Ohio is the seventh most populous state in the country but only the 35th by area. That’s a lot of people crammed into a fairly tiny space, which means finding spots dark enough for a night of stargazing isn’t so easy.
There are a few spots nearby, though, where the night sky looks a little brighter and a little more expansive, whether you’re using a naked eye or a research-grade telescope. And if you’re willing to drive a bit—and maybe make an overnight trip—your options get even better.
Distance from downtown: 7 miles
Observatory astronomer Dean Regas calls the Cincinnati Observatory the best spot in the area to see the stars.
“It might not be the darkest location, but I can set up a telescope on the grounds and view the moon and stars rise above the eastern horizon,” he says. “And, of course, we have the coolest telescopes inside the domes.”
The observatory is open to the public by appointment only, from noon to 3 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, and at 9 p.m. Fridays. 3489 Observatory Pl., Mt. Lookout
Distance from downtown: 8 miles
Yes, the park is close to the bright lights of downtown, but its Mt. Lookout location—just a mile from the Cincinnati Observatory—offers some of the darkest skies in the city. 5090 Observatory Ave., Mt. Lookout
Cincinnati Astronomical Society
Distance from downtown: 17 miles
The Cincinnati Astronomical Society runs four observatories with research-quality telescopes. The equipment is only available to society members, but the society does host public events through the year at its four-acre site in the Mitchell Memorial Forest. 5274 Zion Rd., Cleves
Stonelick State Park
Distance from downtown: 36 miles
The Cincinnati Observatory hosts free stargazes for the public at Stonelick State Park throughout the year, pending a clear sky. Upcoming gazes are June 5 and 12 and July 3, 10 and 31. Find the complete list of dates online.
Stonelick also hosts to the organization’s Friends of the Observatory’s Dark Sky Viewing Site. On Saturdays around the new moon, amateur astronomers of all stripes are invited to set up telescopes and take in the expansive night sky. 2895 Lake Dr., Pleasant Plain
Cowan Lake State Park
Distance from downtown: 48 miles
The Cincinnati Astronomical Society has partnered with the park to host stargazes at Cowan Lake State Park. The Park also offers swimming, sailing, kayaking, hiking, campgrounds, and deluxe family cabins. 1750 Osborn Rd., Wilmington
John Glen Astronomy Park
Distance from downtown: 135 miles
Located in southeast Ohio, Hocking Hills is one of the few spots in Ohio that offers such a pristine view of the night sky, according to John Glen Astronomy Park, which opened in 2018.
The Friends of Hocking Hills, which supports the park, notes that the plaza is popular with amateur astronomers of all skill levels, from beginner stargazers to night sky photographers. Hocking Hills visitors planning to stay the night can camp or rent a cabin. 20531 OH-664, Logan
Chimney Top Trail
Distance from downtown: 142 miles
Located in the Daniel Boone National Forest, the Chimney Top Trail overlook rises 400 feet above the Red River, making it a great spot for stargazing. If you opt to stay the night, the forest has both cabin rentals and campground camping. 1700 Bypass Rd., Winchester, Kentucky
Geauga Observatory Park
Distance from downtown: 289 miles
The International Dark-Sky Association, the leading group in combatting light pollution, designates “dark sky places” across the globe. These are some of the best spots in the country to escape light pollution and see a brilliant night sky.
Ohio has one designated dark sky place: Geauga Observatory Park. The 1,100-acre park is home to the Nassau Astronomical Station. Observatory Park is open daily from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. Memorial Day through Labor Day and 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. the rest of the year.
The park is east of Cleveland, so any trip from Cincinnati will likely require an overnight stay. Luckily, the area is home to four parks that are perfect for camping. 10610 Clay St., Montville Township