Stargazing in Mercer County, West Virginia: Embrace the Beauty of Appalachian Skies
Last updated: May 31, 2023
When it comes to experiencing the magic of stargazing, there’s one essential element that sets the stage for an unforgettable celestial show – the dark onyx skies. Amidst the bright city lights that continuously illuminate urban landscapes, true stargazing enthusiasts find tranquility in the unspoiled beauty of rural areas. With its expansive, unobstructed skies, West Virginia proudly claims the title of “the most under-the-radar stargazing destination in the U.S.,” as crowned by Travel + Leisure.
In Mercer County, stargazing is more than a mere pastime — it’s an opportunity to connect with the rich Appalachian heritage and natural wonders surrounding you. Whether you find solace in solitude or prefer to share the experience with loved ones, Mercer County offers an abundance of serene spots to set up your telescope or simply lay back and let the wonders of the universe unfold above you.
Where To Go
Camp Creek State Park
Known for its stunning waterfalls and scenic hiking trails, Camp Creek State Park is the perfect place to start your stargazing adventure. The park’s sprawling meadows and tranquil forests provide ample space to set up camp and immerse yourself in the celestial symphony above. As darkness surrounds the landscape, the stars put on a mesmerizing display, revealing the vastness of the universe. During the day, embark on exciting adventures along the trails, enjoy a picnic near the water or try your luck at fishing in nearby streams.
Pinnacle Rock State Park
Offering a breathtaking vantage point for stargazers seeking an elevated experience, Pinnacle Rock State Park will fulfill all of your stargazing dreams! This geological wonder, with its towering sandstone cliffs and panoramic views, serves as a majestic backdrop for your experience. Find yourself a cozy spot at the park’s observation deck and prepare to be wowed as the night sky unveils its magnificent brilliance right before your eyes. Pinnacle Rock isn’t just about stargazing — take a science-themed field trip and learn about the geology of the area. Or enjoy hiking, picnicking and fishing while at the park.
Pipestem Resort State Park
Located along the rim of the Bluestone River Gorge, Pipestem Resort State Park combines natural splendor with top-notch stargazing opportunities. Check out the park’s observation platform for a truly unique night sky view. Consider extending your stay at the park’s lodge or cabins to take advantage of all the activities and amenities offered at Pipestem Resort.
East River Mountain Overlook
Rising high above Mercer County, East River Mountain Overlook provides a soaring perspective on the night sky. With its unobstructed vistas and rugged terrain, this mountain overlook will take you on a cosmic journey. Find a quiet spot along the mountain’s ridge and enjoy the beautiful night views.
What Constellations To Look For
The tilt of the Earth’s axis and West Virginia’s changing seasons bring along a shift in the visible constellations throughout the year. But there are a few starry companions that stick around year-round in the northern hemisphere, and they are quite a sight to behold!
These constellations include the famous Ursa Major, also known as the home of the Big Dipper, and its smaller sibling, Ursa Minor, the Little Dipper. These constellations each have mythical stories and rich histories that have shaped cultures throughout the ages. Stargazers can also spot Draco, Cassiopeia and Cepheus, forming a stellar team of circumpolar constellations. These are unique because instead of rising and setting on the horizon like the rest, they rotate around the north celestial pole, making them visible throughout the year here in West Virginia!
And as the seasons change, so do the other constellations. On any given night, stargazers have the chance to spot over a dozen constellations in our starry skies. However, some are easier to find and more recognizable than others. Just keep an eye out for the brightest stars, and you’ll have no trouble discovering these celestial gems. During the summer, look for Pegasus (facing east), Scorpius, Lupus and Libra (all facing south), Corvus, Virgo, Leo (facing west), Cygnus, Lyra, Hercules, Corona Borealis, Boötes (overhead) and more.
Summer Evening Magic
The stars aren’t the only showstoppers in Mercer County. Our summer nights are illuminated by another magical spectacle – lightning bugs. As dusk descends and the warm Appalachian air fills with a sense of anticipation, these tiny creatures awaken, their gentle glow gleaming in the darkness. It’s pure magic! These enchanting creatures appear during the months of May through August.
Let the constellations be your guide for the nights, but request a free Mercer County Travel Guide to help you plan the rest of your summer getaway.