Under Canvas Zion National Park - The Milky Way is visible above a safari-inspired tent at Under Canvas Zion

Look Up! A Stellar Way to Vacay in Utah

After a day spent seeing everything under the sun, add another dimension to your getaway by staying at a luxurious DarkSky resort and setting your sights on space.

By Melinda Rhodes
March 06, 2024

This article is sponsored by Under Canvas

It was a dark and starry night. The sky was clear, with nary a ray of light pollution…

And so the scene is set for your next vacation destination. Utah is one of the best places for stargazing. It has the highest concentration of DarkSky certifications of anywhere (no exaggeration!) in the world. Astrotourism at its finest. A search on DarkSky.org yields 29 results ranging from state and national parks to rural communities and overnight accommodations for travelers. Wait, what? DarkSky Approved Lodging is a thing? 

That’s right. And the four Under Canvas locations in Utah — Bryce Canyon, Lake Powell - Grand Staircase, Moab and Zion — have the distinction of being the first resorts ever to receive the DarkSky Approved Lodging designation. In fact, DarkSky’s lodging certification program was developed in partnership with Under Canvas.

Amenities for Astrotourists

Sleeping under the stars? Romantic for couples. Fun for kids. Enjoyable for everyone. If — and that’s a big IF! — the conditions are perfect. Camping under a dark sky in a park in Utah doesn’t always provide the most ideal conditions. But glamping at Under Canvas, right next door to one of those parks? Pretty much perfect. 

Stargazer Tents have viewing windows above the head of the king-size bed so you can gaze up at the stars in comfort. After you’ve toasted that special someone and savored specialty cocktails and deserts, that is. Meteor Mimosa, anyone? Or the Moon & Stars Cheesecake Bites, perhaps? 

If you need a place to lay more than two heads, you have options. The Hoodoo Suite at Under Canvas Bryce Canyon, for example, sleeps six people in two tents connected by a private deck. Y’all can gawk at the Milky Way Galaxy from the deck, then head inside for a peaceful night’s sleep.

No matter what type of accommodations you book, bedside battery packs make it easy to charge your device after you’ve drained it identifying stars, constellations and planets using a mobile app. Some tents have private ensuite bathrooms stocked with organic products, while others have shared showers.

A Different Way to Experience Nature

Prefer to take a bath? How about starbathing meditation? There’s no splishin’ nor splashin’ involved, but you’ll feel refreshed and ready for anything after participating in this nighttime experience at Under Canvas. The idea is to tune into your surroundings without technology. No photography. No constellation identification. Just nature and self. Aum. 

Other complimentary activities are offered at Under Canvas, depending on the phase of the moon. People often think about dark sky weather, planning a stargazing stay when the forecast is more likely to be clear. But the lunar cycle should be considered as well.

New Moon 

The nights before, during and after a new moon are the best for a stargazing sesh. It’s not just LED lights that cause a glaring problem (pun intended). The moon washes out the planets, stars and nebulae in the night sky too. Under Canvas usually has gatherings during the new moon.

Crescent Moon

But even that thumbnail-like moon, approaching the first quarter or after the last quarter is only about a sixth as bright as a full moon, making this a good time to stargaze while staying near a dark sky park in Utah as well. 

Full Moon

There are certain trails that you MUST hike during the day. “My, what big rays the sun has,” your little hiker in the hoodie says. “The better to see where the drop offs are and spotlight the fiery red-rock formations, my dear,” you reply, in your best wolf-like voice. 

But you can go walking through the woods (or desert brush) on other trails at night. Moonlight hikes are some of the most memorable — and magical. You won’t hear any of those little hikers ask, “How much longer?” Or whine that they are out of M&Ms in their trail mix. Nope. They will be completely entranced by the experience. Ditto for adults.    

More Moons to Swoon Over

Under Canvas often hosts parties for lunar eclipses, blue moons (you saw me standing alone), meteor showers and other night sky happenings. Search the resort’s celestial calendar to see what might coincide with your vacation.  

Dark Skies, Bright Memories

Leave the light pollution behind and stay in DarkSky Approved Lodging on your next getaway. Whether you want to go stargazing in Bryce Canyon or see why Under Canvas Lake Powell - Grand Staircase made Travel + Leisure’s list of “500 Best Hotels Across the Globe” in 2023, you’ll understand why astrotourism is good for the soul. 

Plus, when you stay consecutive nights at any two of the Grand Circle Under Canvas locations in Utah (or that other one in the sunny state south of Utah … Arizona is it?) you’ll save 25%. Think of it as a constellation reservation.

Sleep Under the Stars