The Smokey Jack Observatory in Westcliffe, Colorado is a dark skies observatory complete with a retractable roof and a 14-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope. The observatory works to preserve, honor, and promote the dark skies of Wet Mountain Valley in Custer County.
It is open to amateur and professional astronomers, locals, and tourists who want breathtaking views of the skies above.
Dark Sky Communities
Dark Sky communities are a growing trend started by those who love natural dark skies and want to protect them from the light pollution invasive to large cities and towns. These communities often band together in their efforts and enforce measures that ensure skies remain dark.
Subdued, high-quality outdoor lighting and the elimination of wasteful lighting are common guidelines. Education, conservation, and protection are the main goals of dark sky communities.
The Smokey Jack Observatory started when its namesake, Suzanne B. Jack, also known as Smokey Jack, recognized the importance of preserving the Colorado dark skies she loved so much. She formed the Dark Skies of the Wet Mountain Valley, made up of local residents equally concerned with protecting this region’s dark skies.
Sadly, Smokey Jack passed away in 2004, before she could see her vision completed. But her team carried on her work, and in 2015, Westcliffe and the neighboring town of Silver Cliff were officially sanctioned as International Dark Sky Communities.
The observatory was built in 2015 and is the first of its kind in Colorado. It is also the highest elevated dark skies observatory in the entire world. With those distinctions come an array of events carried on throughout the year.
Star Parties: This popular event is open to the public, free to attend, and held several times throughout the year. Parties focus on a range of astronomical interests including the Milky Way, star clusters, planets, and more. Learn something new each time.
Astronomical Events: Whether it’s a once-in-a-lifetime eclipse or a rare comet shooting past Earth, the Observatory opens its doors—and its roof—to anyone who cares to watch. These must-see events are as awe-inspiring as they are educational.
Star Festivals: Day-long celebrations including workshops, guest speakers, and vendors. Festivals may change annually, but they always draw huge crowds. Check the website for frequent updates.
Private Star Parties are also available with advance notice, and always hosted by a trained guide. Star Parties and other events generally take place after dark and times can change frequently depending on the season. Festivals often start in the morning or afternoon and last well into the night.
Address: 100 S Adams Blvd, Westcliffe, CO 81252
Season: Year-round | Best from May – September