7 gorgeous national parks where you can watch the August eclipse

Chase the sun somewhere fun.

The 2017 solar eclipse is just weeks away from sweeping the nation. Many folks are flocking to the few big cities on the phenomenon's path of totality, but why spend loads on flights and hotels just to stare at an urban sky when you could spend a few nights under the stars instead? If you want to camp out for the big event—or just enjoy a short hike while the sun is hidden from sight—here are some national parks where everything should align just right.

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7 national parks where you can watch the August eclipse
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7 national parks where you can watch the August eclipse

John Day Fossil Beds

Scenic striped hillsides. Big blue skies. Around 40,000 fossils. The John Day Fossil Beds just happen to be in a part of the country deemed especially perfect for 2017 eclipse viewing. Eastern Oregon is hot and the Fossil Beds aren't exactly in a hoppin' area, so you should come very prepared: stock up on water, snacks, and gas before you go.

How do I get there?

It's about a 4.5 hour drive from Portland, Oregon.

When is the eclipse?

It should start around 9 am local time, and the sun should go completely dark for around two minutes at 10:20.

Is camping allowed?

Not in the park, but there are other camping options nearby.

Any special events?

The park says plans are still in the works, so keep checking.

(Photo by: Greg Vaughn /VW PICS/UIG via Getty Images)

Grand Teton National Park

Wildflowers, lakes, and mountains, oh my. Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park is expecting August 21 to be its busiest day in history. Accordingly, park rangers and astronomers will be posted with telescopes at designated viewing areas to help frazzled visitors. But wouldn't you rather bring your own gear and stake out a quiet spot of your own?

How do I get there?

The park is just a few minutes away from the Jackson Hole Airport. You can also drive a couple hours from Idaho Falls, or take a five-hour car trip from Salt Lake City. If you're coming from Denver, you've got 10 hours on the road.

When is the eclipse?

The eclipse should arrive at around 10:15 am local time and end at 1:00. Totality is expected at 11:34. It will last over two minutes in some parts of the park.

Is camping allowed?

Yes, but campgrounds in the park are first-come, first-served. So if you want a shot at sleeping under the stars on the night of the eclipse, you should probably start your trip a few days beforehand. Some of the park's campgrounds allow up to 14 days of camping, so you can really go nuts if you so desire. If you have a group of 10 or more or you're looking to hook up an RV, you might be able to swing an advance reservation. But camping in the backcountry is strictly prohibited without a permit, so don't count on being able to find a last-minute spot for your tent.

Any special events?

Four designated viewing areas will be staffed by rangers and astronomers.

(Getty)

Congaree National Park

Congaree National Park boasts amazing hardwood forests and gorgeous hikes. Unfortunately, that dense tree cover means there are very few optimal viewing sites within the park. But if you register for one of their guided eclipse hikes, a ranger will get you to a prime eclipse spot just in time for the big blackout. If you can't manage to snag one, consider enjoying a vacation in the park before visiting a nearby town to view the eclipse.

How do I get there?

Columbia Metropolitan Airport is just 30 minutes away. Charlotte, NC and Charleston, SC (both of which have major airports) are each a two hour drive.

When is the eclipse?

Totality should start around 2:41 pm.

Is camping allowed?

There are two designated campgrounds (you'll need to make a reservation) and backcountry camping is allowed with a permit.

Any special events?

The aforementioned guided hikes, as well as staff help at several designated viewing areas.

(AOL)

Blue Ridge Parkway 

Wherever you go for the eclipse, you're probably going to need to do some driving. So why not make that the whole point? Blue Ridge Parkway is a designated "All-American Road"—an official scenic byway, as opposed to all of those unofficial scenic byways—that runs 469 miles. It's the longest linear park in the country, and it links the Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Of course, you can't expect complete totality along the whole road (how cool would that be) but about 100 miles of it should have a good view. You can figure out what's going on at different mile markers here. Make sure you've got plenty of fuel—you might get stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic for much of the day.

