Zion National Park Just Received Official Dark Sky Status — and It's Celebrating With All the Nighttime Activities

Pack your binoculars (and maybe a flashlight).

Utah's Zion National Park has achieved official International Dark Sky status and the park is celebrating all this week.

Dark Sky Parks have "an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment," according to the International Dark Sky Association.

To celebrate its new designation, Zion has announced a week of night-themed programs and posts that will take place in the park and online.

Programming in the park this week will focus on what happens after sunset in Zion. Junior Rangers can visit the park's visitor center and amphitheater to learn about the animals that take over Zion at night or about how to observe the nighttime skies over the park.

For those who can't travel to Zion this week, the park is also offering a virtual Junior Ranger Night Explorer program that kids can partake in from home by downloading a booklet.

"Zion National Park is committed to conserving the park's night skies for all future generations and to educating visitors about the values of this important resource," Jeff Bradybaugh, park superintendent, said in a statement this week.

Josh Brasted/Getty Images

The International Dark Sky program was founded in 2001 to encourage parks and protected areas around the world to preserve their dark skies with responsible lighting policies and public education. The certification process is rigorous and requires cooperation from many other community organizations around each site.

Zion achieved its status with support from the neighboring towns of Springdale and Rockville, among many other local organizations like county commissions and departments of parks and recreation.

The first National Park to receive Dark Sky status was Utah's Natural Bridges Monument in 2007.

Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or at caileyrizzo.com.

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