March 13, 2024

You Can See the Total Solar Eclipse from National Parks, But Their Skies Offer Much More

A large swath of the country will have a chance to witness a rare total solar eclipse next month.

For a few minutes on April 8, the moon will perfectly align with the sun, darkening skies along a path of totality from Texas to Maine.

“It's an odd experience to watch that shadow move across the sun,” said Geoff Goins, Interpretation and Fees manager at Capulin Volcano National Monument in New Mexico. “You can see planets near the sun. You can see stars and everything.”

The unusual phenomenon, which he likened to twilight, can confuse animals and cause traffic to back up, but it’s definitely expected to wow spectators.

“Everyone's seen pictures, but when you're seeing it in person with your own eyes, it's that personal experience with something that's happening out there in the cosmos that hits you right here.” He said, patting his chest.

Goins remembers everyone around him whooping and hollering during the last solar eclipse in 2017. He traveled to Grand Teton National Park for that one and plans to travel again for this next viewing.

“Our park is having a program that day. It will be a partial eclipse here,” Goins said of Capulin Volcano. “But I'm the astronomy nerd here, so I am going to centerline.”

Travelers will be able to see the total solar eclipse at 27 units within the National Park System next month, but there are many more parks with stunning skies all year.

Where can I see the eclipse in 2024?

An interactive map posted by the National Park Service, using NASA data, shows the following park units within the path of the total lunar eclipse.

  • Amistad National Recreation Area in Texas
  • Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park in Texas
  • Waco Mammoth National Monument in Texas
  • El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail Texas portion
  • President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site in Arkansas
  • Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas
  • Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site in Arkansas
  • Buffalo National River in Arkansas
  • Trail of Tears National Historic Trail Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Illinois portions
  • Ozark National Scenic Riverways in Missouri
  • Ste. Geneviève National Historical Park in Missouri
  • Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio portions
  • Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in Indiana
  • George Rogers Clark National Historical Park in Indiana
  • Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio
  • Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park in Ohio
  • Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial in Ohio
  • Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio
  • James A. Garfield National Historic Site in Ohio
  • David Berger National Memorial in Ohio
  • Fallen Timbers Battlefield and Fort Miamis National Historic Site in Ohio
  • North Country National Scenic Trail Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont portions
  • Harriet Tubman National Historic Park in New York
  • Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site in New York
  • Women’s Rights National Historical Park in New York
  • Appalachian National Scenic Trail Maine portion
  • Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine

Other sites like San Antonio Missions National Historical Park in Texas, William Howard Taft National Historic Site in Ohio, and Fort Stanwix National Monument in New York lie just outside the eclipse’s path of totality.

What national park has the best stargazing?

In most places, the total solar eclipse will only last three and a half to four minutes, according to NASA, but nearly every night, the sky puts on a spectacular show at national park units across the country.

There is no one best park for stargazing; there are many. Here are some of the parks with night sky programs. Those with asterisks, like Capulin Volcano, also have International Dark Sky Association certification.

  • Acadia National Park in Maine
  • Arches National Park* in Utah
  • Badlands National Park in South Dakota
  • Big Bend National Park* in Texas
  • Big Cypress National Preserve* in Florida
  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park* in Colorado
  • Bryce Canyon National Park* in Utah
  • Buffalo National River* in Arkansas
  • Canyonlands National Park* in Utah
  • Capitol Reef National Park* in Utah
  • Capulin Volcano National Monument* in New Mexico
  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico
  • Cedar Breaks National Monument* in Utah
  • Chaco Culture National Historical Park* in New Mexico
  • Chiricahua National Monument* in Arizona
  • City of Rocks National Reserve* in Idaho
  • Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve* in Idaho
  • Death Valley National Park* in California, Nevada
  • Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska
  • Dinosaur National Monument* in Colorado, Utah
  • El Morro National Monument* in New Mexico
  • Flagstaff Area National Monuments* in Arizona
  • Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument* in Colorado
  • Fort Union National Monument* in New Mexico
  • Glacier National Park* in Montana
  • Grand Canyon National Park* in Arizona
  • Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument* in Arizona
  • Great Basin National Park* in Nevada
  • Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve* in Colorado
  • Hovenweep National Monument* in Colorado, Utah
  • Joshua Tree National Park* in California
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park in California
  • Mesa Verde National Park* in Colorado
  • Natural Bridges National Monument* in Utah
  • Obed Wild and Scenic River* in Tennessee
  • Olympic National Park in Washington
  • Petrified Forest National Park* in Arizona
  • Pipe Spring National Monument* in Arizona
  • Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado
  • Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument* in New Mexico
  • Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan
  • Tonto National Monument* in Arizona
  • Tumacacori National Historical Park* in Arizona
  • Valles Caldera National Preserve* in New Mexico
  • Voyageurs National Park* in Minnesota
Source: National Park Service

What happens in national parks at night?

Visitors who leave parks before the sun goes down miss out.

“There's birds that make noises at night. Deer are very active … A lot of the predators will hunt at night. A lot of the rodent activity happens at night. There's bats at night. There's all kinds of biological activity,” Goins said. When he previously worked at Bryce Canyon, which hosts moonlight hikes, he loved pointing out the evening primrose that only blooms at night.

Nighttime is also when the sky comes alive.

“You get out, and you're going to see a sky that you've never seen in your life if you grew up in a city,” he said.

Copyright 2024 Gannett Satellite Information Network, LLC. All rights reserved. From By Eve Chen, USA TODAY.

To view all articles, check out the Internet Travel Monitor Archive