Last year we hiked in the dark to see the stars and visited places like Thunder Mountain and Sugarloaf Summit.
This year we decided to go with professionals on a Stargazing tour. Sedona Stargazing runs an excellent tour using their huge telescopes to allow us to gaze into distant planets and stars.
We met the tour guides at a high school field in the absolute darkness and were guided with flashlights to our parking spots. This location is about 20 minutes away from the center of Sedona on Highway 179.
Once everyone was assembled we walked a short distance on the school’s field to where the huge telescopes were set up.
Our guide was very knowledgable and seems to love talking about astronomy. He started by pointing out some constellations and then showed us a few heavenly objects with the telescope.
Desert nights can get very cold. Although we had our coats we were freezing. The tour operator provided us with additional parkas and blankets to stau warm.
Unfortunately, the sky was hazy on that night. So objects were not very clear. We got o see Saturn with its rings, a binary star and the cratered face of the moon.
Sedona Stargazing has a policy of total refind if they can’t complete the full program 6 celestial objects. So at the end of this tour, they issued a refund without anyone asking for them.
Other ways to Stargaze
Low light and perfect weather make Sedona a great place for stargazing. Just step a few feet away from town and you can have a clear view of the heavens. For a better view try to go behind one of the famous red rock formations facing away from the city. You will be plunged into total darkness with only starlight to guide you.
Get some tips on Stargazing at the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau.
Tip: When you go on one of those stargazing excursions, it is recommended that you take a red flashlight or headlight. The red light allows you to find your way on the trail but doesn’t create a lot of light pollution.
I inquired about the best stargazing sport from a ranger at the visitor’s center in uptown Sedona. She gave me some great ideas:
Thunder Mountain: It is in the Coconino National Forest, north of highway 89a. Take Dry Creek road to Thunder Mountain Road, go about .6 miles then turn into the trailhead to the left. Take a short hike that will take you behind the red rocks for total darkness.
Sugarloaf Summit: Also in the Coconino National Forest, north of highway 89a, but the road to the trailhead starts from Coffee Pot drive. The trailhead is actually on Buena Vista Drive. Another short hike takes you to one of the best star viewing spots.
Astronomy clubs: Another way to experience the Sedona starry night it to attend an event hosted by the area Astronomy clubs. Go to the Astronomers of the Verde Valley to get more information and to check their event calendar. You can also try Sirius Lookers.