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Top 3 Night Hikes

These dark-sky treks serve up perfect viewing spots for autumn's intergalactic bling in North Carolina, New Mexico, and California

Shining Rock Wilderness, NC | Ventana Wilderness, CA | Pecos Wilderness, NM

Ventana Wilderness, CA
Climb to a Stargazer’s Paradise.br>

Exercise your night vision during November’s new moon; it’s the optimal time to spot fall constellations from this remote chunk of Big Sur high country near Carmel Valley. Take the Pine Valley Trail six miles west from the China Camp Campground and descend into a lush meadow dotted with tall pines. Pitch your tent at one of three prime campsites along the Carmel River, and scout out a path ascending the sandstone ridges that fence the valley. Start climbing by 5 p.m. Pegasus, the winged horse, rides high in the north. Look for four stars halfway up the sky that form the front half of the horse’s body, known as the Great Square of Pegasus. (805-968-6640, fs.fed.us/r5/lospadres)

Star Attraction
Grab a bag of Foglifter beans at Carmel Valley Coffee Roasters for a late-night boost. (831-620-0844; carmel-coffee.com)

The Way
From the Arroyo Seco Rd. exit on US 101, head 16.2 miles to Carmel Valley Rd. Turn right and drive 17.2 miles to the Tassajara Rd. junction. Hang a left and ramble 11 miles on a dirt road to China Camp.

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