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We’ve got the perfect excuse for a summer road trip. It’s called The Great American Eclipse.

America will experience its first coast-to-coast solar eclipse in nearly 100 years, a natural phenomenon that takes place Aug. 21. This is when the moon’s jet-black shadow will eclipse the sun in total darkness for more than two minutes, in a path of “totality” running from Oregon to South Carolina, spanning nearly 70 miles wide.

Most of the continental United States is within a day’s drive to the eclipse path, with vantage points and viewing celebrations taking place from sea to shining sea.

While most hotels and lodging within the path of “totality” have been booked for a few years now, with a little creativity—such as bunking with friends and family; camping; contacting local colleges (as some are opening up dorm rooms for travelers); or staying a bit further afield—you can position yourself in the best place to experience this once-in-a-lifetime event. Here are some ideas.

RELATED: 7 incredible road trips that aren’t the Pacific Coast Highway

Solar Eclipse, road trip, USA

INFOGRAPHIC TEXT

Your complete guide to the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse

Are you ready to enter the path of totality? Here’s where to see the once-in-a-lifetime solar phenomenon crossing 12 states on August 21, 2017.

Location: Depoe Bay, OR
Total Eclipse Starts: 10:15 a.m. PST
Duration: 1:58 minutes
Right on the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway, Depoe Bay is famous for whale watching tours. Pre-book a boat to experience the eclipse from the water and witness how it effects marine life.

Location: Salem, OR
Total Eclipse Starts: 10:17 a.m. PST
Duration: 1:54 minutes
Base yourself in Oregon’s capital then pick a winery in the world-famous Willamette Valley to sip a pinot noir as the sky goes dark. Viewing parties will be held at Eola Hills and Arcane Cellars, among others.

Location: Madras, OR
Total Eclipse Starts: 10:19 a.m. PDT
Duration: 2:02 minutes
Oregon Solarfest celebrates with entertainment, hot air balloon rides and kid-friendly fun. Although Madras’ 300 hotel rooms are mostly booked, the 500 RV and 6,000 tent spaces at “Solar Town” offer epic views in a gorgeous mountain setting.

Location: Stanley, ID
Total Eclipse Starts: 11:28 a.m. MDT
Duration: 2:13 minutes
This tiny town is a springboard to Sawtooth National Forest, the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness and the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, one of the world’s best white water rafting journeys. Contact local outfitters directly to inquire about tour availability.

Location: Mackay, ID
Total Eclipse Starts: 11:30 a.m. MDT
Duration: 2:13 minutes
Adrenaline junkies will want to wake up early to hike up Mount Borah, the state’s highest peak (12,662 feet), for dazzling sky views.

Location: St. Anthony, ID
Total Eclipse Starts: 11:33 a.m. MDT
Duration: 2:03 minutes
The Idaho Dunes RV Park will offer overnight camping and parking at the St. Anthony Sand Dunes, which boasts 10,600 acres of white quartz sand blown into 400-foot-high dunes.

Location: Idaho Falls, ID
Total Eclipse Starts: 11:33 am. MDT
Duration: 1:48 minutes
Grab a spot along the Snake River to observe the spectacle from the Idaho Falls River Walk.

Location: Jackson, WY
Total Eclipse Starts: 11:34 a.m. CST
Duration: 2:15 minutes
Marvel at the sky from the majestic Grand Teton National Park.

Location: Dubois, WY
Total Eclipse Starts: 11:36 a.m. MDT
Duration: 2:18 minutes
The Northern Arapahoe Tribe hosts a five-day celebration in the Wind River Valley, just an hour outside of Jackson, that includes star-gazing, drumming, singing, storytelling and more.

Location: Casper, WY
Total Eclipse Starts: 11:42 a.m. MDT
Duration: 2:26 minutes
Perched at an altitude of 5,000 feet, Casper will have stellar views (barring clear skies) for the celestial event. It hosts the Wyoming Eclipse Festival, which includes five days of entertainment and programming, plus private and public viewing parties.

Location: Alliance, NE
Total Eclipse Starts: 11:49 a.m. MDT
Duration: 2:30 minutes
Four hours north of Denver, Alliance will enjoy one of the longest viewing times of the eclipse. Among the spots to watch it: Carhenge, a replica of Stonehenge constructed of cars.

Location: Jefferson City, MO
Total Eclipse Starts: 1:13 p.m. CDT
Duration: 2:29 minutes
The Capital Eclipse Celebration will include three days of entertainment, art and astronomy. The parks south of St. Louis, a two-hour drive from Jefferson City and informally dubbed “The Gateway to the 2017 Solar Eclipse,” also provide a great vantage point.

