Copper Harbor’s Keweenaw Dark Sky Park is one of only three in Michigan
Visitors to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula know about its three Great Lakes shorelines, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron and Lake Superior. They are awed as they cross the mighty Mackinac Bridge, listen to the roar of Tahquamenon Falls and marvel at the ancient beauty of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. But what many don’t realize is that some of the darkest night skies remaining in the world for stargazing and seeing the Northern Lights are in the U.P.
You can go about anywhere in the U.P. and find a mesmerizing view of our star-filled universe. But one particular place at the northernmost tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula is so deeply dark it is certified by the International Dark Sky Association. The Keweenaw Dark Sky Park is one of only three parks in Michigan and about 100 in the world to complete the robust international certification process. If you want to see more stars, come here at night.
Directions to Keweenaw Dark Sky Park
Keweenaw Dark Sky Park is headquartered at the historic Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, 4252 U.S. Highway 41, Copper Harbor. The park includes over 550 acres of land, including areas around Brockway Mountain Drive and the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge property.
Free public admission to the dark sky park every night
You do not have to be a guest at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge to enjoy the dark sky park all year round. Stop by the lodge’s Outdoor Activity Center or download this month’s sky map. Bring a chair or blanket, a red-light flashlight and snacks. While they are not necessary, binoculars or a telescope and a full-frame camera, fisheye lens and tripod will make this a night to remember.
Why the Keweenaw Peninsula is ideal for stargazing
There are three reasons why the Keweenaw Dark Sky Park is perfect for seeing hundreds more stars than you can back home in your urban or suburban communities.
Low light pollution. The biggest reason you can see so few stars back home is light pollution. Streetlights, high-rises, stadiums and shopping malls, billboards and traffic all prevent you from seeing the starry night sky. On the Keweenaw Peninsula, the small towns are spread widely apart and there are miles of dark wilderness surrounding them.
Lake Superior offers miles of unimpeded views of the low horizon and night skies. The park’s proximity to the North Pole (at latitude 47) allows some of the best Northern Lights and star viewing in the contiguous United States. Look up or out across Lake Superior and you will gasp, guaranteed.
Limited daylight. In the fall through mid-spring, the days are shorter and the nights are longer. That means you can stargaze in the early evening. Admittedly, if you dress warm and bring a hot beverage, a chair and a blanket, it’s a lot more fun to pull an all-nighter here than cramming for a test at college.
Best places to stargaze in the dark sky park
If you are looking for a stellar date night, memory-making family time or an enriching personal experience, stargazing at Keweenaw Dark Sky Park is perfect for all three. The Keweenaw Mountain Lodge map below shows some of the best viewing places on the resort property and golf course to see the Milky Way and Northern Lights.
The nearby Brockway Mountain Drive is also included in the International Dark Sky Park. It is a 9-½-mile drive and is the highest above-sea-level drive between the Alleghenies and Rockies! The road is open to vehicles from mid-April until snow closes the road. Then you can access the star-viewing spots with a snowmobile, snowshoes or cross-country skis. All year round it is important to drive cautiously up and down the twisty mountain road at dusk and during the night.
Sign up for these stargazing activities at Keweenaw Dark Sky Park
Education is an important part of being an International Dark Sky Park. Throughout the year, the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge hosts events and workshops, some free, others charge a fee. Watch their calendar for these and new activities:
- Moonlit snowshoe hikes
- Light management workshops — how can you minimize light pollution on your property or in your community?
- New moon party
- Night sky photography workshop
- Telescope lending program for lodge guests