"Gold Tier" Galaxy Gazing

Forget the tent, spread out your sleeping bag, lay down and look up.

Northern Pennsylvania's Cherry Springs State Park is one of the world's five Gold Tier International Dark Sky Parks—a place where light pollution is minimal, natural darkness is valued and where, above all, you can see the stars shine more brightly than almost anywhere else on the planet. Cherry Springs is so dark—and its night sky so breathtaking—because it sits atop a 2,300-foot-tall forested plateau in the Appalachians that's surrounded by the 262,000-acre Susquehannock State Forest. Small nearby towns are tucked into valleys that shield the park from light pollution, and the park has gone so far as to plant extra trees and bushes to safeguard the area from headlights.

Gaze up from the Astronomy Field—it offers 360-degree unobstructed views of the night sky—during the summer for a view of the nucleus of the Milky Way and the constellations that make up the Summer Triangle

Know before you go: Cherry Springs has 30 first-come-first-served campsites, and year-round astronomy programming. Aim to visit during the dark of the moon lunar phase to minimize moonlight. All flashlights must be red­—red cellophane taped over a traditional bulb is a-okay. And remember, your eyes take 15 minutes to fully adjust to the darkness.