There’s a vast open sky out there beyond the urban jungle that 82% of Canadians choose to live in and Fall is an ideal time to escape glaring city lights and discover a world beyond our own backyard.
RVing and escaping city lights go hand in hand on a fall RV vacation in one of Canada’s many designated Dark Sky Preserves and sites across Canada. No matter where you live, there’s an opportunity to sleep under the stars in a Dark-Sky Preserve.
September and October bring cooler days and nights; ideal for sitting around the campfire. The nights are longer, campgrounds are quieter, and the stars provide ambient lighting as you witness the celestial show above you.
Milky Way - Photo: Martin Bernardi
What is a Dark Sky Preserve?
Dark Sky preserves and areas are committed to eliminating or reducing light pollution in all forms to protect and preserve the night.
Why are Dark Sky Preserves and Sites Important?
With urban sprawl rapidly expanding into previously rural areas, plants, wildlife and insects that rely on darkness to forage are being forced into smaller areas to survive. This increasingly affects the ecosystem around us, ultimately endangering many species. Dark Sky Preserves, Urban Star Parks and Nocturnal Preserves provide protected places for these species to survive and flourish. Protecting the dark sky also allows an opportunity for city dwellers to learn about the moon, galaxies and constellations not visible in a light-polluted environment.
So, who decides which areas can be designated as dark sky areas in Canada?
In Canada, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada decides which protected areas can be known as Dark-Sky Preserves, Urban Star Parks and Nocturnal Preserves. Currently this certified dark sky designation has been awarded to 20 areas, 13 of which are in the country’s national parks. A full list of Dark-Sky Sites in Canada can be found on the RASC website.
Where can I camp in a Dark Sky Preserve?
Stargazing experiences are easy when you combine an RV rental from CanaDream with a Parks Canada campground reservation. Parks Canada oversees 13 Dark Sky preserves, 10 of which offer camping. In addition to these, camping may be available nearby other dark-sky sites, including provincial parks and urban star parks.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Camp under the stars at Terra Nova National Park. The finest views of the starry sky are to be had at Sandy Pond, the darkest location in the park. Stay overnight at Newman Sound Campground - open until October 10.
Terra Nova National Park Newfoundland - Photo Ryan Hodnett
Go on a moonlit adventure at Kejimkujik National Park and marvel at the shimmering reflection of stars over water at Merrymakedge Beach. Head to Jakes Landing or Mill Falls and let the Milky Way light your hike. End the evening camping at Jeremy’s Bay Campground – open until October 30.
Get up close to the stars Kouchibouguac National Park. Gaze into the twists and turns of the Milky Way and let your imagination make shapes out of the constellations above. The campground at South Kouchibouguac is open until October 10.
Count the constellations at Fundy National Park. Here tens of thousands of stars twinkle over Chignecto campground or, if you prefer a more secluded option, hike to Wolfe Lake to fully immerse yourself in an awesome star-dotted experience. The campground at Chignecto is open until October 9.
Bruce Peninsula National Park was designated a Dark-Sky Preserve in 2009. Check into the Cyprus Lake Campground, located in the heart of the Park. Here you’ll find a variety of daytime activities to fill the hours before your night vigil under a tapestry of stars, planets and distant galaxies. The Bruce Peninsula has some of the darkest skies in southern Ontario, making it a great weekend escape for city dwellers from Toronto and surrounding areas. The Cyprus Lake campground is open until the end of October. Nearby, the Fathom Five National Marine Park is a popular destination for scuba diving and glass bottom boat trips. Also designated a Dark-Sky Preserve in 2009, Fathom Five has no RV camping but it is a great place to star gaze over water. When the evening’s over, it’s only a 12.5km drive to Cyprus Lake Campground.
Fathom Five National Marine Park - Photo: Martin Cígler
The newest addition to Canada’s Dark Skies, Spruce Woods Provincial Park east of Winnipeg is Manitoba’s only designated RASC Dark-Sky Preserve. Long known for having some of the highest-quality night-sky readings in Manitoba, this provincial park features pristine dark-sky environments which attract both amateur star gazers and professional astronomers. The campground here at Kiche Manitou closes on October 10.
World class astronomy awaits at Grasslands National Park. Here can be found the darkest preserve in Canada making it one of the best places to observe deep sky objects. Front country camping is available in the Frenchman Valley Campground until October 10.
Old ranch in Grasslands National Park - Photo: Claude Charbonneau
Elk Island National Park is part of the Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve and Beaver Hills Biosphere Reserve. Here visitors will have not only the opportunity to count stars with the kids or experience seasonal meteor showers, but also to view the magnificence of northern lights. Camping at Astotin Lake Campground ends on Thanksgiving Day but private camping may still be available nearby.
Jasper National Park received its dark sky designation in 2011 and since then has become one of the best locations in Alberta to learn about the night sky. Dark Sky month here is in October when you can take in the festivities at the annual Jasper Dark Sky Festival. Encompassing over 11,000 km2, Jasper National Park is the second largest dark sky preserve in the world! If you can’t make it in October, you can still witness Jasper National Park’s dark sky 365 days a year. The Jasper Planetarium offers informational sessions as well as interactive guided tours with some of the largest and most powerful telescopes in the Rockies along with the opportunity to view Northern Lights. Camping here is easy with the Wapiti Campground open year-round.
Sunwapta Falls Jasper National Park Canada - Photo: Bitan Banerjee
Along with Glacier National Park in Montana, Waterton Lakes National Park shares the distinction of being the first International dark sky park. This joint effort recognizes the incredibly dark skies found at the two parks and acknowledges the efforts of their communities to reduce the amount of light sent up into the sky at night. Some great places to view the night sky on the Canada side are at Cameron Bay, on the Red Rock Parkway and overlooking the Bison Paddock just before you leave the park.
RV park camping is available lakeside in the township until October 10. Winter camping (no services) begins at Pass Creek from 1 November.
Waterton Lakes National Park - Photo: Khoshhat
At the far north tip of Alberta, on the boundary with Northwest Territories, you’ll find the largest Dark-Sky Preserve in the world covering an area of 44,807km. If you have the opportunity to travel to Wood Buffalo National Park in the Fall or early winter, you’ll never have a better chance to see the spectacular northern lights than here. The most accessible dark sky viewing is at the Salt River Day Use area where you can see stars for miles. The annual dark sky festival here takes place mid-to-late August with experts on hand to relate stories and science about the universe.
How do I prepare for star-gazing in a Dark-Sky Preserve?
CanaDream rents RVs year-round. For more information on RV types available visit our website, email us or contact us via online chat.
- Make sure the sky is clear and the weather is okay before heading out
- Download a star-gazing app or take a star chart with you
- A pair of binoculars or a telescope will enable you to see more
- Take a flashlight covered in red cellophane. Red light helps to retain your night vision and minimizes light pollution
- Turn off all the lights in your RV
- Take a blanket to sit or lie on
- Enjoy the show!