A meteor shower occurs when the Earth passes through the route of a comet, made up of small rocks (meteoroids), creating a shower of illuminated debris in the sky. The occurrence of a meteor shower can be predicted, however, their visibility depends on a number of factors from the time of year and local light pollution levels.
People often travel far and wide in the hopes of seeing this natural phenomenon, as the spectacle is nothing short of remarkable. It’s vital to find a dark sky location to see a meteor shower, as they have minimal light pollution. Dark sky locations include national parks, remote rural areas, and designated dark sky reserves.
If you want to take a road trip to see a meteor shower, we’ve put together the top places in the U.S. to watch a meteor shower.
Top Meteor Shower Locations in America
There’s a range of places across the U.S. where you can see a meteor shower, here’s our round-up of our favorites to take a road trip to see a meteor shower in all its glory.
Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania
Cherry Springs State Park in Potter County, Pennsylvania is a well-known meteor viewing hotspot. Cherry Springs has been named a Dark Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), meaning they have strict lighting regulations to minimize light pollution, therefore allowing the meteor showers to be seen.
When should you visit Cherry Springs to see a meteor shower? Some of the most-known meteor showers that can be seen from this park in Pennsylvania are the Quadrantids in January, Perseids in August, and Geminids in December. For up-to-date and accurate information regarding Cherry Springs meteor showers, be sure to check its website. Cherry Springs State Park is also an ideal spot for general stargazing, so astronomy lovers should definitely add this location to their road trip bucket list.
When driving to Cherry Springs remember to watch out for wildlife and drive cautiously as the roads can be narrow and winding. At SIXT, we have rental car centers at Philadelphia Airport and Pittsburgh Airport, so you can head to Cherry Springs as soon as you land in the state.
Big Bend National Park, Texas
Southwestern Texas is home to Big Bend National Park, an International Dark Sky Park where visitors can see meteor showers at designated stargazing areas providing unobstructed views. Big Bend National Park also hosts astronomy programs and events, camping grounds, and lodges, so you can truly immerse yourself in the stunning landscapes and soak it all in.
The main meteor showers across the U.S. occur in January, August, and December, so, you should plan your road trip accordingly and be aware that there is an entrance fee for Big Bend. Always check for the latest updates on the National Park Service website.
The drive to Big Bend is scenic, but the roads are also windy so drive cautiously. Some of the the closest driveable major cities are Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston, and at SIXT we have rental car locations across Texas including Houston Airport and Dallas Airport.
Death Valley National Park, California
As one of the largest national parks in the country, Death Valley National Park attracts over a million visitors a year and is believed to be the hottest place on Earth during the summer months. Not only can you enjoy the meteor showers, but this desert environment also provides a number of peaks for breathtaking views, sand dunes, and a range of wildlife.
If you want to visit California’s Death Valley on your meteor shower road trip we would recommend going to view the January or December showers, avoiding the extreme heat in August. If you’re driving from Las Vegas you take the US-95 S to Nevada State Route 373, if you’re starting point is Los Angeles take the I-15 N to Baker, CA, and then head east on CA-127.
At SIXT, we have a premium fleet of rental cars across California suitable for the desert conditions of Death Valley National Park, so you can head off on your meteor shower adventure in ultimate comfort.
Great Basin National Park, Nevada
From limestone caves to alpine creeks, Great Basin National Park in Nevada has a wealth of landscapes and views to enjoy. Aside from witnessing the awe-inspiring meteor showers, Great Basin also offers guided tours, hiking, camping, and wildlife viewing.
If you’re landing at Las Vegas Airport or starting your journey from Las Vegas generally, take US-93 N and US-6 W to NV-487 E. Alternatively, if your beginning point is the Salt Lake City region head south on I-15 until reaching US-6 E.
As with any national park, gas stations are limited, so be sure to fill up your tank before entering the remote area. With a rental car from SIXT, we offer optional add-ons including prepaid fuel, which could make your road trip easier.
Things to know before going on a meteor shower road trip
Before heading off on your astronomy adventure, there are some things to be aware of, particularly as you’ll be in remote locations.
- Depending on the time of year and location you choose, the high altitudes to see meteor showers can often get cold so be sure to pack things like a blanket, dress appropriately from your footwear to wearing a jacket, a chair to sit back and enjoy the sights and even a pair of binoculars to get that all-important view!
- The reason you can see meteor showers so well at the above locations is due to being named dark sky parks and their commitment to reducing light pollution. Do not take flashlights or build campfires during your time at these parks, if you’re ever unsure check your specific National Park of choice on the National Park Service website for all rules and regulations.
- Depending on which major meteor event you choose to see, there is a risk of seasonal road closures, particularly if weather conditions become too extreme. Always check before traveling and use GPS navigation to find your way around these remote locations.
- Pay attention to moon phases as these can hinder the visibility of meteor showers, a bright full moon can obscure the view so you ideally want to travel during crescent or new moon phases.
- As these natural phenomena grow in popularity, so do the crowds, so be sure to arrive early to secure a good viewing spot.
Wherever you choose to discover a meteor shower in the U.S., SIXT can take care of all your rental car needs with centers across the country and a range of optional add-ons to customize your vehicle to your specific needs.