“Camping in the backcountry of Joshua Tree, you can watch the Milky Way overhead.”
Joshua Tree is just over 100 miles from the light pollution of Los Angeles, CA but remarkably, the park has been designated as an International Dark Sky Park.
The distinction is awarded by the International Dark-Sky Association, which advocates for the protection of the night sky and limited light pollution.
Highland News reports that Joshua Tree received the Dark Sky certification due in-part to the efforts of the parks neighboring communities. Highland News says residents were encouraged to choose warm colors and moderate levels of outdoor lighting, to install “fully shielded” lights (shining only down, not up or out) to avoid glare.
Joshua Tree received a “Silver Tier” designation but is still eligible for a “Gold Tier” if the Morongo Basin and Coachella Valley make further lighting improvements.
Gold corresponds to pristine or near-pristine night skies. Silver corresponds to nighttime environments that have minor impacts from light pollution, yet still display good quality night skies and have exemplary nighttime lightscapes.
Joshua Tree National Park Superintendent David Smith tells Highland News “There is nothing more magical than to leave the hustle and bustle of Southern California after a busy week, come into the park, and take in the gift of dark skies. Camping in the backcountry of Joshua Tree, you can watch the Milky Way overhead. For so many of our visitors, national parks are where they come to discover the night.”
Joshua Tree was declared a U.S. National Park in 1994. The park has nine establish campgrounds and is the special habitat of Yucca brevifolia, the Joshua Tree for which the park is named.