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Northern Lights & Dark Skies Nature & Wildlife

Technically, the northern lights are what happens when electrical particles from the sun collide with gases in Earth’s atmosphere. But you don't need to know the why to appreciate the beauty. The astronomical greens, reds, purples and yellows of the aurora borealis are hypnotizing. • Only here: Alberta is home to some of the world’s largest dark sky preserves, including Wood Buffalo and Jasper national parks. That means there’s no artificial light around to obscure the extraterrestrial view. • Good to know: Your best shot to see the aurora borealis is September through mid-May. Visit for the Jasper Dark Sky festival in mid-October and, in addition to the view of the stars, you’ll get hands-on science and astronomy events. 

Jasper National Park | Ryan Bray

Dinosaur Provincial Park | Andy Best

Northern Light & Dark Sky Preserve Options

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Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve

Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta

This 300 sq km (116 sq mi) dark sky preserve, just east of Edmonton, encompasses Elk Island National Park and neighboring Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area. By reducing artificial light, the preserve increases the visibility of the night sky. Whether you stargaze around the campfire or attend the preserve's annual Star Party in September, you'll find that the night sky shines brighter in Beaver Hills.

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Jasper Dark Sky Preserve

Jasper, Alberta

Due to it's vast size and location, the 11,000 sq km (4,247 mi) Jasper National Park is considered to be the world's largest accessible Dark Sky Preserve. It's also one of best places to stargaze in the Canadian Rockies. Every October the park holds a Dark Sky Festival that includes both free and ticketed events and workshops. You can learn about the constellations, listen to aboriginal songs and stories and even pick up some tips for photographing the spectacular starlit sky.

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Cypress Hills Provincial Park Dark Sky Preserve

Elkwater, Alberta

Due to its high elevation and lack of urban light pollution, Cypress Hills was the first designated Dark Sky Preserve in Alberta. Every August the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada holds a Summer Star Party that's considered to be one of the largest stargazing events in the country. The park also offers a variety of camping options, so cozy up by the campfire and gaze in wonder at the starlit sky. If the conditions are right, you may even see the Northern Lights.

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Travel Offers

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Jasper SkyTram Star Sessions

Blast off with astronomy experts from the Jasper Planetarium for an exclusive experience atop the Skytram, where you'll have the chance to look through powerful telescopes under the darkest skies in the Rockies. Package includes SkyTram admission, and a stargazing experience. Upgrade package to include a 3-course meal for $26.

Expires: 2018-10-27
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Discover Stargazing Tour

Join an introductory, low-intensity tour involving a short walk to a secluded stargazing point. The focus is on discovering the night sky and spending most of your time actually stargazing, using quality telescopes, binoculars, and other stargazing equipment. Use promo code TA2018 to secure 10% off.

Expires: 2018-12-31
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Night in the Rockies

Can't take a photo with all the people in the way? Moose Trail Overland will take you to where the locals go and escape the crowds! Professionals are on hand to guide you to the best photo you'll ever take. Snacks and beverages provided.

Expires: 2019-06-07
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Tours

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SunDog Tour Co.

Jasper, Alberta
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Providing memorable sightseeing, activity and transportation services. From daily sightseeing excursions, to group tours, to airport shuttles, to coach touring and conference services, our staff of vacation planners specialize in making your time in the mountains unforgettable.

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Rocky Mountain Photo Adventures

Banff, Alberta
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Rocky Mountain Photo Adventures is a Banff based, locally operated business offering custom designed tours, workshops and seminars in Banff National Park and the Canadian Rocky Mountains. We are knowledgeable and super enthusiastic about developing your photography skills and enjoyment of our amazing scenery in this world-class travel photography destination. We are passionate about the wider photography community and actively engage in educational, environmental and wildlife events and projects, both independently and through partnerships. Rocky Mountain Photo Adventures is a proud sponsor of the iconic Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival.

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Dark Sky Guides Ltd.

Waterton Lakes, Alberta
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Dark Sky Guides Ltd. offers guided interpretive stargazing tours that focus on the dark skies of Waterton Lakes National Park. Different tours are offered in various front-country and back-country locations and serve to educate tour participants about the night sky, dark sky initiatives, and Waterton Lakes National Park in general, while at the same time providing participants with the opportunity to stargaze using quality telescopes, binoculars, and other stargazing equipment. Dark Sky Guides endeavors to provide a personable, high quality, memorable, entertaining, and educational tour, which encourages people to foster their own personal connection with both the night sky and Waterton Lakes National Park.

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Events

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Jasper Dark Sky Festival

Jasper, Alberta
2018-10-12 to 2018-10-21 MST

The Jasper Dark Sky Festival began with the goal of celebrating and preserving this status. At 11,000 square kilometers, Jasper National Park is considered to be the world’s largest accessible Dark Sky Preserves. From Oct. 12-21, Jasper's Dark Sky Festival invites astronomers at every level to gaze upon the wonder of one of the world's largest dark sky preserves. As daylight hours begin to recede, October is the ideal time to celebrate the skies with the annual Jasper Dark Sky Festival. Power Down. Look up.

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Milky Way Days

Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta
2018-09-02 to 2018-09-02 MST

Canada has always been a land of vibrant skyscapes. As part of the Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve, skies above Elk Island National Park are naturally dark and regularly show-off twinkling stars or dancing Northern Lights. Taking place over two days at two different locations, the Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve’s 13th annual Star Party will be your gateway to the stars. Featuring volunteer astronomers to provide you with stargazing tips, guest speakers to cause you to marvel at the sky, and local musical performances to fill the air with festive spirit, this 2 day event will keep your whole family entertained.

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