Stargaze Amaze: Eye Planets Above Glacier Point

Look up as you're up above Yosemite Valley.

DARK SKY FESTIVALS... at some of California's national parks are on the horizon, and fans of enjoying nature and an evening free of electric light are turning their attentions to Lassen Volcanic National Park and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, which will host a pair of Dark Sky Festivals in August and September, respectively. But looking up into the giant twinkle-filled plane above us -- call it "velvety" if you wish or the always poetic "bowl full of stars" -- while sitting in a national park isn't something that needs to wait for a Dark Sky Festival, as lovely and important as those are. You can appreciate the low-lit, planets-aglow atmosphere of the concave above us any time, from any national park, if cloud cover is on your side. Yosemite National Park makes it a bit easier, too, to find the picture-perfect location in which to sit down and gaze up: Glacier Point. For sure, you could step out of your tent or lodge in Yosemite Valley and see plenty, or you could hop aboard a bus near Yosemite Lodge at the Falls and wend up out of the valley to one of its most photographed vantage points. Stargazing at Glacier Point doesn't happen every night, so don't go searching for the bus, but the summertime favorite happens regularly enough that you can make it happen for yourself.

BOOK AHEAD: "Advanced registration is required," so purchase your ticket -- forty one bucks, for an adult -- for the four-hour program well ahead of time. The four-hour event, which includes the ride up, down, and the time at Glacier Point, kicks off at 7 p.m., so you'll get that rich darkness one loves from the sky, when one is looking for Venus or Jupiter or the Big Dipper. Will there be "astronomy-related stories"? Oh yeah there will be, totally. Will you have a hard time not staring at Half Dome, which vies with the sky for sheer supernatural (but ultimately completely natural) beauty? That's going to be the battle within your heart: Admire the constellations or the hunk of granite out across the open air, the one that's been anchoring Yosemite Valley over millions of nights. Is honoring the night, after a busy, bustling, recreation-heavy national park day an excellent and educational wind-down? It is, but we can't promise that Half Dome and the moon and Venus seen from glorious Glacier Point will act like a warm cup of milk to your spirits. You might find your heart is even the slightest bit poundy.

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