How do I get there?

You'll see a total (or quite near total) eclipse at outlooks from milepost 357 to 468. Luckily for out-of-towners, Asheville, NC has exits between mileposts 382 and 393. To get more totality, head south. But here's a pro-tip: you'll get up to 90 percent totality as far north as Roanoke, VA. To avoid insane traffic, you might want to fly there instead and only venture as far south as congestion permits.

When is the eclipse?

It varies—this is a long road—but the best stretch of totality is 76 seconds. That's expected at Courthouse Valley (mile 423.5) at 2:37 pm.

Is camping allowed?

There are three official campgrounds on or close to the path of totality, and another five farther north. Backcountry camping requires a permit.

Any special events?

The designated lookouts will all have staff on hand to help you enjoy your eclipse viewing. And several North Carolina towns along the route have eclipse activities planned.

(Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Maybe you'd rather enjoy the scenic byway before all the eclipse tourists descend? In that case, you can make your way to the western Great Smoky Mountains. The park will have eclipse-centric events going on in three locations.

How do I get there?

The Blue Ridge Parkway, of course! Or drive 60 miles from Asheville, NC.

When is the eclipse?

Totality will sweep through the western portion of the park starting at about 2:33 pm. Some locations will experience totality for around two and a half minutes.

Is camping allowed?

There are many campgrounds, including some near the designated eclipse event locations. Some require reservations. Backcountry camping requires a permit.

Any special events?

The big, ticketed science bonanza (not an official name) at Clingmans Dome is sold out, but cancellations may put some last-minute tickets online. Cades Cove and Oconaluftee will both have informal, staff-guided eclipse viewing activities. You may have to get to these locations on foot due to congestion.

(Photo by: Jeff Greenberg/UIG via Getty Images)

Agate Fossil Beds 

If you're near Nebraska, consider enjoying the eclipse at the Agate Fossil Beds. This national monument is quite close to the center of the totality path—and features some incredible fossils ("Devil's corkscrews", anyone?) And as a bonus, the park has put out a call for amateur astronomers to help educate the public: if you'll be showing up with a telescope and some eclipse viewing know-how, check in with the Chief Ranger beforehand to see how you can chip in. One caveat: the park service says that fire danger is expected to be very high that weekend, so be sure to park only in mowed, designated areas (and definitely don't smoke).

How do I get there?

The Western Nebraska Regional Airport is just 50 miles southeast of the park entrance.

When is the eclipse?

Totality will arrive around 11:48 am local time, and is expected to last two minutes.

Is camping allowed?

Not within the park, no. But campgrounds and hotels are available nearby.

Any special events?

So many! The park has kid's activities starting first thing in the morning on Saturday, August 19 (including a toilet paper tube viewer building session). Sunday features a talk from the Kelly Looking Horse family, providing a Native American perspective on the phenomenon, and a night sky program. You can make some sun prints on Monday morning, and catch a reprise of the Kelly Looking Horse family's talk just before the partial eclipse starts. Astronomers will be available on Sunday and Monday, and food vendors will be around on Sunday and Monday as well (the park doesn't usually sell food).

(Photo by: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)

Obed Wild & Scenic River

"National Wild and Scenic River" might be an even better sounding designation than "official scenic byway." Hike, kayak, and enjoy over two minutes of totality in some spots.

How do I get there?

The closest airport is 50 miles away in Knoxville, TN.

When is the eclipse?

Totality should occur around 2:30 pm, with the exact start time and length varying along the river.

Is camping allowed?

There's a reservation-only campground near the river.

Any special events?

The park plans to have organized public viewing events at Obed Visitor Center, Lilly Overlook, and Big South Fork Gateway Visitor Center. The details are still TBD.

For a full list of parks, monuments, and national trails in the path of totality, check out the National Park Service's website.

(Getty)

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For a full list of parks, monuments, and national trails in the path of totality, check out the National Park Service's website.

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