To witness a solar eclipse often takes effort, and on October 14, 2023, anyone in the U.S. who wants to see a 'ring of fire' (rather than a partial solar eclipse) will need to be within a roughly 130 miles- (209 kilometers-) wide path stretching from Oregon to Texas.
So why not combine it with a road trip? Crossing some of the country's most iconic landscapes, National Parks and Dark Sky Parks, the path of the Oct. annular solar eclipse is something to behold for anyone who loves travel, adventure and exploring the night sky.
Covering most U.S. states within the path of annularity — Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas — here are seven carefully crafted itineraries to take you on an extraordinary journey to see a 'ring of fire.' solar eclipse.
1. An outback eclipse in Oregon
Duration: 7 days
Start and finish: Portland, Oregon
Recommended eclipse viewing location: Oregon Outback Scenic Byway
Starting in Portland, spend a week on a scenic drive along the Oregon Coast then dip inland to outback Oregon and adventure capital Bend. On the fabulous coast, be sure to stop for fish and chips in Cannon Beach, cheese at Tillamook and whale-watching from the coast at Depoe Bay. The 'ring of fire' will be visible from a 137-mile stretch starting from here south to Denmark, but this is a famously foggy coast. So a few days before the eclipse head inland at Reedsport to tour Crater Lake National Park — North America's deepest, bluest lake — which is in the path, though the chances of a clear sky here on eclipse day are uncertain (there could even be snow!).
So instead head down to Klamath Falls either for Eclipse Fest 2023 or to turn off for Lakeview where you can join the Oregon Outback Scenic Byway (a 171-mile route along OR-31 amid arid high desert) to Bend. Good locations for eclipse viewing along the way include Fort Rock Cave State Natural Area (9:18 a.m. for 3 mins 25 secs from 09:18 a.m.) and Summer Lake Hot Springs (9:18 a.m. for 4 mins 25 secs).
After the eclipse head to Bend, famous for its beer, but surrounded by endless opportunities for outdoor activities — the highlight being hiking at Smith Rock State Park on the way back to Portland. If you have extra days spend them at the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area east of
2. Stargazing and an eclipse in the Great Basin
Duration: 5 days
Start/finish: Las Vegas, Nevada and Salt Lake City, Utah
Recommended eclipse viewing location: Great Basin National Park, Nevada
Take a one-way rental vehicle in Las Vegas and head north to check out the crimson rock formations Valley of Fire State Park. Then head north on Highway 93 to Ely, home to East Ely Railroad Railroad Museum and Northern Nevada Railway as well as the 30-foot-tall, beehive-shaped stone kilns of Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park. Nearby are several options for a rural 'ring of fire' at 9:24 a.m. including the off-grid Ward Mountain Recreation Area (3 mins 12 secs), the high desert Cave Lake State Park (3 mins 40 secs) and Garnet Hill public recreation area (3 mins 31 secs). However, Great Basin National Park — also a Dark Sky Park with fabulously dark skies — will hold an event in its Astronomy Amphitheater bear the Lehman Caves Visitor Center (9:24 a.m. for 3 mins 48 secs).
Don't miss the Great Basin Observatory — the first research-grade observatory built in a U.S. National Park and likely open for the eclipse — as well as Lehman Caves, Wheeler Peak Summit Trail and Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest to see trees dating back 4,900 years. Take Highway 93 north to Interstate 80 and head east to Salt Lake City via remote camping under dark skies at The Knolls and stargazing on Antelope Island State Park, another Dark Sky Park.
3. An epic National Parks eclipse trip
Duration: 14 days
Start/finish: Denver, Colorado and Las Vegas, Nevada
Recommended eclipse viewing location: Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Here's an epic journey from Denver to Las Vegas (or vice versa), intercepting the path of annularity in Utah. Begin with a few days at Rocky Mountain National Park before hitting Colorado National Monument on the way to Moab, Utah. Use this small town to access Arches National Park (you'll need a timed entry ticket), Dead Horse State Park and Canyonlands National Park — all three of them Dark Sky Parks. The latter's Grand View Point Road pokes into the northern edge of the eclipse path, which means beautiful Baily's beads within a 'broken annular' eclipse.
If you'd rather see the perfect 'ring of fire' then push on to the eclipse-viewing event (book in advance) at the Valley of Goblins Observation Point at Goblin Valley State Park (10:28 a.m. for 3 mins 15 secs). Another option — with a longer 'ring of fire' — is the visitor's center at Capitol Reef National Park (10:27 a.m. for 4 mins 29 secs). As you cross the centreline of the path, any RV park, campsite or lodging in and between Torrey and Boulder is perfect.
Although both have a shorter 'ring of fire', don't miss Kodachrome Basin State Park (10:28 for 2 mins 32 secs) and the iconic Bryce Canyon National Park (10:27 for 2 mins 39 secs at the Visitor Center) further southwest. Next comes a gawp at the amphitheater of Cedar Breaks National Monument and varied hikes around Zion National Park before driving to Las Vegas, possibly via Valley of Fire State Park and, if you have time to kill before check-in, Red Rock Canyon.
4. Northern New Mexico eclipse explorer
Duration: 3 days
Start/finish: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Recommended eclipse viewing location: Roswell, New Mexico
Albuquerque is the second-largest city in the path after San Antonio, Texas, but unless you plan to attend the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta it's worth avoiding for eclipse day. A loop north of the city will take you to the hot springs and fumaroles of Valles Caldera National Preserve, Bandelier National Monument's ancient cliff dwellings, and artsy Santa Fe. For a view of Baily's beads on eclipse day head to Ski Santa Fe on the northern edge of the path.
Two other locations to the southeast stand out for eclipse-viewing if a long 'ring of fire' is your target — tiny Corona (10:36 a.m. for 4 mins 35 secs) and the UFO capital of the world, Roswell (10:38 a.m. for 4 mins 30 secs). Due south of the latter is Carlsbad, another great location for edge effects, and the gateway to Carlsbad Caverns National Park, a Dark Sky Park with fabulous stargazing.
Editor's note: In Sept. 2023, it was announced that all Navajo Tribal Parks will be closed from 8:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. MDT on October 14, 2023, due to Navajo cultural beliefs surrounding the event. This includes Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Four Corners Monument Navajo Tribal Park and parts of the Tséyi’ Diné Heritage Area in Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Local businesses may also be closed. Please plan your eclipse viewing trip accordingly.
For planning trips to see solar eclipses, the interactive Google Maps on Xavier Jubier's eclipse website is invaluable (and the source for the timings in this article), as are the simulations on Eclipse 2024 and the beautiful eclipse maps on GreatAmericanEclipse.com. Climate and weather predictions by meteorologist Jay Anderson on Eclipsophile.com are equally instructive as are ex-NASA eclipse calculator Fred Espenak's Eclipse Wise and Mr. Eclipse.
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Jamie is an experienced science, technology and travel journalist and stargazer who writes about exploring the night sky, solar and lunar eclipses, moon-gazing, astro-travel, astronomy and space exploration. He is the editor of WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com and author of A Stargazing Program For Beginners, and is a senior contributor at Forbes. His special skill is turning tech-babble into plain English.