For the first time in 99 years a total solar eclipse will be visible from across the entire contiguous United States, and millions of people will be traveling from across the globe to see this rare celestial event. To view the eclipse to its fullest extent you will have to be in its path of totality. Luckily, that path stretches from Oregon to South Carolina so there are countless places to choose from, some probably even close to home. However, since the weather is one of the most important things to consider, make careful planning before choosing your spot to view the eclipse. You don’t want to a bunch of clouds to block the sun right when the eclipse hits! With this in consideration, here are 10 of some of the best places to view the eclipse in its totality.
10. St. Joseph, Missouri
Eclipse begins at: 11:41 a.m CDT
Totality begins at: 1:06 p.m.
One of the largest durations of totality in the nation at 2 minutes and 39 seconds is right in the city of St. Joseph. The city has a huge planned viewing event with five scenic viewing areas hosted by Rosecrans Memorial Airport.
9. Casper, Wyoming
Eclipse begins at: 10:22 a.m. MDT
Totality begins at: 11:42 a.m.
The Astronomical League is hosting their annual AstroCon Conference here just before the day of the eclipse, as well as a festival in the city five days leading up to the eclipse. There will probably a large number of people here viewing the eclipse due to the festivities, but at least you’ll be in the company of plenty of astrophiles!
8. Hopkinsville, Kentucky
Eclipse begins at:11:56 a.m. CDT
Totality begins at: 1:25 p.m.
Hopkinsville boasts itself as the best place to view the eclipse and for good reason too, as Hopkinsville is exactly where the “point of greatest eclipse” will be, making its totality time nearly the largest in the nation at 2 minutes and 41 seconds. Expect gigantic crowds, as the town has had all its lodging fully booked since 2013!
7. Lake Greenwood State Park, South Carolina
Eclipse begins at: 1:15 p.m. EDT
Totality begins at: 2:44 p.m.
Greenwood is a relaxed small city in South Carolina, away from the hustle and bustle of its capital, Columbia, which is also in the path of totality. The park in Greenwood allows for quaint viewing of the eclipse with small crowds, free eclipse-viewing souvenir sunglasses, and an admission fee of only $2.
6. Madras, Oregon
Eclipse begins at: 9:06 a.m. PDT
Totality begins at: 10:19 a.m.
Madras lies east of the coast of Oregon, past the mountains allowing it to avoid the usually cloudy weather of cities like Portland while still being easily accessible from them by highway. Madras provides a beautiful basin landscape with the prospect of seeing Mount Jefferson bathed in shadow from the total solar eclipse as it quickly races across the mountain heading towards Madras.
5. Carbondale, Illinois
Eclipse begins at: 11:52 a.m. CDT
Totality begins at: 1:20 p.m.
Barely south of Carbondale is the Shawnee National Forest which is entirely covered by the path of totality. This is where the longest duration of the eclipse takes place (2 minutes and 42 seconds). There are hundreds of miles of trails for you to go through as you wait to view the eclipse. And if hiking isn’t your thing, Southern Illinois University is hosting a public viewing event in their Saluki college football stadium with tickets starting at $25. Carbondale is also the spot for the next solar eclipse in America in 2024 giving it the name “The Eclipse Crossroads of America”.
4. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Eclipse begins at: 1:06 p.m. EDT
Totality begins at: 2:35 p.m.
The southern area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a beautiful place to view the eclipse with a chance of seeing the moon’s shadow moving along the vistas of the park. However, being America’s most popular national park with more than eleven million visitors to the park in just 2016 alone, it’s likely that it will be heavily crowded and fully booked.
3. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Eclipse begins at: 10:17 a.m. MDT
Totality begins at: 11:35 a.m.
Far west of Wyoming, this entire park will be in the middle of the path of totality and offers amazing panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains along with plenty of lakes and hiking trails. All the lodging in the park is already booked, but there are some first-come first-served camping sites, so arrive early!
2. Wind River Range, Wyoming
Eclipse begins at: 10:18 a.m. MDT
Totality begins at: 11:37 a.m.
Just southeast of Grand Teton, Wind River Range is a hidden gem for viewing the eclipse due to its shadowing by its more popular national park. Getting here will require a bit of backpacking, but Wind River will provide some of the most picturesque views in the nation for viewing the eclipse along with the Milky Way itself at night, far away from any city’s light pollution and major groups. This lack of light pollution is attributed to Wyoming’s designation as the least populated state in the United States.
1. Western Nebraska’s Sandhills
Eclipse begins at: 11:30 a.m. CDT
Totality begins at: 12:54 p.m.
Nebraska’s Sandhills are a wide area of open land with one of the highest chances for favorable weather while viewing the eclipse and is easy to drive to. And being that it is such a large area, it also has the high likelihood that you won’t see any major crowds, allowing you to enjoy the best solar eclipse in decades in near solitude.
While many of these places are likely to have favorable weather during the eclipse, remember to always be flexible in the case of bad weather and to check weather forecasts frequently in the area, plan and book your trips as soon as possible, and remember to have proper eye protection while looking at the eclipse!