest, from Thursday, September 14–Saturday, September 16, 2023.
“Dark skies are beautiful and scientifically valuable,” the National Park Service explains. “Humans have been contemplating their meaning for centuries. The National Park Service and its partner organizations invite you to discover the night sky through a series of astronomy programs. Every year, AstroFest provides the opportunity for visitors to experience this threatened resource, and learn about how important it is to protect. Come celebrate with us!”
Importantly, the events on Thursday, September 14, will be held in the town of Montrose, Colorado, in cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management and Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area.
The events on Friday, September 15, will be held at the South Rim of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, 14 miles from the town of Montrose and 264 miles from Denver.
Finally, on Saturday, September 16, events will be held at the Elk Creek district of Curecanti National Recreation Area, which is 36 miles from Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, 38 miles from the town of Montrose, and just 9 miles from the town of Gunnison.
Stargazing promises to be spectacular because Black Canyon and Curecanti are both certified International Dark-Sky parks by the Dark-Sky International Association. Staff at nearby Gunnison Gorge are working toward the certification.
“The Black Canyon region has precious dark skies, and we encourage locals and visitors to enjoy the night skies and this year’s festival,” Stuart West, superintendent of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and Curecanti National Recreation Area, said in a statement.
Here’s a rundown of this year’s schedule for AstroFest:
Thursday, September 14: Montrose
- 7–8 p.m. Guest speaker Dr. Bob Grossman, retired professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder, will discuss dark-sky preservation at the Montrose Public Safety Complex.
- 8:30–10 p.m. Stargazing with telescopes on Flat Top Road
Friday, September 15: Black Canyon National Park
- 3:30–4:30 p.m. Ranger-led solar telescope viewing at the South Rim Visitor Center
- 7:30–8:30 p.m. Guest speaker Aaron Watson, Colorado Chair of Dark-Sky International, will discuss dark-sky conservation efforts at the South Rim Campground Amphitheater.
- 8:30–10 p.m. Stargazing with telescopes on the South Rim
Saturday, September 16: Curecanti National Recreation Area
- 3:30–4:30 p.m. Ranger-led solar telescope viewing at the Elk Creek Visitor Center
- 7:30–8:30 p.m. Rangers will lead a program titled “Stories of the Stars” at the Elk Creek Campground Amphitheater.
- 8:30–10 p.m. Stargazing with telescopes at the Elk Creek Campground Amphitheater
You can learn more about the schedule at Black Canyon Astronomy Festival.
Know Before You Go
First of all, since these are stargazing events, all events are subject to change or cancellation due to weather.
Next, due to limited parking space, rangers strongly encourage all visitors to carpool.
As with any stargazing event, you’ll want to dress warm, prepare for the evening, and bring a camp chair.
Finally, keep in mind that while all AstroFest events are free, you’ll still need to pay park entrance fees at Black Canyon.
You can learn more about those entrance fees, as well as passes such as an annual pass, at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park’s Fees & Passes webpage.
Be sure to also read our Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park content, including: