Escape the city lights and embrace the darkness of the night sky in Randolph County, West Virginia. West Virginia has some of the clearest night skies east of the Mississippi. Darkness is becoming a scarce luxury in the world we live in, but there are still several places in Randolph County where you can still enjoy a clear, unobscured night sky. Remote mountain peaks, observation towers, and vast national forest and wilderness areas plunge into darkness as soon as the last ray of light from the sun dips below the horizon. Experience the brilliancy of millions of stars blanketing the entire sky at these dark sky destinations:
What better way to take in the dark sky than at the highest point in the state? Spruce Knob sits at a whopping 4,863 feet above sea level. The Mountain Center Observation Tower sits atop the knob, providing visitors with a 360 degree view. There is also a half-mile trail that circles around Spruce Knob called the Whispering Spruce Trail. This trail also provides many different vantage points of both the mountains and the sky. Another nearby notable location is Spruce Knob Lake. The skies can be a tad darker at the lake and the reflection of the water against the stars is breathtaking. Both are perfect places to view planets, stars, and galaxies.
Wish upon a shooting star at Mower Tract. When visiting Mower Tract you will feel like you are in a completely different place than West Virginia. Almost anywhere within Mower Tract you will be able to get 280-degree panoramic views of the Monongahela National Forest. Check out Barton Knob while here. The distant mountains are covered in spruce and northern hardwood trees, but a majority of the Mower Tract is stripped bare due to clear cutting in the late 1800s to early 1900s. The bareness of this area and because it is far away from any town, makes the Mower Tract exemplary for astronomy events.
Whether you plan on backpacking and camping or you just want to take a late night drive, Dolly Sods Wilderness will not disappoint your stargazing adventure. Dolly Sods is peaceful and beautiful both day and night and the flat, windswept expanse of subalpine heath barrens opens up the night sky. Bear Rocks Preserve, which lies on a ridge crest that forms part of the Eastern Continental Divide, offers striking views of the Appalachian Mountains and opportunities to witness the vibrancy of the night sky.
Sometimes finding seclusion is what makes the best stargazing memories. Hiking the Potato Hole Trail in Kumbrabow State Forest will get you far away from roads, lights, and noise and it will also take you to the top of the forest’s highest point, Rich Mountain. Start in the evening to catch a sunset before the stars start dotting the sky. It’s about a 2 mile hike. The observation deck showcases a 360 degree view where you can see for miles. If you choose to take this solar system adventure, be sure to bring a flashlight or headlamp so you can make your way back to civilization safely.
If you are looking for a top-of-the-world escape, Bickle Knob Observation Tower might just be the place you are looking for. Fire towers have always been surrounded by mystique and romance. Bickle’s is one of the few remaining towers located within the Monongahela National Forest. Perched at an elevation of 4,003 feet, the 4-story viewing platform provides a panoramic vista of the landscape making it ideal for your celestial experience. If you’re not a fan of heights, you can also check out the view from the lower lookout that faces east towards Elkins.
Even on a cloudy night, you can see some of the most impressive night skies anywhere in Randolph County. From shooting stars, planets, galaxies, meteor showers, comets, and even the Milky way, these dark sky destinations will not disappoint. Surrounded by open wilderness terrain and the rugged beauty of the mountains, West Virginia has some of the best stargazing spots you can find on the east coast. All it takes is to look up towards the Heavens and you’ll be lost to the night sky for hours.