Parks and Rec

Discover Parks after Dark: Star Parties, Night Hikes and Meteor Watching

Fall is here so grab your woolies and discover County parks after dark. Three night sky events take place during Veterans Day weekend, another two the following weekend, and yet a sixth on Nov. 25. If November is just too busy for you, Parks scheduled two events for early and mid-December too.

All of the events are free. Here’s a round-up of the family-friendly activities:

Saturday, Nov. 11

Dark Sky Family Hike and Star Party, 4 – 8 p.m. at Santa Ysabel West County Preserve, 760-765-4098

Learn about plants and wildlife from Ranger Bill as he leads a 2-mile hike through the preserve’s trails. Then stick around for the stargazing party. Curiosity Peak Observatory and the Julian Dark Sky Network will offer a variety of telescopes for public use.

Star Party, 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. at Oakoasis County Preserve, 619-561-0580

Come out around sunset for a hike and see if you find any bats and scorpions! Afterward, join park staff and the San Diego Astronomy Association for stargazing. And a little nighttime pick-me-up: s’mores!

Sunday, Nov. 12             

Night Hike, 6 – 8 p.m., Flinn Springs County Park, 619-561-0180

Ranger Patty leads an easy night hike for all ages in a search for animals that come out to drink and play only after dark. No dogs, please, or they’ll scare off the critters. This event is limited to 12 people. There is also a $3 parking fee. To RSVP, call 619-561-0180.

Friday, Nov. 17 – (NOTE: This event has been canceled due to cloudy weather.)

Star Party, 6 – 8 p.m., Sycamore Canyon/Goodan Ranch, 858-513-4737

Volunteer astronomers from the San Diego Astronomy Association will help park visitors find the stars in the night sky with the same technology they use to discover the wonders of the galaxy.

Saturday, Nov. 18

Meteor Watchers, 2 – 5 a.m., Oakoasis County Preserve, 619-561-0580

Calling committed night owls and extreme early birds! Giving up some shut-eye in the early, early morning might be worth it to see the Leonid meteor shower from the mountain top. A ranger will also be on hand for the show. Bring a lawn chair and some blankets to stay warm, and be among the few San Diegans up that time of night to catch some meteors.

Saturday, Nov. 25

Dark Sky Network Presentation, 7:30 – 9 p.m., William Heise County Park, 760-765-0650

Bring your binoculars and your questions. Folks from Curiosity Peak Observatory and the Julian Dark Sky Network will be helping park visitors explore the night skies. Experienced amateur astronomers will be available to answer your questions and tell you whether you’re spying a star or a planet.

Saturday, Dec. 2

Supermoon Viewing, 3 – 9 p.m., Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve, 760-765-4098

A supermoon is a full moon that appears larger and brighter than normal because its orbit is closer than usual to the earth. Make a day (or night) of it by heading out to the wilderness preserve in the mid-afternoon so you can join Ranger Bill on an early winter hike. This is a 7-mile hike with 1,000 feet of elevation gain so come prepared! Ranger Bill will tell you all about the geography, flora and fauna of the area as you head up Volcan Mountain. You’ll reach the summit right at sunset and see expansive views of Julian and the desert. Then the light of the silvery supermoon will show the path back down.

Wednesday, Dec. 13

Shooting Star Party, 7 – 10 p.m., Santa Ysabel West County Preserve, 760-765-4098

Don’t miss the peak viewing night for the Geminids meteor shower! Dress warmly and bring your camp chairs and blankets. The park rangers are setting up a free hot chocolate station so be sure to grab a cup. Then lean back in your chair, look to the sky and count the shooting stars. Remember to make a wish for each one.

Inclement weather may cancel events. Check weather forecasts and call to confirm before you go.

Tracy DeFore is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact