Everything You Need to Know About Milky Way Nights at Joshua Tree National Park
There’s something about gazing at the cosmos that just makes you feel like everything is going to be alright. In the grand scheme of things, we are nothing but specks of dust in the galaxy. We matter, of course, but there is a much bigger picture, something far greater than ourselves. The world is vast and wide, and the universe — infinite.
Nestled within the mystical Mojave Desert of Southern California, Joshua Tree National Park is an otherworldly haven, captivating visitors with its unique geological formations and diverse ecosystem. But beneath its sun-drenched days lies a hidden secret that reveals itself only when night falls—an unrivaled opportunity to witness the profound beauty of our own galaxy, the Milky Way.
This summer, far away from the glaring lights of the concrete jungle, take the chance to see our galaxy in its full glory, revealing its intricate details and unveiling secrets that have fascinated astronomers and dreamers alike.
The best time to see the Milky Way from Joshua Tree National Park
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Summer months are the best time to see the Milky Way from Joshua Tree National Park when the sky is clear, and there is no moon. According to the park itself, this 2023, you can best view the galaxy on June 9th-19th, July 9th-19th, and August 9th-20th from 10pm through 12am.
These dates coincide with the new moon phase, when the moon can sometimes not be seen because its illuminated side is facing away from Earth.
Where is the best place to see the Milky Way from Joshua Tree National Park?
3000-6000 ft above sea level, Joshua Tree offers some of California’s darkest and most pristine skies. If you go on a clear moonless night, you can actually view the Milky Way from anywhere in the park. But the farther east you go, away from Palm Springs and nearby cities, the less light pollution there will be and the better you can view the galaxy.
There are plenty of roadside pullouts scattered around the park if you don’t want the hassle of camping. Stay at Onsen Hotel and Spa, just 40 minutes from Joshua Tree National Park, and enjoy the comforts of our chic accommodations and modern amenities while being just a short drive away to see the Milky Way. As the park suggests, anywhere at the Pinto Basin Road between Cholla Cactus Garden and Cottonwood, are great spots for viewing. The park also has designated stargazing areas, including Quail Springs, Hidden Valley, and Ryan Mountain.
How to spot the Milky Way galaxy
The Milky Way we see in the night sky is also known as the Galactic Core. This is the brightest and most prominent part of the Milky Way and appears as a faint, hazy band of light stretching across the sky. It looks like a cloudy or misty streak. In fact, most people had probably seen it before and just thought of it as a cloud.
In the northern hemisphere, during the summer months, the Milky Way is visible in the southern part of the sky. If it’s your first time seeing the Milky Way, the easiest way to find it is to use a stargazing app. Download it on your phone before heading to the park, as the signal might be intermittent. Some of the best stargazing apps out there include PhotoPills, the NASA app, SkyGuide, Stellarium Mobile Plus, and SkySafari. These apps use your location and time to provide a real-time view of the night sky, helping you easily identify the Milky Way’s position. Just scan the sky with your phone in the direction you’ve determined, and look for this distinct band of light.
Tips for Milky Way Nights at Joshua Tree National Park
— Avoid using bright lights or looking at your phone screen, as it can affect your night vision. It will take at least 20-30 minutes for your eyes to adapt to the darkness fully. If you really need light, like if you’re camping, use red lights only. Cover your flashlight or phone light with red fabric, cellophane, or tape.
— Bring a blanket or warm clothes! The temperature drops drastically at night in the desert, so layer up.
— Bring food and water. Stay full and hydrated.
— Watch out for nocturnal animals.
— Check the weather forecasts before heading out. Remember, you want it to be moonless and clear.
Located at Desert Hot Spring, just 40 minutes from Joshua Tree National Park, Onsen Hotel and Spa provides the perfect respite from your celestial and desert adventures. With our tranquil outdoor spaces, soothing onsen experiences, and pet-friendly rooms, come home and let your worries melt away. We take care of the little details, offering complimentary parking, WiFi, and a delightful continental breakfast. Book now and enjoy a truly worry-free stay.