Cosmic Campground - Atlas Obscura

Cosmic Campground

This remote camping site offers incredible stargazing opportunities. 


The Gila National Forest is well known for its wide array of outdoor activities. From mountain climbing to hot spring soaking to exploring ancient ruins, there’s something for everybody in these parts. Near the edge of these protected lands, where pine forests give way to shrubland, is one more natural attraction. In order to appreciate this one, however, you will need to look not at the earth around you, but the sky above.

Cosmic Campground is a certified Dark Sky Sanctuary certified by DarkSky International. DarkSky has several categories of Dark Sky Places, but Cosmic Campground is one of only a handful of Dark Sky Sanctuaries in the world. That distinction is reserved for the most remote and darkest places in the world. In fact, the nearest major source of light to Cosmic Campground is over 65 kilometers away. It is the first of its kind to be located in North America. 

A lack of light pollution isn’t the only feature that makes this campground prime real estate for amateur astronomers. Its distance from population centers, as well as the desert climate, keep the sky free of smog and clouds during most of the year. At 5,358 feet in elevation, there is much less atmosphere above you than there would be at lower elevations. The only nearby trees are low-lying junipers, giving campers a low horizon and unparalleled access to the night sky. 

The utility of the site as a stargazing spot isn’t just in the location, but the design. Away from the campsites, there are four concrete pads that are set aside specifically as platforms for telescopes. Campground regulations ask visitors to arrive during daylight hours, to avoid disturbing others with their headlights. There is perhaps no better spot for observing the cosmos and thinking about your place within it.

Know Before You Go

The campground is free with 8 designated campsites. This is a primitive campground. The only amenities are vault toilets and picnic tables. Bring your own shade, drinking, and rinsing water. There is no trash service, so haul out what you hauled in!

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March 6, 2023

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