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Stargazing/Star Party sites in Northern California

In general, a good strategy is to check with your local Astronomy Club and ask where is a good place to observe. To find contact info for clubs see the AANC Resource Guide.
From 2009 July 23 SF Chronicle

METEOR SHOWERS/For sky lights, put big city behind you. Tom Stienstra, Chronicle Outdoors Writer

...Catching a meteor show on a big night can make your summer. There are several good lookouts in the Bay Area and the best are at campgrounds near mountain tops or ridgelines. Outside the Bay Area, high-country wilderness can provide shows that are absolutely scintillating.

To best see the night sky, you have to avoid fog, of course, and get away from city lights. In some areas, particularly in south Santa Clara County and the San Joaquin valleys, a haze layer can reduce visibility and obfuscates stars, planets and satellites.

...Test with pilots show that one direct flash of a bright white light can virtually blind your night vision for several minutes and hinder it for more than a half hour....

Bay Area lookouts

Marin: West Point Inn, known for its rustic cabins and rooms, is located on the south face of Mount Tamalpais at 1,785 feet, towering above the fog. Staying here solves the problem of rangers gating the access road (at Pantoll) to the summit at sunset. Reservations required. (415) 646-0702, westpointinn.com.

San Mateo County: On a fogless night, go to the bluffs above the ocean at McNee Ranch State Park in Montara. At the park entrance (a pipe gate on a ranch road), look for the trailhead on the left. (650) 726-8819, parks.ca.gov.

Santa Clara County: Skyline/Highway 35 on the Peninsula provides several lookouts, including a CalTrans Vista Point (pretty view of the South Bay). But the best spot for stargazing is farther south, at 2,572-foot Borel Hill at Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve, near the intersection with Page Mill Road above Palo Alto. (650) 691-1200; openspace.org.

Contra Costa County: The road to the summit is gated at dusk, but Mount Diablo State Park has three campgrounds (Juniper and Live Oak have showers), prime real estate for night-sky viewing. Info: (925) 837-0904, parks.ca.gov.



Berkeley: Lawrence Hall of Science**

Fremont Peak

Fresno: Yosemite, or Hensley Lake Buck Ridge Recreation Area

Humboldt: Kneeland Observatory or Horse Mountain

Mt. Tamalpais

Mt Diablo

Oakland: Chabot Space and Science Center*

Richmond/Hercules: Foxboro Park*

San Jose: Houge Park or Joseph D. Grant County Park*

Sonoma: Sugarloaf Ridge State Park

*Places marked with asterisk are not especial dark sky sites. More asterisks = more light polluted.




Last update: 2009-08-12 8:32 AM