Darkest Sky near Rochester to view Milky Way Perdeids

The Darkest Skies Near Rochester

The best chance we have to find the darkest skies near Rochester is to head as far away from the city as possible without moving closer to another city.

Sounds logical, though not easy to achieve without a good deal of planning. If you want to get to the best possible location, head away from Monroe County.

Darkest Sky near Rochester legend
The New World Atlas of Artificial Sky Brightness

Make your next day trip a night trip

Pick a location that falls in the green-to-dark-blue category, detailed in the legend above from The New World Atlas of Artificial Sky Brightness by Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences.

We used their data to determine the darkest destinations around Rochester from which to observe the Universe.

Destinations northeast of the City of Rochester close to Lake Ontario and south of US-20 in the Finger Lakes region will offer the darkest possible options to view meteor showers, stars, planets, and the Milky Way.

Specifically, if you head close to the locations below—one for each county—you’ll be under the darkest skies near Rochester.

Darkest Sky Near Rochester - Perseids star map
The Perseids courtesy of Sky and Telescope

Perseid Meteor Shower

You can see the Perseid Meteor Shower in the early mornings leading up to August 12.

The Perseids will appear to originate beneath ‘W’ shaped Cassiopeia in the eastern sky, which is easier to locate than Perseus, for which the shower is named.

In addition, late summer is prime time for observing the Milky Way.

Pack a lounge chair, bug repellent, and a blanket a spend a few hours gazing into the cosmos. A red flashlight can help you see, but not ruin your night vision like white light. It takes about 20 minutes to adjust our eyes to the dark, but just a few seconds of white light can ruin that.

Perseid Meteors

According to earthsky.org’s article entitled, Perseid Meteors: All You Need To Know:

“No matter where you live worldwide, the Perseid meteor shower will probably produce the greatest number of meteors on the mornings of August 11, 12 and 13.

The presence of a bright, full moon may hinder your ability to see the meteor shower clearly, so keep that in mind when deciding what time is best. Each year is different.

Orion night sky early morning October
Orion – Morning Sky in October

Optimal viewing conditions

You could get really lucky waking up at the right time, or just look ahead at the cloud cover forecast to find an optimal time to observe the Universe unobstructed by cloud cover.

This photo of Orion was taken with my phone. I was lucky to wake up at 4:45 am to a crystal, clear dark sky. You’ll need binoculars or a telescope to see the Orion Nebula along Orion’s Sword.

orions sword nebula

These photographers thrive on finding the darkest sky near Rochester!

Hemlock Lake

A post shared by Claire Talbot (@mctmama) on

A post shared by Eric Gioe (@egioe_photo) on


Chimney Bluffs

A post shared by Brian Ferguson (@butiwasthere) on

Allegany State Park

Find the darkest sky near Rochester

Darkest Sky near Rochester-Dark Sky Scale
This scale is called the Bortle Dark-Sky Scale, first published in Sky and Telescope magazine.

If you’d like to go these locations specifically, make sure to contact them first to determine what permissions may be required, or whether gates close. You may need to spend the night camping. State Parks often host official “Star-Gazing” nights with experts.

Darkest Sky Near Rochester - Montezuma Audubon Center
Center Circle: Montezuma Audubon Center

1. Montezuma Audubon Center

Wayne County

The Audubon Center is located in Savannah, just north of the thruway, and its waterways are interconnected with Montezuma Wildlife Refuge.

Darkest Sky Near Rochester - Hemlock Lake Park
Center Circle: Hemlock Lake Park

2. Hemlock Lake Park

Livingston County

This is where many night-sky photographers head to capture the Milky Way, looking south.

Darkest Sky Near Rochester - Letchworth State Park
Center Circle: Letchworth State Park

3. Letchworth State Park

Wyoming County

Darkest Sky Near Rochester - Lakeside Beach State Park
Center Circle: Lakeside Beach State Park

4. Lakeside Beach State Park

Orleans County

Darkest Sky Near Rochester - Canaseraga State Forest
Center Circle: Canaseraga State Forest

5. Canasaraga State Forest

Steuben County

Darkest Sky Near Rochester - Keuka Lake State Park

Center Circle: Keuka Lake State Park

6. Keuka Lake State Park

Yates County

Darkest Sky Near Rochester - Gannett Hill Park
Center Circle: Ontario County Park at Gannett Hill

7. Gannett Hill

Ontario County

Darkest Sky Near Rochester - Finger Lakes National Forest
Center Circle: Finger Lakes National Forest

8. Finger Lakes National Forest

Seneca County

Golden Hill State Park
Center Circle: Golden Hill State Park

9. Golden Hill State Park

Niagara County

Hanging Bog Game Management Area
Center Circle: Hanging Bog Game Management Area

10. Hanging Bog Game Management Area

Allegany County

Fair Haven State Park
Center Circle: Fair Haven State Park

11. Fair Haven Beach State Park

Cayuga County

Allegany State Park
Center Circle: Allegany State Park

12. Allegany State Park

Cattaraugus County

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Where is your favorite spot go sit under the darkest sky near Rochester?

Please share your thoughts and stories with us in the comments. Your insight and experience are invaluable!

Debi Bower, Day Trips Around Rochester NY

Author Debi Bower is the Founder and Chief Day Tripper for Day Trips Around Rochester, NY. Happy trails!


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