On autumn evenings in Yosemite Valley, you might spy climbers’ headlamps twinkling on El Capitan, see bats winging by, or hear owls hooting softly from unseen branches. And if you look up, you’ll see a light show that rivals the majesty of the park’s granite walls, waterfalls and soaring sequoias: stars glimmering in a deep, dark sky.
The National Park Service recognizes night skies as a natural resource, especially as light pollution diminishes darkness around the globe. Starry skies are vital not only for their scenic beauty, but also for their critical value to plants and animals that rely on natural light cycles.
This October, Yosemite Conservancy naturalists invite you to experience the magic of Yosemite after sunset. Spend a stellar Saturday evening looking at constellations and rocky silhouettes, learning about crepuscular and nocturnal life, and enjoying the quiet that descends on the Valley as dusk falls.
You might hear about the recently discovered signs of possible microbial life on Venus, or that light we see from the Andromeda Galaxy has traveled for 2.5 million years before it finally reaches our eyes. Or you might catch a glimpse of Ursa major or Ursa minor, the bear-shaped constellations whose etymological flesh-and-blood relatives, Ursus americanus, are spending autumn months in the park fueling up on acorns before winter.
These new October evening programs begin just in time for two notable meteor showers: the Draconids, which peak on October 8, and the Orionids, which peak on October 21. (The Orionids shower is created from material left behind by Halley’s Comet!)
- What: Interactive, family-friendly stargazing programs
- When: Saturday evenings in October, 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm
- Where: Yosemite Valley. Meet at Yosemite Falls shuttle stop.
- How: Meet up with naturalist and fellow stargazers. Move a short distance on the Valley floor, on flat, accessible terrain. Let the beauty and quiet of the park after dark sink in.
Be sure to register in advance online! Your booking ($25/person) includes park entry, no need for an additional gate fee or reservation. (The day pass is valid only for the day of the program. If you’re planning a multiday visit in October, you’ll need a day-use or overnight reservation. Learn more on the Yosemite National Park website.)
Check out our adventures calendar to see what else is coming up on our calendar this season, including a Halloween hike to Taft Point under the full moon and campfire stories with Brian Shoor (November 28 and December 26, details coming soon). For all our programs in the park, we’re following special COVID-19 protocols to keep participants and instructors safe.
And whether or not you’re heading to the park soon, you can learn more about Yosemite’s night skies from wherever you are, thanks to “Yosemite Nature Notes”!
Check out the episode below for a virtual journey into the stars: