New Northeast Tennessee Night Sky Trail Highlights best locations to stargaze
Published 10:38 am Monday, December 18, 2023
The Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association (NETA) announced the new “Tennessee Night Sky Trail,” highlighting the best locations to stargaze around the region.
“Immerse yourself in panoramic vistas atop majestic mountains, serene lakesides and historic downtowns that make up the Tennessee Night Sky Trail,” NETA said in a release. “Each location has been carefully selected to provide optimal conditions for experiencing the wonders of the universe.”
The nine locations include:
BAYS MOUNTAIN PARK & PLANETARIUM – Located in Kingsport, the planetarium and park offers stargazing during the day in addition to the night. The park has two observatories, telescopes, observing programs and its planetarium theater. Bays Mountain also has SunWatch and StarWatch programs available seasonally.
VIKING MOUNTAIN – Located near the Tennessee and North Carolina border, Viking Mountain is the second-highest peak in Greene County at an elevation of 4,844 feet. The mountain, officially named Camp Creek Bald, is called Viking Mountain by locals. The Viking Mountain name originated from a former 1960s ski resort below the summit. Rumors claim that Elvis Presley was helicoptered onto Viking Mountain during the heyday of the ski resort. Viking Mountain is located in Greeneville and the address is Viking Mountain Road to Bald Mountain Road.
ROAN MOUNTAIN ON THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL – This 1-mile round-trip hike at the top of Roan Mountain provides an opportunity to experience the night sky surrounded by an undeveloped national forest. Stargazers can park at Carver’s Gap and hike the Appalachian Trail a half mile up to Round Bald. A view of the sky can also be enjoyed from the parking lot or one of the pull-off overlooks on the way up the mountain. The tourism association encourages people to bring a flashlight with them when hiking at night.
WINGED DEER PARK – Winged Deer Park in Johnson City can be enjoyed by stargazers who don’t want to leave the city. The lakefront at the park has two public parking lots open until 9 p.m. daily. During the day, Winged Deer Park offers mountain biking routes, hiking trails, disc golf and more. Winged Deer Park is located at 4137, Bristol Hwy, Johnson City.
TRI-CITIES AIRPORT OBSERVATION DECK – The observation deck at the Tri-Cities Airport offers awe-inspiring views of the night sky with the bonus of watching planes take flight, the NETA said. The deck is located on the mezzanine second level and can be reached from the stairs or elevator on the main floor. Parking is available for a small charge.The observation deck is ADA-accessible and is generally closed from dusk to dawn, the NETA said. The airport is located at Blountville
CROCKETT SPRINGS PARK & ARBORETUM – History surrounds the Crockett Springs Park & Arboretum in downtown Rogersville. Stargazers can enjoy the night sky at this park where David Crockett and his wife, Elizabeth Hedge Crockett, built their log cabin home near the Crockett Spring. The location is 200 Crockett St.,Rogersville
SOUTH HOLSTON DAM SPILLWAY TRAIL – This 3.5-mile round-trip hike highlights the shoreline of South Holston Lake with the Holston Mountain in the background. For those wanting the perfect photo, visitors are encouraged to visit the South Holston Lake and Dam. The area is popular in the summertime for boating activities and fishing. Tre trail is located at 908 Holston View Dam Rd., Bristol.
OSBORNE FARM BY THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL – Various barns and a cranberry dog can be found on this half-mile stretch along the Appalachian Trail. The Osborne Farm area on the Appalachian Trail is flat and spacious, according to the NETA. Panoramic views in an open field with benches can be enjoyed by visitors to the farm. The farm is located at 3372 TN-91 in Shady Valley
CHESTOA RECREATION AREA – Stargazers can surround themselves by the Cherokee National Forest and the Nolichucky River at the Chestoa Recreation Area in Erwin. This area has picnic tables, grills, changing rooms and restrooms. The Nolichucky River is known mainly for its whitewater adventure. The address is 4 Jones Road, Erwin
The NETA gave the following tips to consider before going stargazing:
– Visibility of the night sky depends on weather conditions
– Light pollution and atmosphere disturbances may impact the clarity of the night sky
– Be aware of your surroundings and bring a flashlight
– Leave no trace, pick up after yourself, respect nature and throw trash away.