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Kyle McLauren

Where To Stargaze In Tuolumne County

By VTC Author | 07/09/2021 | Exploring Tuolumne County, Guided Tours, Guided Tours to Yosemite, Hiking, Outdoor Adventure, Parks and Public Lands, Sights, Stanislaus National Forest, Stanislaus National Forest, State Parks, Tours, Yosemite National Park


Tuolumne County is the adventurer’s dream come true for all things outdoors, including stargazing. Explore California’s Yosemite, High Sierra, and Gold Country by day, and then an incredibly unbelievable sky full of stars by night. Find breathtaking scenic night skies in Tuolumne County’s rural areas that are uninhibited by city lights.

Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park is a quieter part of the park, and the wide-open space is perfect for a clear view of globally renowned meteor showers or simply a night spent on the lookout for shooting stars. Watch as a glorious sunset fades and the Milky Way comes into view, lighting up the night. Put your astro-photography skills to the test and capture the perfect long exposure shot of the starry sky above Yosemite's granite peaks and domes.

Many people who visit Yosemite are on the lookout for wildlife. Look no further than the night sky in summer to find a variety of animal constellations. Of course there are the bears, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, plus you can spot Scorpius the scorpion, Draco the Dragon, and Delphinus the dolphin just to name a few.

Moonbows that appear on particular early-summer, moon-lit nights are a sight to be seen. Actual bows of color, just like a rainbow, appear as the full moon shines in just the right direction toward the spray of gushing waterfalls.

For a guided exploration of the sky, go on a stargazing adventure with a professional outfitter to get the most of your time in the dark outdoors.

You'll feel as if you can almost touch the stars in the High Sierra! With plenty of campgrounds and cabins to choose from, Tuolumne County’s High Sierra is a destination like no other for stargazing in California. This mountainous region will give you a glimpse of the heaven-like night sky over the Stanislaus National Forest. Bring a blanket, maybe some hot chocolate, and let your eyes adjust to the stellar affair.

Pinecrest Lake is an incredible location for the nightly views. First watch the stars of the silver screen at the lakeside outdoor Pinecrest Theater, which shows current movies most summer nights. Then head to the shore to watch as the lake becomes a mirror to the sky above.

Look for the summer triangle made up of the stars Vega, Deneb, and Altair, and Corona Borealis, an alignment of stars forming a small  “c.”

Put your astro-photography skills to the test and capture the perfect long exposure shot of the starry sky above the Sierra’s lakes and granite peaks.

Be starstruck, and revel in the beauty and history of a different kind of star at Railtown State Historic Park in Jamestown. Get an exclusive look at the famous movie star locomotive, Sierra No. 3®, featured in dozens of films and TV shows such as Back to the Future III and Petticoat Junction. Take the roundhouse tour and immerse yourself in the Wild West of film history. Hop aboard a historic train and take a seasonal ride through the surrounding foothills to get a real glimpse at what makes the Sierra Railway iconic to the film industry. 

Professional theater stars come from far and wide to perform at California Gold Country’s premier theater company, Sierra Repertory Theatre. SRT’s vibrant and superior plays and musicals are performed in a newly remodeled theater in East Sonora and in a historical venue dating back to the Gold Rush, the Fallon House Theatre in Columbia State Historic Park.

Sierra Repertory Theatre: Shrek
Sierra Repertory Theatre Photo

Many moving objects are seen during a night of stargazing. If the object is moving at a consistent rate across the sky and blinking–it’s a plane; if it’s not blinking, it’s a satellite or maybe even the International Space Station (large and bright). What we commonly call a shooting star is a meteor. Make a wish quickly, meteors are only visible for a few seconds as they burn up in Earth’s atmosphere. 

Fun Fact: An object above the atmosphere is a meteoroid (as in ‘in the void’), and if the meteor doesn’t burn up as it falls through the atmosphere and lands on Earth, it is known as a meteorite (as in ‘on site’).

You'll find lodging options for every taste and any budget, from river-side campgrounds to modern resorts in the High Sierra, in the heart of Gold Rush towns, and near Yosemite National Park. How about a houseboat on Don Pedro Reservoir–an ultimate stargazing location? Go to VisitTuolumne.com to start planning a stellar getaway today. 

Travel Tip: Don't wait until the last minute to reserve lodging for June through September and winter holiday periods--those times fill up fast.


Take a break and take a trip. Start planning your vacation with the help of travel inspiration and information delivered directly to your mailbox. Request your FREE Tuolumne County Travel Guide here today.

2022 Tuolumne County Inspiration Travel Guide

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