Where Will You Be for the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse?
It’s been nearly 100 years since a total solar eclipse has traveled the width of the U.S. and been visible from the Pacific to the Atlantic. That’s what makes this year’s eclipse event on August 21—when the moon will completely block out the sun and cast a 70-mile shadow across the country—so special.
The path of the 2017 total solar eclipse will begin in the West at 10:15 a.m. PDT and travel East, crossing through Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia and South Carolina. Peak viewing destinations along the eclipse’s “totality areas” where viewers will experience various time frames of complete darkness depending on their exact location within the shadow include Jackson, Wyoming; Kansas City, Missouri; Carbondale, Illinois; Nashville, Tennessee and Columbia, South Carolina.
And while most people will flock to the obvious spots, if you want to make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event and experience it in the wild, we’ve rounded up some of the best off-the-beaten path places to view the 2017 total solar eclipse.
7 Cool Places to See This Year’s Total Solar Eclipse in the Wild
Painted Hills, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument – Oregon
Approximately 2 hours from Bend, Oregon you’ll find the Painted Hills Unit of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. The yellows, golds, blacks, and reds of the area’s rolling hills are beautiful under any circumstance, but can you imagine viewing a total solar eclipse in this otherworldly landscape? Plan to take the 1.6-mile round-trip Carroll Rim Trail for panoramic views and just over 2 minutes of dark skies in this dramatic country. An added bonus is the nearly 40 million years of history you’ll experience by visiting this off-the-beaten path monument.
Sturgill Peak, Payette National Forest – Idaho
While in Idaho, it might be tempting to head for the Sawtooth Mountains or Redfish Lake near Stanley for the total eclipse, your better viewing bets are on the western side of the state. Not only will weather be in your favor, traffic will be on your side too. And if you’re set on viewing the eclipse from a peak, Sturghill Peak, the high point in the Hitt Mountains of the Payette National Forest could make for a fun adventure. With a high clearance vehicle, you can drive to the historic Sturghill Peak Lookout along a jeep road. It’s only 32 miles round-trip from the town of Weiser, but you’ll want to plan for 1-2 hours of drive time. Also, parking at the top is very limited (2-3 vehicles), so consider making it a hike. From the Mann Creek Campsite it’s a 13-mile round-trip trek. Or, for an easier hike with great views above the timber line, head to nearby Juniper Ridge, which is just a 1-mile climb from the trailhead at Spring Creek Campground.
Jackson Lake, Grand Teton National Park – Wyoming
Yes, Grand Teton National Park is expected be an extremely popular spot for viewing the total solar eclipse. But instead of joining the masses on the roadways and hiking trails, plan to view the eclipse from a kayak or raft on one of the park’s scenic waterways instead. If you don’t have your own equipment, find an outfitter that is offering a special trip for the event. For example, OARS has a 3-day Jackson Lake Kayaking and Snake River Rafting trip that departs August 21 which will have you paddling on Jackson Lake, away from the crowds, for this once-in-a-lifetime eclipse event. Or, if you’re willing to sacrifice “totality” to say you experienced the eclipse in Yellowstone National Park, you can join the Yellowstone & Grand Teton Explorer trip that departs August 20.
Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge – Nebraska
Many of Nebraska’s state parks and recreation areas will be excellent viewing locations for the total solar eclipse, but the 45,818-acre Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge will offer two experiences in one: prime wildlife and solar eclipse viewing in a serene natural area. Nestled in Nebraska’s Sandhills, the largest grass-covered body of sand in the Western Hemisphere, eclipse viewers can leisurely stroll the 2.2-mile nature trail. Or, hop in a canoe or kayak and head out to view the eclipse on Island Lake.
Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area – Kentucky/Tennessee
Solitude may be hard to come by for eclipse viewers in the eastern part of the country, but that doesn’t mean you can’t escape to the wilderness to take it in. Head for Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, one of the largest undeveloped forest areas in the eastern U.S. and you’re sure to find that perfect solstice viewing spot. Located on the Kentucky/Tennessee border, this unique wilderness area offers 500 miles of trail and incredible lake access, including 300 miles of natural shoreline. With so much water, how could you pass up the opportunity to hop in a boat? The Nature Station rents canoes and kayaks from Memorial Day to Labor Day, or you can rent from an outfitter or paddle sports retailer in one of the surrounding communities.
Albert Mountain, Appalachian Trail – North Carolina
The 2017 total eclipse will actually pass directly over sections of the Appalachian Trail and if you’re willing to work for it, you can witness this once-in-a-lifetime event from the top of the 5,200-foot Albert Mountain near Franklin, North Carolina. The moderately challenging 4-mile out and back hike, which starts near the Standing Indian area of the southern Nantahala National Forest, passes through a particularly scenic stretch of the Appalachian Trail before ending at a historic fire outlook and offering stunning panoramic views of the region and prime eclipse viewing, of course.
Buck Hall Recreation Area | Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge – South Carolina
If you want to watch the total eclipse along the Atlantic Coast, this is your chance. There’s just one hitch, you’ll need a boat. The Buck Hall Recreation Area located in the Francis Marion National Forest, is nestled along the Intracoastal Waterway and provides some of the best access to the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, including more than 65,000 acres of barrier islands, beaches and the open waters of Bulls Bay. Surely you can find some solitude for the solar eclipse here.
Of course, no spot will be the perfect spot without perfect weather, so you’ll want to stay flexible if you can. It may only last two minutes, but you’ll definitely remember where you were when you saw the total solar eclipse.
For more best viewing destinations, check out this cool interactive Google Map of the 2017 total solar eclipse path here.
Photos: Painted Hills Oregon – Bala Sivakumar; Jackson Lake Kayaking – James Kaiser; Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area – Land Between the Lakes Flickr; Cape Island in Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge – Jennifer Koches, USFWS Flickr