On October 14th, 2023, North, Central and South America will witness an incredible astronomical event – the annual solar eclipse. This phenomenon occurs once a year when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth, blocking out the Sun's light and casting a shadow on the Earth's surface.
While annular solar eclipses happen somewhere on Earth about once every 12 months, they are relatively rare events to witness, especially from locations convenient to most populations. For the western United States, Mexico, Central and South America, the upcoming eclipse will be a rare opportunity to experience this phenomenal natural wonder.
Where to watch?
The path of the solar eclipse is the area it will be most visible from. While it will be possible to partially view the spectacular sight from areas further away, to see the true wonder, viewers will want to be at spots right in the path.
In this blog, we will explore the best places to view the 2023 solar eclipse along its path south from Oregon to Costa Rica.
The United States
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
Crater Lake National Park is a stunning location in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. It is famous for its clear blue waters, which are the result of rain and snowmelt that fill the caldera of an ancient volcano. On October 14th, 2023, the park will be in the path of totality for the solar eclipse, making it an ideal spot to witness the event.
Visitors to Crater Lake National Park can expect a surreal experience as the sun disappears behind the moon and the volcano and its turquoise lake will be plunged into darkness. Additionally, Crater Lake is known for its dark skies, which provide a perfect backdrop for observing the stars and planets during the eclipse.
There are several viewing areas within the park, including Rim Village, Watchman Overlook, and Cloudcap Overlook. Rim Village is located on the south side of the lake and offers a panoramic view of the lake and surrounding mountains. The Watchman Overlook is located on the west side of the lake and offers a great view of Wizard Island, a volcanic cinder cone that rises from the lake's surface. Finally, the Cloudcap Overlook is located on the east side of the lake and offers a clear view of the surrounding landscape.
In addition to these viewing areas, Crater Lake National Park is also home to several hiking trails that lead to secluded spots where visitors can watch the eclipse in peace. The Cleetwood Cove Trail is a popular hiking trail that leads to the lake's shore and offers a unique perspective of the eclipse as the shadow of the moon moves across the water.
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
The Grand Canyon is one of the most popular national parks in the United States, known for its breathtaking views and stunning geology. On October 14th, 2023, the park will be in the path of totality for the solar eclipse, making it an ideal location for viewing.
Visitors to the Grand Canyon can expect a unique experience as the sun disappears behind the moon and the canyon walls are bathed in a soft, eerie light. Shadows will sharply contrast the cliffs, peaks and gorges and give the Grand Canyon superb definition that will excite any photographer or casual viewer alike. Moreover, the Grand Canyon is home to several observatories and astronomy clubs, which offer guided tours and educational programs during the eclipse.
The park will be open for viewing, and rangers will be on hand to provide information and answer questions.
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Bryce Canyon National Park is located in southern Utah and is known for its beautiful rock formations and otherworldly landscapes. On October 14th, 2023, the park will be in the path of totality for the solar eclipse, making it an excellent location for viewing.
Visitors to Bryce Canyon can expect a surreal experience as the sun disappears behind the moon and the hoodoos (tall, thin spires of rock) begin to glow - the orange and white rock contrasting in the soft light. The park's high elevation provides a clear view of the sky, and its unique rock formations offer an ideal foreground for eclipse photography.
Moreover, the park has several hiking trails that lead to secluded spots where visitors can watch the eclipse in peace. The park will be open for viewing, and rangers will be on hand to provide information and answer questions.
Nearby Zion, Canyonlands, Arches and Capitol Reef are all within or close to the path of the eclipse.
Death Valley National Park, California
Death Valley National Park is located in eastern California and is known for its rugged beauty and extreme temperatures. On October 14th, 2023, Death Valley will be one of the best places to view the solar eclipse in the United States.
