Local Photo Credit: Parks Canada/R. Bray

Add These 5 Dark Sky Preserves to Your Travel Bucket List

Our five favourite spots (all in Western Canada!) to look up, look way, way up.

In the West we’re blessed with all kinds of riches, but it’s our lack of light that makes us a mecca for astronomers. That’s what the concept of Dark Sky Preserves seeks to capitalize on: designated distinct areas that are free from artificial light pollution, where you can gaze skyward in ideal conditions. Here are five of the most accessible.

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1. Jasper National Park, Jasper

Jasper has only had a Dark Sky Preserve since 2011, but they’ve led the way in turning this once very specialized pastime into something mainstream tourists are getting all excited about. There are several designated sites all a short distance from town, so grab a bike and a blanket and you’re set.

2. McDonald Park, Fraser Valley

Halfway between Chilliwack and Abbotsford, this preserve has been around since the early 2000s, and you’ll frequently find dedicated members of the Fraser Valley Astronomers Society on hand to help guide your gazing.

3. Beaver Hills, Edmonton

This is actually located within Elk Island National Park just outside of Edmonton, and the benefit here is that park staff will even provide telescopes and educational programs to budding astronomers.

4. Cross Conservation Area, Calgary

Last summer, this 2,000-hectare site just west of Calgary became Canada’s first-ever nocturnal preserve, a category used for spots that, while close to urban centres, nonetheless offer excellent conditions for stargazing.

5. Cattle PointVictoria

Even more metro is this urban star park, located smack in the middle of Victoria’s very tony Uplands neighbourhood. Plus, there’s an added benefit: visitors can go for dinner at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel before zipping over for an illuminating nightcap.

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If you’d like to compare starscapes of North America, northern California’s Lassen Volcanic National Park is a sanctuary of natural darkness, and hosts a Dark Sky Festival every August. It’s a beautiful park with fascinating geothermal features, and just as lovely after dark.

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