Located in the heart of Potter County is one of the best places in the world to view the night sky. Cherry Springs State Park consistently ranks as one of the top 10 places in the world for celestial viewing. The park boasts a Gold Level Dark Sky Park designation by the International Dark Sky Association.
The park, located 20 minutes southeast of Coudersport on Route 44, was named after black cherry trees found in the area. Surrounded by more than 260,000 acres of Susquehannock State Forest the park offers views of the night sky unaffected by light pollution.
On a clear night, visitors can view more than 20,000 stars, as well as planets, nebulas, meteor showers, the Milky Way and more. During the summer, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars will come back to the evening sky. Right now, the planets are visible in the morning, but as the sky changes during the summer the planets will become visible at night. An important point to remember when stargazing, is to go out on nights when the moon isn’t full. The brightness of the full moon makes it difficult for the human eye to completely adjust to the dark, so guests won’t see very many stars.
For first time stargazers, being prepared is vital. According to the Cherry Springs State Park’s website, guests should bring warm clothes, a flashlight with a red filter or cover to protect night vision, binoculars, a blanket or camping chair and a constellation guide. There is a clear sky chart on the Cherry Springs State Park website. This gives stargazers an idea of the nightly conditions before they head to the park.
For overnight observation at the park, check the time of sunset before heading out. Visitors start to congregate at the overnight observation area before sundown on clear nights. As the night sky gets darker visitors can grab a seat in the observation field and watch the stars appear.
As Potter and Tioga counties transition to the green phase of Governor Wolf’s reopening plan the Overnight Astronomy Observation Field and Cherry Springs Campground are open for overnight stays. According to the DCNR website, the night sky public viewing area is open for short term stargazing.