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A Magical Night of Stargazing

Stay up until midnight or get up before dawn to sightsee around Ridgway’s dark skies

On any clear moonless night, you can expect to see four to eight meteors per hour in the skies above Ridgway. Our town is an International Dark Sky Community as well as being located next to the International Dark Sky Park of Top of the Pines, because we protect our night sky views by limiting lighting and glare that causes stars and planets to disappear.
  • What?

    1 Night of Heavenly Sights

    Through the mountains of Colorado!
  • When?
    around the dates when the moon is new.
  • Where?
    an International Dark Sky Community
Starry night above Ridgway Colorado

So, unlike the majority of the United States, Ridgway has amazing scenery up above. There’s nothing quite like seeing the Milky Way rise high over the San Juan Mountain peaks.

Incredible views of the planets, stars, constellations, and Milky Way are available year round, especially on moonless nights, but consider scheduling your night sky viewing during a meteor shower for bigger impact. Whether you are a morning person or a night owl, you can enjoy the skies in the middle of the night or the wee hours of the morning. Just be sure to plan a time at least an hour or two after sunset or before sunrise to get some good viewing in.

Top of the Pines, a recreation area on a mountaintop above Ridgway, was designated an International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association in 2021. The park hosts a summer astronomy week in August. Another good time to visit for sky viewing is during the annual Astro Fest at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, typically scheduled in September.

Recommended dates in 2021 during meteor showers: Aquariids, May 4-5; Perseids, Aug 10-13; Leonids, Nov 16-17; and Geminids, Dec 13-14.

Special thanks to Val Szwarc for helping provide information for this page.

Astrophotography provided by Val Szwarc, Gary Ratcliff (Ouray Image), and Cutler Connaughton.

Afternoon Activity

Since you’ll be spending the dark hours outdoors, why not spend part of your day indoors. Visit the Ouray County Ranch History Museum to learn about our area’s history, and enjoy some shopping in downtown Ridgway. Make time in your wanderings to visit Cafe Ridgway a la Mode to get a delicious ice cream, sundae, shake, or float.


El Agave Azul

Enjoy friendly service and real Mexican food in downtown Ridgway.

565 Sherman Street Unit #3, Ridgway, CO 81432
El Agave Azul in Ridgway Colorado

Early Evening Activity: Catch a show!

To bridge the time between dusk and best dark-sky viewing, reserve your seat at a concert or theater production. In summer 2021, Weehawken Creative Arts and the Ridgway Chautauqua Society have a great lineup of music and theater at the Courtyard at 610 on Clinton Street and in outdoor venues around the area.

Evening or Early Morning Activity: Sky Viewing

In Town: Local astronomers recommend the athletic fields at Frontier Park just south of Chipeta Drive on County Road 23. The grassy, multipurpose sports fields provide a dark corner in our community with wide open views, plus it’s a great place to gather when you want a few friends to join you for stargazing.

In the Mountains: Top of the Pines (TOP) Recreation Area, up County Road 5, is an outstanding place for sky viewing.

In fact, the high-alpine outdoor adventure area has been nominated as an International Dark Sky Park, and hopes to earn designation in late 2021.


Provisions Cafe

Whether you stay up late and sleep in, or wake up in the wee hours of the morning to do your stargazing, Provisions is typically open with a delicious brunch menu from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Wednesdays through Sundays.

616 Clinton, Ridgway, CO 81432
Provisions Cafe in Ridgway Colorado

Photography Tips

Photographing the night sky and its many bright features is no easy task, but when done successfully can be really satisfying and provide some of the most impressive shots to share with friends and family.
  • Use a digital SLR camera if possible, and a wide angle lens, the wider the better, is best
  • Use a sturdy tripod, and if you have one, a cable release.
  • Make sure you have fresh, fully charged batteries, and backup batteries.
  • Visit photograph shops in the Ridgway area like Kane Gallery and Ouray Image for more tips from our local photographic experts.

Know before you go

  • High-Elevation Temperatures
    Staying outside at night, anytime of year in the Ridgway area, can get cool. Be sure to dress in layers, and in winter, plan for really low temperatures and prepare with good boots and outerwear.
  • Comfort is King
    Bring something to sit or lay on, with a padded layer. Not only will reclining help keep your neck from getting sore, but having a good pad between you and the cool air flowing below your seat or the cool ground will help keep you warm.
  • Naked Eye vs. Telescope
    Experts recommend that new astronomy buffs just use their eyes (with contacts or glasses if necessary) to start out your viewing experiences. There’s plenty of great sights clearly visible in the dark skies of Ridgway, Colorado. A decent pair of binoculars are a great next step to seeing more detail and a much smaller investment than a telescope.
  • Get some App-titude
    Great phone apps to help you navigate the sky are: Sky Guide or Sky Safari. Just be aware that some mobile phone service carriers don’t pick up a signal in some of Ridgway’s remote locations.