Best California B&Bs for Stargazing this Summer

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SACRAMENTO, CA [June 26, 2019]--Dark night skies in the Sierra Nevada and other remote regions of California provide rare opportunities to view stars and planets in all of their brilliance. The California Association of Boutique and Breakfast Inns (CABBI) has compiled a list of bed and breakfast inns far from city lights that offer outstanding opportunities for stargazing. Some destinations host star parties and astronomy events, while others just provide enchanting views of California’s starry nights.

The first amateur astronomical observatory in California was founded deep in the Sierra Foothills in 1860. Over 150 years later, the small Gold Country town of Volcano remains an ideal spot for stargazing.  With a population of just 103, the town is located at an elevation of 2,000 feet and has no street lighting. Guests of the historic, four-room Volcano Union Inn can watch the night skies from the inn’s upstairs balcony after dinner or take a stroll up to the cemetery overlooking town to find locals charting constellations.

Just outside of Murphys, Courtwood Inn is a grand log lodge that sits on a five-acre hilltop, with commanding views of the Sierra Foothills and unobstructed views of the skies overhead.  A 2,500 square-foot deck wraps the entire length of the lodge, offering a perfect perch for watching not only sunsets but also the stars at night.  Not far from the inn, Calaveras Big Trees State Park hosts Astronomy Nights from July to October each year.  At a scenic overlook inside the park, docents provide telescopes and binoculars for viewing the night skies. A new webcam for one of the telescopes displays real-time images on a 40-inch screen.

High in the Sierra, Donner Lake Inn offers prime stargazing from its hammock and hot tub nestled among the pines. The inn is located at the west end of Donner Lake, far from the lights of town, and provides clear views of the night sky.  The inn is also a short drive to Northstar’s Dark Skies Cosmoarium which hosts Tahoe Star Tours every Thursday through Saturday in the summer through September 1. Guests can gather for a celestial mix of science and poetry and then have the opportunity to observe the stars and planets through high-powered Celestron telescopes.  Hot chocolate, coffee, and s’mores are provided.

At 7,000 feet, Hope Valley’s 165-acre Sorensen’s Resort south of Lake Tahoe is the ultimate destination for stargazing. Each year, the resort hosts an evening with San Francisco State University Physics and Astronomy Professors Adrienne Cool and Ron Marzke, where guests can learn about recent discoveries in astronomy and search the night skies for constellations. All ages are invited to peer through telescopes and binoculars at the moons of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn, and beyond. The evening includes cookies and hot cocoa, and proceeds (matched by the resort) benefit Alpine County school science programs.

In Southern California, the peaceful grounds at Orchard Hill Country Inn are the perfect setting for viewing Julian’s dark, clear skies. The inn periodically hosts star parties with telescopes and guidance from amateur astronomers, but during any stay, guests have access to binoculars and planispheres for stargazing. Half an hour away, Mount Laguna Observatory (MLO) is one of the best sites for stargazing in the continental United States. 45 minutes away, the Palomar Observatory is a world-class center of astronomical research operated by the California Institute of Technology.  The town of Julian hosts an annual stargazing festival, Julian StarFest, which runs August 1-3 this year. 

Conveniently located near two of California’s wildland treasures, The Groveland Hotel is the perfect base for some serious stargazing. A mere half an hour away is Yosemite National Park’s northern gate. Known for its striking views and high-elevation lookout points, Yosemite sits under stunning night skies best experienced on one of the Yosemite Conservancy’s naturalist-led trips. For guests who prefer a little adventure with their stargazing, a two-day rafting trip on the Tuolumne River in the Stanislaus National Forest might be in order. Back at the inn, a verdant tiered patio is perfect for enjoying a drink and a bite under the stars.

The Tallman Hotel sits at the edge of the Mendocino National Forest, the ideal setting for star-studded nights. With the cleanest air in all of California, the nighttime skies in the town of Upper Lake feature expansive views of the heavens lit only by the stars themselves. The Lower Garden rooms at the hotel provide an indulgent experience for stargazing in the form of private decks with heated Japanese ofuro soaking tubs. Every room at the Tallman has a veranda or porch from which guests can take in the night sky.

On the edge of the Stanislaus National Forest near Twain Harte, the night skies at the McCaffrey House Bed & Breakfast get very dark. At an elevation of 4,000 feet, the charming, three-story mountain lodge is nestled in a quiet forest hollow, offering clear views overhead from its driveway, deck, and guest room balconies. Just up the road from the inn at Bald Mountain Heliport, stargazers sometimes bring blankets to lie on the ground to watch the skies. Another spot to enjoy expansive nighttime views is the parking lot of the nearby Dodge Ridge Ski Resort.

Located in a little-known region of the Sierra Foothills between the Middle and South Forks of the American River, The Green Toad Bed & Breakfast is surrounded by nature in every direction.  The inn sits on 40 acres of private forested land, is surrounded by 80 acres of protected government land, and is adjacent to 90 acres of the privately-owned North Star Tree Farm. The remoteness of the inn ensures dark night skies, and the inn’s 3,000 square feet of multi-tiered decking provides an ideal perch for stargazing.  On chilly nights, guests can even stay warm by taking in the night skies from the deck’s hot tub.

For more information about these and other California inns, visit


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