Your Guide to Finding Calm in Colorado This Year: Our 2019 toolbox of strategies, places, workouts, and resources to help you chill out

Photo by Greg Owens

Photo by Greg Owens

Starry-Eyed: Replenish your soul under the brilliance of an unfettered night sky, by Julie Dugdale, 5280 Health, January, 2019

Few experiences are as awe-inspiring as staring up into an endless blanket of glowing stars on a clear night. Maybe it’s the heightened awareness of your own smallness in the grand scheme of the universe or the wonder of considering how all those stars came to be. “Preserving our dark skies is important to feeling at peace as a human,” says Andrew Miller, board member of Dark Skies of the Wet Mountain Valley, a nonprofit that worked to make Custer County a certified Dark Sky Community. “Connecting with the night sky above us is one of the oldest human activities. In fact, some of the oldest art in the world depicts the night sky.” 

The bad news: 99 percent of Americans can’t even see the Milky Way because of light pollution. Commercial lights, highway lights, city lights…they all trespass into our viewing fields, even in wide-open spaces. And that means most of us don’t get the benefits of a full night sky. “There’s always been a correlation between exposure to light at night and your stress level,” says Dr. Robert Stencel, University of Denver astronomy professor, director of DU Observatories, and member of the Colorado chapter of the International Dark-Sky Association, which advocates for protecting our natural night skies from light pollution. The good news is that the association has preserved two officially certified International Dark Sky Places in Colorado: the adjacent towns of Westcliffe and Silver Cliff in Custer County and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. These are sites where visitors can experience a truly dark night sky awash in a canvas of stars. “As people stare into the billions and billions of stars, just from our own galaxy—which is just one of hundreds of billions of galaxies estimated in the universe—they can [easily feel] overwhelmed,” Miller says. “However, in this moment of being humbled by the infinite expanse above us, we can find a sense of peace and calm.”

Want your own moment to reflect under a true night sky? Head to Colorado’s darkest locales, or check the map and list below for more official International Dark Sky Places throughout the West.