Clayton Lake State Park, New Mexico
Twinkle, twinkle sky full of stars…Each night as the sun sets the skies above Clayton Lake State Park spark to life with an unbelievably dense and clear view of the night skies. Overshadowed by light pollution in even the most rural towns, at Clayton the stars get to show their stuff, creating a dazzling and awe-inspiring display that makes you feel little and big at the same time. Recognized as a Certified Dark Sky Park in 2010, an honor only bestowed on sites with “a location of exceptional nighttime beauty,” visitors can stop by the park’s Star Point Observatory to take a turn at the telescope and view even deeper into the glittering depths.

There’s plenty of daytime fun at Clayton Lake as well including swimming, boating and hiking but the biggest draw is checking out the hundreds of dinosaur tracks throughout the park. Uncovered after a flood washed away a layer of silt from the area, the ancient footprints date back over a million years. Part of the ancient ‘dinosaur freeway’ the prints at Clayton Lake are considered to be the best-preserved and easiest-to-access stretches of prints. (Strangely enough, no bones have ever been discovered in the area.) Head out during  early morning and late afternoon when the sun glimmers across the prints to get the clearest viewing.

Image credits: Night Sky courtesy ForestWander