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Where Can You See the Northern Lights in PA?

By Molly Weinfurter


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There are many great places to see the Northern Lights, including locations in PA.

Northern Lights in PA

These beautiful colors are a natural phenomenon that many people put on their bucket list. So, how can you witness Aurora Borealis? 

What are the Northern Lights?

Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, is an astronomical phenomenon that causes colorful lights to appear in the sky

Most Northern Lights are green, but you might also see violet, red, blue, and white mixed in. However, there are times when they’re solid white with no colors at all. According to Neil Bone, Pierre Gassendi and Galileo Galilei first discovered the lights in 1621.

How Do the Northern Lights Work?

The shapes and colors of the Northern Lights are caused by energized ions and atoms that collide with the atmosphere. When the particles hit the Earth’s atmosphere, the electrons move to a high-energy state. When their energy lowers again, light is released. This unusual process displays the colorful lights that we’re all familiar with. 

Specific colors are affected by altitudes. When the process occurs less than 60 miles away, the light will be mostly blue. If it’s between 60 and 150 miles away, which is the most common, the lights will result in green. Finally, red will appear if it’s over 150 miles away, which is why red is harder to spot. 

While the Northern Lights can be seen all over the world, they’re the most visible in places close to the poles, such as Canada, Alaska, and Antarctica. They are present most of the time, but they can only be seen by the human eye when it’s dark outside. 

Best Times to See the Northern Lights

Best Times to See the Northern Lights

To get the best view of the Northern Lights, wait for a dark, clear night. It’s recommended to look for the lights a few hours after the sun sets. September through April are considered the best viewing months. However, these are only general recommendations since the times the Northern Lights appear may vary. 

Where in PA Can You See the Northern Lights?

There are a few places in PA where you can see the Northern Lights. These areas are peaceful and far away from the bright lights and busy streets of the city. 

Cherry Springs State Park

Cherry Springs State Park

This Coudersport park is known as the best place to see the Northern Lights in PA. It has a mountaintop view where you can often get a 360 look at the natural beauty. Late September is the best time to visit this spot because that time often has the best views of the lights.

However, it’s in a very remote part of Pennsylvania, so there’s not a lot of other attractions nearby. Even so, many astronomers choose to stay overnight, so there are concrete telescope pads with electricity and limited Wi-Fi. Only red lights are allowed in the area to prevent light pollution from ruining the views. 

The Poconos

The Northern Lights aren’t always visible from the Pocono Mountains, but visitors have had luck in the past. If you’re on a mountain away from light pollution, you’ll get the best results. December is usually an ideal time to check it out, but that might vary depending on the year.

Even if you don’t get to witness the Northern Lights during your trip, there are plenty of fun family resorts in the Poconos for you to enjoy.

The Delaware Valley

Despite the name, a large chunk of the Delaware Valley is in Eastern Pennsylvania. If you can find a rural area away from the city lights, you might be able to see the Northern Lights during winter nights. Yet, like the Poconos, these sightings aren’t guaranteed. 

Presque Isle State Park

Presque Isle is in Erie, PA, right along Lake Erie. There have been several years where the Northern Lights were visible at this park, but it’s not as consistent as Cherry Springs State Park. Of course, Presque Isle is a beautiful Pennsylvania park that is still worth visiting though. 

Best Places in the US to See the Northern Lights

Pennsylvania isn’t the only state with remarkable views of Aurora Borealis. Several northern states also have spots that are known for the incredible sightings. So, if Pennsylvania isn’t near you or if you’re looking for a change of scenery, you have plenty of other options.

Here are some of the best places in the United States to see the Northern Lights:

  • Fairbanks, Alaska
  • Priest Lake, Idaho
  • Aroostook County, Maine
  • Cook County, Minnesota
  • Upper Peninsula, Michigan
  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
  • Glacier National Park, Montana
  • Door County, Wisconsin

At any of these places, you’ll have a pretty good chance of seeing the Northern Lights. Yet, it can’t hurt to pay attention to the best times of years to go to ensure that your trip is successful. Choose the destination that makes the most sense for you and your family. 

Get Ready for Beautiful Sights

There are lots of places in the United States where you can view the Northern Lights, but if you’re looking for a guarantee, then head to Cherry Springs State Park in PA. One of the things the park is known for is its perfect views of the lights. Just remember that it’s rural and very dark there, so as cool as it is, it might be spooky for young children.

If Cherry Springs National Park isn’t convenient for your family, there are plenty of other places throughout the country to see Aurora Borealis. After all, it’s such a unique sight that you’ll want to make sure you check it off your bucket list. 

About Molly Weinfurter

Molly Weinfurter is a freelance writer and editor that specializes in family, travel, and animal-related topics.

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