Where do you go to get a really good look at the planets and stars in the night sky? Anywhere that isn’t overly affected by the light shining up from earth. The top of a tall building is okay, but getting to a less populated and less lit-up area is better. The wide open spaces of county and state parks are the best. Take your pick for a nighttime star show in the Sacramento area.
Ancil Hoffman Park
6700 Tarshes Drive
Carmichael, CA 95608
Ancil Hoffman Park is 396 acres of wonderful urban riparian interface. The park is sandwiched on two sides by the American River. Sitting by the river on a hot night while gazing at shooting stars is a bit of greatness right in the middle of the American River Parkway. Pick one of the wide-open spaces in the park to park yourself, relax and let the night sky bring a smile to your face. Bring a picnic, blanket and high expectations.
Beals Point, Folsom Lake State Recreation Area
7755 Folsom-Auburn Blvd.
Folsom, CA 95630
Beals Point has quite a bit of wide-open territory. It’s a popular area that sits right on the shores of Folsom Lake. The sky canopy here is enormous. There isn’t much ambient light pollution, and if it’s a little toasty, you can always put your camp chair in the shallows of the shore. The area around the lake has many spots to set up to do some stargazing. Very convenient to the entire Sacramento area, it’s a natural for families to take a break from the city lights.
Old Sacramento State Historic Park
980 9th St., Suite 400
Sacramento, CA 95814
The wonder of this very special slice of Sacramento is the Sacramento River that flows past the historic buildings. The river walk area is gorgeous. It’s at the foot of the city, so how is this a good place to stargaze? The view of the night sky is wide open, and all it takes to see falling stars is a good place to sit and look up. With plenty of places to pitch a blanket, you are sure to fill your quota of streaking stars. Enjoy dinner or dessert in Old Town, then head to the river to watch the show.
University of California, Davis
1 Shields Ave.
Davis, CA 95616
With many wonderful aspects of this university, the wide-open grass fields come into play for many activities. For stargazing, they are a natural. At night, the sky stretches forever. The grass fields are fantastic places to put your blanket down, open your picnic basket and get ready to see a few stellar balls of fire streak across the sky. The vibe of a University town is here, complete with a plethora of fine eateries if you don’t want to pack your own goodies. Get your score card out and count the sky streaks in comfort.
Mather Regional Park
4103 Eagles Nest Road
Mather, CA 95815
The U.S. Air Force needs very open spaces, and Mather is the definition of that need. Not an airbase anymore, this county park has just about a 180-degree view of the sky. This may be one of the best places to sit and watch the stars line up and burn their way across the night sky. The star canopy here is massive. It isn’t very heavily used, which makes parking a cinch. Take a large group out for a picnic dinner, rent one the covered picnic areas, then simply wait for dark. With 1,600 acres of open space, it’s easy to build great family stargazing memories.
Charles Ferris is a freelance writer who has lived in the Sierra, halfway between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, for the last 37 years. In 2010 he retired from teaching after 36 years . He and his wife hike, kayak, cross country ski, snow shoe, ride mountain bikes and road bikes, year round. His work can be found at Examiner.com.