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Top 3: Heavenly Hikes

No early bedtimes on these overnights; you'll want to stay up and enjoy unusually dark skies with clear views of summer's showiest celestial fireworks.

Continental Divide Trail, Gila NF, NM | South Rim, Big Bend NP, TX | Three Forks Loop, Monongahela NF, WV

Gila NF, NM
Continental Divide Trail
Stargaze on the spine of the continent.
What makes for a dark sky? Sparse towns (low light pollution), low humid- ity (no haze), and high altitude (closer to the sights). The Gila lies in the heart of this stargazer’s trifecta, and lucky for hikers, the CDT courses right through it. Snag a taste on this 14.6-mile overnight shuttle hike. From the Arrastre Site, a defunct mine north of Silver City, hike northeast 7.5 miles through ponderosa to camp on an 8,800-foot ridge near 9,029-foot Black Peak. After dark, whip out your binoculars and find the double star cluster near Cassiopeia or the nebulae in Orion’s belt. Next morning, continue into the drainage of Meadow Creek, and in roughly seven miles, hit FR 89. Hike it 1.5 miles to FR 149 to reach your car. (575-388-8413, fs.usda.gov/gila) Trip data backpacker.com/hikes/1597568

The way
From Silver City, take NM 15 N 8.5 miles to trailhead parking. Shuttle: Continue 6.4 miles on NM 15 N. Turn right on FR 149 and park in 3.1 miles.

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