Last year, Montana had several celestial events that made the night sky look magnificent. It looks like 2024 will be a good year for stargazing, too, especially if you'd like to see the Northern Lights.

I have seen meteor showers and shooting stars, but I've yet to see the northern lights. As a morning show host, it's difficult for me to stay up late at night, but seeing the northern lights is on my bucket list. If it's on your bucket list too, this year may be your chance.

Seeing the Northern Lights in 2024

Thanks to some optimal conditions, there may be more opportunities to see the northern lights (a.k.a aurora borealis) this year. NPR is reporting that there will be increased solar activity, which influences the northern lights.

Scientists predicted at the start of cycle 25 that that solar activity would be relatively weak, similar to solar cycle 24. But an updated forecast shows the solar maximum or peak activity, for the current cycle being reached sooner, from January to October 2024, and being much stronger than what was initially forecast. -

While researching the optimal places to see the northern lights in 2024 (see below), we came across an even more interesting fact about Montana.

DarkSky International has identified Montana as having two Dark Sky locations, meaning that regardless of the celestial event, Montana has two locations that facilitate optimal nighttime viewing.

Related: The Best Places to Stargaze Near Missoula Montana

What is a Dark Sky Location?

A Dark Sky location has been certified by International Dark Sky Places (IDSP) as having "responsible policies and public education" in support of keeping the sky dark. Dark skies are a vital part of conservation and Montana has two locations that have been certified by IDSP.

There are small ways that you can help with light pollution even if you live in a city. If you have patio lights be sure to unplug them when you go to bed. Using motion sensor lights that turn off can be a good idea too.

International Dark Sky Locations: Montana

Waterton-Glacier National Park
Credit: NPS photo

Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park

What's special about this location is that it straddles the border between Canada and Montana and the location is not only the first International Peace Park, but the park also shares "two UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, and a single UNESCO World Heritage Site."

If you've ever traveled that far north in Montana you know that the landscape transforms, and every photo you take could be a postcard. Even if you can't make it to the Peace Park, areas in and around Glacier National Park offer good options for seeing the night sky.

Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuge

Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuge

Remote places are ideal for Dark Sky designation. There aren't any roads mapped by Google near Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuge, and you can see from the broader map the area is surrounded by trees, mountains, and lakes. While not all activities are permitted, this is a great spot for photographers. Learn more about visiting the Refuge, if you're interested in doing some wildlife observation.

Where to Go in Montana to See Northern Lights in 2024

One of the best places to see the northern lights this time around happens to be one of Montana's Dark Sky locations: Glacier National Park.

The Space Tourism Guide lists Montana's National Park as one of the best spots for seeing the northern lights this year. Given that an area of the Park already has a Dark Sky certification, this might be the year to plan a trip.

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