Five Places to Check Out the Solar Eclipse

You’ve probably already heard about the rare astronomical feat set to take place in five-ish weeks: a total solar eclipse that’ll be visible across much of America. On August 21, the moon will cover the sun over a narrow, sixty- to seventy-mile swath across the U.S. for the first time in nearly a century.

Quick science 101: A solar eclipse is when the sky goes nearly completely dark because of the solar and lunar orbits intersecting, at least from Earth’s vantage point. The moon crosses in front of the sun, rendering the sky almost completely dark in the middle of the day.

The sights are so pronounced and sudden that the Incas used to believe that an eclipse meant the moon was being attacked by a jaguar, and the Mesopotamians thought that an eclipse was the result of seven demons assaulting the moon.

While solar eclipses are relatively common, taking place once every year or two on average, it’s a rare, close to once-in-a-lifetime happenstance for this to go right over the full length of the country as this one is set to do. The next coast-to-coast solar eclipse won’t take place until 2045 (the last one was in 1918), and the next even partial U.S. solar eclipse won’t happen until 2024 (and it’ll be an East Coast event). Here are some of the best places to check out the eclipse.

Casper, Wyoming, is Denver's closest bet for watching the eclipse.
Casper, Wyoming, is Denver's closest bet for watching the eclipse.
David Araas/Shutterstock.com

5. Casper, Wyoming

Casper lies directly in the middle of the path of totality (the sixty- to seventy-mile swath of peak eclipse), meaning it's a sure bet to get a great view, and it’s an easy, straight-shot drive from Denver on I-25.

Drive time from Denver: four hours

Starter hotel price (August 20-21), as of July 14: $1,100 (!). You might be best off camping or day-tripping.

Approximate peak eclipse time on August 21: 11:44 a.m. MST

There are worse ways to blow air miles.
There are worse ways to blow air miles.
f11photo/Shutterstock.com

4. Nashville, Tennessee

For those of you urbanistas looking for a little country music to supplement your eclipse chase, Nashville is the perfect location for you. Nashville is pretty darn close to the center of the path of totality, and you’ll certainly get fine views within the Music City’s boundaries. On the day of the eclipse, though, you’ll probably want to head north a bit along I-65 to get the best views.

Of course, it’s a bit far from our dear state. But if you’ve got some airline miles lying around or a few vacation days to burn, this is a solid option.

Drive time from Denver: sixteen hours

Starter hotel price (August 20-21), as of July 14: $60

Approximate peak eclipse time on August 21: 1:26 p.m. CST

Do some fishing while you wait.
Do some fishing while you wait.
Bonita R. Cheshier/Shutterstock.com

3. Lake McConaughy, Nebraska

If you’re looking to do some fishing, camping or boating while waiting on the sky to go dark, Lake McConaughy is an easy day’s drive, and you can enjoy some time outdoors sunbathing before and after the eclipse.

That said, Lake McConaughy is on the southern fringe of the path of totality. On August 21, drive north about fifteen to twenty miles just to be safe, and then you can return to your regularly scheduled boating fun.

Drive time from Denver: three and a half hours

Starter hotel price (August 20-21), as of July 14 (Ogallala): Sold out. Bring your tent!

Approximate peak eclipse time on August 21: 11:52 a.m. MST

World-class rafting, fishing and hiking and an eclipse. Idaho has it all.
World-class rafting, fishing and hiking and an eclipse. Idaho has it all.
CSNafzger/Shutterstock.com

2. Sun Valley, Idaho

Want to couple your eclipse experience with world-class rafting, fishing and hiking? Sun Valley is a great summer playground, with the Salmon River’s rafting and fishing a solid draw for outdoorsy folks.

On the day of the eclipse, you’ll want to head north a bit toward Stanley to get the better views.

Drive time from Denver: eleven hours

Starter hotel price (August 20-21), as of July 14: Sold out. Bring your tent!

Approximate peak eclipse time on August 21: 11:29 a.m. MST

Hello, Jackson Hole.
Hello, Jackson Hole.
Dean Fikar/Shutterstock.com

1. Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Sure, it’s a bit of a drive, but where else will you have the chance to see the eclipse with the stunning Tetons serving as a Windows 98-esque backdrop? With Old Faithful and Yellowstone right there, this is the spot to not only see the eclipse, but to make a science/nature/outdoors week or long weekend out of it.

And don’t worry: You won’t have to leave your cozy hotel/campsite/AirBnb on the eclipse site, as the path of totality is centered right over Jackson!

Drive time from Denver: eight hours

Starter hotel price (August 20-21), as of July 14: Sold out. Bring your tent!

Approximate peak eclipse time on August 21: 11:36 a.m. MST

Don't forget your eclipse glasses.

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