Dark skies aren't always easy to find these days.  As the population increases and spreads out from urban areas, dark skies - even in rural areas - are becoming scarce.  Organizations such as the International Dark-Sky Association and the Dark Sky Society have begun a Dark-Sky Movement to preserve dark skies and educate people about the importance of darkness, not only for our pleasure of viewing the night sky, but also for the health of ourselves and our planet's ecosystem.  The Top 10 Dark Sky Destinations listed below make up some of the last locations in the United States where it's possible to see thousands of stars at night.

10 - Cherry Springs State Park, PA

Cherry Springs State Park in Pennsylvania is home to some of the darkest skies in the Northeast United States.  In 2007 the International Dark-Sky Association named it the second "International Dark Sky Park."  This designation means that under ideal conditions the Milky Way will show bright enough to cast a shadow.  The park is home to three telescope domes, and is frequently used by the public for astronomy purposes.  (Photo Credit: Terrence Dickenson - csspdarkskyfund.org)

9 - Headlands International Dark Sky Park, MI

Headlands International Dark-Sky Park in Michigan gained official Dark-Sky status in 2011.  It's northern location makes it a good place to catch the northern lights.  While the park does not allow camping, overnight stargazing is permitted.  (Photo Credit: Zheng Zhou)

8 - Big Bend National Park , TX

Big Bend National Park in Texas provides some of the best night skies for stargazing in the South.  On a clear night over 2000 stars can be seen with the naked eye.  Unfortunately, during the warm summer months Big Bend's skies are plagued by pollution from Mexico and other parts of the U.S., so winter is the best time to visit the park.  (Photo Credit: Costa1973)

7 - Black Rock Desert, NV

The Black Rock Desert in Northern Nevada is a vast expanse of dry lakebed, otherwise known as "playa."  The area is open to off-road recreational vehicles and camping is permitted anywhere.  There is no shade and the daytime conditions can be harsh in the sun, but at night this middle-of-nowhere playa lies under some of the darkest skies in the country.  This is also the home to Black Rock City and the annual Burning Man event.  (Photo Credit: Dark Sky Photography)

6 - Bryce Canyon National Park, UT

Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah is located far from the light polluting confines of civilization.  The park features "The Dark Rangers" -- a special force of park rangers and volunteers who help keep light pollution in the area to a minimum.  Astronomy programs are offered throughout the year.  (Photo Credit: Royce Bair)

5 - Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

The South Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona is home to some of the more spectacular sights in the world, and when the Sun goes down, all one needs to do is look upward to continue being amazed.  (Photo Credit: Royce Bair)

4 - Natural Bridges National Monument, UT

Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah offers three majestic natural bridges to go with your Milky Way.  Natural Bridges was the first named International Dark-Sky Park on March 6th, 2007.  The Monument has made preserving their dark sky a top priority and is active in educating the public about the effects of light pollution.  (Photo Credit: Wally Pacholka)

3 - Crater Lake National Park, OR

Crater Lake National Park in Oregon is an ideal dark sky destination.  The rim drive around the lake provides endless vantage points for stargazing, and at an altitude of 8,000 ft., the sky is often very clear with great "seeing" conditions.  "Seeing" refers to the quality of observing due to atmosphere conditions, and is greatly improved when a location's elevation is increased and therefore is above much of the atmosphere.  (Photo Credit: Dark Sky Photography)

2 - Mauna Kea, HI

Mauna Kea on The Big Island of Hawai'i is home to several of the world's largest telescopes, two of those being Keck I & II (pictured).  At 14,000 ft., oxygen is scarce and the skies are as clear as can be.  The visitor center a little ways down the road at 9,000 ft. provides nearly the same breathtaking night sky views, and offers safer amounts of oxygen for us humans to breath.  The far southern location of The Big Island will also allow one to see many stars in the southern hemisphere.  (Photo Credit: Dark Sky Photography)

1 - Death Valley National Park, CA

Death Valley National Park in California has many foregrounds with different topographies to offer.  The extremely arid climate makes for many clear nights.  One can also find several different elevations within the park to stargaze from.  These factors, along with the many great camping options, give Death Valley first place on the Top 10 Dark Sky Destinations.  (Photo Credit: Dark Sky Photography)

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