Location: Carterville, IL
Total Eclipse Starts: 1:20 p.m. CDT
Duration: 2:30 minutes
Get your tickets: Ozzy Ozbourne headlines Moonstock, a four-day music festival at Walker’s Bluff. The rocker plans to sing “Bark at the Moon” during the eclipse.

Location: Hopkinsville, KY
Total Eclipse Starts: 1:24 p.m. CDT
Duration: 2:40 minutes
The area celebrates the whimsical Little Green Men Days Festival each year on Aug. 21, so expect an alien-inspired party during the eclipse. Or, get into the “spirit” of the eclipse by timing it with a visit to distilleries such as Casey Jones Distillery or MB Roland, which are hosting viewing parties.

Location: Nashville, TN
Total Eclipse Starts: 1:27 p.m. CDT
Duration: 1:55 minutes
The largest U.S. city in the eclipse’s path, Music City will host viewing parties downtown and at area parks. Head to the Nashville Zoo to observe how the animals react.

Location: Bryson City, NC
Total Eclipse Starts: 2:35 p.m. EDT
Duration: 1:57 minutes
Bryson City, at the very edge of the Great Smoky Mountains, has a great vantage point in Clingmans Dome. The third highest point in the eastern U.S. at 6,643 feet, it will put you close to the skies. Get your tickets in advance. (If you’re traversing the Appalachian Trail anywhere nearby, however, lucky you!)

Location: Columbia, SC
Total Eclipse Starts: 2:41 p.m. EDT
Duration: 2:30 minutes
It’s an all-weekend kaleidoscope of festivities in Columbia. Enjoy astronomy events with astronauts at the Boeing Observatory; ranger-led hikes at Congaree National Park to prime viewing locations; and Solar 17, a free public viewing celebration at Lake Murray.

 

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Tagged: Family time, Feature, Infographic

Erica Bray

Erica Bray

Erica is a practical free spirit who loves travel, yoga and ice cream. A Northwestern University-trained journalist with more than 15 years of experience straddling digital and broadcast media, Erica can be found doing handstands everywhere she travels -- even risking arrest in some cases. Learn about her at www.erica.media.

14 thoughts on “Where to watch the Great American Solar Eclipse”

  1. Shoddy editing. Is Bryson in NC or GA? And Clingman’s Dome is NOT “the third highest point in the U.S.”.

    1. Thanks for bringing the NC/GA discrepancy to our attention. That change has been made. As for Clingmans, the text says that it’s the third highest peak in the Eastern US, which it is. Thanks again for your feedback.

    2. G Adams: Maybe you should re-read text before you question the validity and then take a moment to research it BEFORE you write a condescending comment that makes you look like the idiot you are. If you Google Bryson, the results show Bryson City, NC. Perhaps the author accidentally typed Bryson, GA in her article. Regarding Clingman’s Dome (in Bryson City, NC), a quick Google shows the following information “At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s highest point.” In this electronic age where all information is available by typing a few words into Google, you really should search information before you make yourself look publically silly by adding a comment of mis-information that you could have easily checked out beforehand.

    3. An added point regarding Clingman’s Dome – it is indeed the third largest point in the EASTERN US. Here’s the list of the top ten in the EASTERN US: The highest peaks east of the Mississippi all reside in the Blue Ridge province of the Southern Appalachians, most notably in the Black and Great Smoky mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. The top 10 are: (1) 6,684-foot Mount Mitchell, (2) 6,647-foot Mount Craig, (3) 6,643-foot Clingman’s Dome, (4) 6,621-foot Mount Guyot, (5) 6,611-foot Balsam Cone, (6) 6,593-foot Mount LeConte, (7) 6,571-foot Mount Gibbes, (8) 6,475-foot Potato Hill, (9) 6,417-foot Mount Chapman, and (10) 6,410-foot Richland Balsam.

  2. Waldport Oregon
    Paulsons CanalCreek Here’s the website with pictures to look at the campground. It’s gorgeous there! The sun peeks over the trees around 10am so full eclipse viewing is going to be awesome plus the beads & diamond ring! Can’t wait! Share this site on your wall or just like it so I know you’ve seen it! Call me for pricing so I can reserve your spot! The next one doesn’t happen until I’m a hundred years old!

  3. Mt. Borah hike is not advised for non-mountain ppl.
    6,000 ft. will not be conquered with only “get up early” planning.

  4. Make sure you all stare directly at the sun during the eclipse. The suns rays aren’t as strong and it won’t make you go blind!

      1. Lydia – great comment to “starsaredumb”; the kid shows his immaturity and your comment made me smile and LOL.

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