The park is located just outside of the path of totality, but due to its remote location and the lack of light pollution, visitors will be able to clearly witness the sun disappear behind the moon against a backdrop of towering mountains and stunning rock formations. The park is home to several viewing sites, including Zabriskie Point, Dante's View, and Badwater Basin. These locations offer panoramic views of the valley and will be excellent for sungazing.
Visitors should still be prepared for hot temperatures and limited facilities, as Death Valley will remain hot despite the temporary darkness and has few amenities.
Costa Rica is one of the few countries outside the United States that will experience the 2023 solar eclipse. The country is located in the path of totality and offers a unique tropical setting for eclipse viewing.
Costa Rica has several particularly special viewing sites, including the protected area of La Cruz Hill, where visitors can witness the eclipse in clear skies against the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean. With volcanoes, rainforests and tropical beaches, viewing the eclipse in Costa Rica will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Active Adventures have trips to Costa Rica during the eclipse, but adventurers will need to hurry if interested in securing a spot as places will go fast! Don’t forget you can take 10% off when you pay in full at time of booking (details including T+Cs here).
What else should you consider?
Crowds and getting to your viewing location early
In addition to choosing your viewing location, it's also important to plan for crowds. The 2017 eclipse brought millions of people to locations along the path of totality, causing traffic jams and overcrowding in some areas. If you're planning to travel to view the 2023 eclipse, be prepared for large crowds and consider finding a hidden or secret spot for your viewing. Also, try arriving at your viewing location well in advance.
Safety is very important during any solar eclipse event due to the risk of damaging your sight. The following is from NASA's safety tips for solar events:
Except during the brief total phase of a total solar eclipse, when the Moon completely blocks the Sun’s bright face, it is not safe to look directly at the Sun without specialized eye protection for solar viewing.
Viewing any part of the bright Sun through a camera lens, binoculars, or a telescope without a special-purpose solar filter secured over the front of the optics will instantly cause severe eye injury.
When watching the partial phases of the solar eclipse directly with your eyes, which happens before and after totality, you must look through safe solar viewing glasses (“eclipse glasses”) or a safe handheld solar viewer at all times. Eclipse glasses are NOT regular sunglasses; regular sunglasses, no matter how dark, are not safe for viewing the Sun. Safe solar viewers are thousands of times darker and must comply with the ISO 12312-2 international standard.
What will I see during a Solar Eclipse?
Aside from the enveloping darkness and beautiful silhouette of the moon, what else will you see if you look out for it?
One of the unique aspects of a total solar eclipse is the sudden onset of darkness during the daytime. As the Moon passes in front of the Sun, the sky will gradually darken until the Sun is completely covered. The darkness during totality will last for only a few minutes before the Sun reemerges, but it's an eerie and unforgettable experience.
During totality, the Sun's corona, the outermost layer of its atmosphere, will be visible as a glowing halo around the Moon. This is one of the most striking and beautiful aspects of a total solar eclipse, and it's a sight that can't be seen at any other time.
Another interesting phenomenon that occurs during a total solar eclipse is the appearance of shadow bands, which are faint, wavy lines that can be seen on the ground just before and after totality. These bands are caused by the Sun's light being refracted through the Earth's atmosphere, and they're a rare and unique aspect of a total solar eclipse.
The 2023 solar eclipse will be a fantastic astronomical event that will be witnessed by millions of people across the world. Crater Lake, Death Valley, Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Costa Rica are some of the best places to view the eclipse. These locations offer unique settings, clear skies, and panoramic views of the eclipse, making them ideal for both amateur and professional astronomers.
The 2024 Total Solar Eclipse
Following the 2023 annual solar eclipse, the 2024 total solar eclipse is an incredible opportunity to witness one of the most awe-inspiring events in nature. Whether you're an avid eclipse chaser or a casual observer, seeing a total solar eclipse is not to be missed. With proper planning and safety precautions, you can experience the wonder of a total solar eclipse and create memories that will last a lifetime. So mark your calendar for April 8th, 2024, and start planning where you’ll be for your eclipse-viewing adventure.