August 25, 2016 by Joe Kukura

One of the most dazzling aspects to the northern region of California wine country is that as you go farther north, the stars get brighter and the skies get clearer. Nowhere is this phenomenon more visible than Lake County, the northern portion and emerging high-altitude region of the world-famous California winemaking area.

Stargazing in Lake County is a particularly heavenly experience—thanks to its unique combination of clean air, lack of fog otherwise encountered in most of wine country, high altitude and, of course, the lack of light pollution in this beautifully pastoral area.

Seeing stars in Lake County is like seeing sand at the beach. What’s remarkable is the distinct clarity with which each star appears. Lake County is a place where you’ll see literally thousands of stars in the night sky, with unbelievably vast sky horizons that show off the Milky Way, all the major constellations and whatever planets may be visible. Whether you’re a first-timer or a 10th-timer, the dazzling array of stars visible in Lake County will never fail to take your breath away.

Camping under the starsThe stars shine all over Lake County, but a few standout spots really dazzle. Perhaps the most magnificent Lake County locale for stargazing is right on Clear Lake, the oldest lake in North America and a natural paradise whose skies put on a show every night.


Mendocino National Forest has both campgrounds and cabins for overnight stays, with giant skies (and in summertime, fireflies) revealing their beauty at Lake Pillsbury. Indian Valley Reservoir has an abundance of great outdoor activities, with camping and stargazing at night plus the beach and the lake available in the daytime.

For more dazzling nighttime displays, check out Lake County’s campgrounds or the RV parks that let you get starstruck with all the amenities of your RV closeby. Plenty of cabins and cottages allow for lovely nighttime walks with a comfy bed waiting at the end of your walk, and vacation homes provide luxury experiences with all the amenities, often right on the shores of the breathtaking lakes for which Lake County is named.

Those who prefer to stargaze indoors will want to consider Taylor Observatory in Kelseyville, which hosts both planetarium shows and night-sky viewings via telescope. But not just any telescopes—ultra-powerful Meade LX200 16-inch GPS Schmidt-Cassegrain research-grade telescopes. Situated under a large dome, this “big one” and other telescopes at Taylor Observatory provide optimal viewing of the moon, planets and other deep-sky celestial objects.

Taylor Observatory also boasts a planetarium with a 20-foot domed ceiling, used for both full-dome movies and simulated starlight shows with a digital star projector system. Public events are held at Taylor Observatory on the fourth Sunday of each month from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., but keep an eye on the Friends of Taylor Observatory website for other scheduled events. Admission fees vary, but are often free with a suggested donation.

The sky’s the limit with Lake County’s stargazing encounters, and a visit to this northern region will leave you starry-eyed. The night skies are a high-definition display of as many dazzling stars as you’ve ever seen. Look up to Lake County for your camping, hiking and overnight stays, and you’ll thank your lucky stars you found this sparkling experience in this shining star of wine country.