Dead Horse Point State Park in southwestern Utah has now been designated as the state’s sixth ‘International Dark Sky Park’ (IDSP) and the first state park location to hold the accolade. This means Utah is home to the highest concentration of IDSPs anywhere in the world.
The 5,362-acre park – best known for its use in the iconic final ‘Grand Canyon’ scene in 1991’s Thelma & Louise – boasts vertical cliffs surrounded by canyons carved by ice, water and wind that create a visual masterpiece. Positioned above the canyon walls, it is a spectacular location to see virtually unobstructed views of the night sky with sweeping, 360-degree panoramas.
To gain the designation, the park had to commit to protecting its natural darkness as well as educating residents and visitors on the importance of natural night skies – and it maintains a close partnership with the National Park Service. Night Sky Rangers from both Arches and Canyonlands National Parks join those from Dead Horse each month to present programmes to help further public education.
In 2015, three new IDSP locations – Capitol Reef National Park, Weber County North Fork Park and Canyonlands National Park – were officially recognised, joining two of Utah’s national monuments, Hovenweep and Natural Bridges. The latter became the US’ first official IDSP in 2007.
Thanks to some of the best stargazing experiences anywhere in the world, there are plenty of ways to engage with the heavenly highlights here. These include ranger-led sky-watching excursions in the national parks, as well as a dedicated ‘constellation concierge’ for hire at one of Utah’s largest ski resorts, Deer Valley.
Elsewhere in the state, Robert Redford’s Sundance Mountain Resort offers full moon mountain treks and rides to guests, while sprawling Bryce Canyon National Park plays host to a renowned Astronomy Festival every June.
Becky Johnson, Senior Global Manager for the Utah Office of Tourism, Film & Global Branding, comments: “We are delighted that the classification of Dead Horse Point State Park now means Utah boasts the highest number of International Dark Sky Parks anywhere in the world and we look forward to welcoming visitors this summer to admire our breath-taking scenery day and night.”
Experience Utah’s International Dark Sky Parks: Bon Voyage (0800 316 0194 / bon-voyage.co.uk) has a seven-night fly-drive to Utah from £1,575 per person (saving £95 per person), based on travel in September 2016. The price includes nonstop Delta Air Lines flights from London Heathrow to Salt Lake City, seven nights’ accommodation (three at The Little America Hotel, Salt Lake City and four at the Sunflower Inn, Moab) and car hire for the duration. The price is based on two adults travelling, sharing room only accommodation.
For further information on the International Dark Sky Association, visit www.darksky.org
For additional information on Dead Horse Point State Park, visit www.stateparks.utah.gov/parks/dead-horse
For more information on Utah, visit www.visitutah.com
Note to Editors: To qualify as an IDSP, an area must have “an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment.”