On October 14, the moon will cruise between Earth and the sun during an annular solar eclipse, casting an immense shadow on our planet. It will be a sight to behold, though you’ll want to wear protective glasses or glimpse it indirectly to avoid frying your eyeballs. Unlike 2017’s total eclipse, the sun won’t vanish completely; instead, the moon will be positioned far enough from our planet to leave the star’s brilliant edges visible. The result is a “ring of fire,” as though the moon has been outlined with a blowtorch. Every continental state will have at least a partial view of this event, but spotting this celestial circle could be well worth the travel.
The eclipse’s 125-mile-wide path of annularity begins in the US in Oregon at 12:13 p.m. Eastern (9:13 a.m. Pacific). It will loom over the country until it leaves Texas at 1:03 p.m. (12:03 Central), continuing its southeastward journey to Central and South America. The best viewing conditions will be in places with low fog and high aridity, like Nevada and Utah, the two driest states in the country. “The place with the lowest chance of cloud cover is Albuquerque, New Mexico—but most of the path of annularity looks pretty good,” says University of Texas at San Antonio astrophysics professor Angela Speck, who co-chairs the American Astronomical Society’s Solar Eclipse Task Force.
If you can, schedule an eclipse viewing break in your day: Astronomers have calculated precisely when the best views occur in your neighborhood. Depending on where you are in the path, the annularity’s duration ranges from a little more than a minute to nearly five.
The phenomenon will also sweep through several public land areas, including 29 national park sites and dozens of state-owned ones. When visiting these spots—which offer skies unobstructed by city and suburb infrastructure—please don’t stop your car mid-traffic to gawk at the moon passing overhead, says Justina Parsons-Bernstein, who works at the Utah Department of Natural Resources as its heritage, interpretation, and ADA resources manager. Camping may be an option; Parsons-Bernstein recommends checking the website ReserveAmerica for availability. Some campsites are already filling up—diehard eclipse chasers have planned this out months in advance—but others, such as Utah’s Fremont Indian State Park, have opened extra lots specifically for the October happening. There are a bounty of destinations to consider.
The first US national park that the eclipse will pass over is Crater Lake, where water has filled a collapsed volcano, Mount Mazama. All of the park is in the annularity’s path, so prepare for crowds as well as limited parking and lodging.
Other Oregon parks in the path:
Shore Acres State Park
Bat-filled caves, battlefields, and basaltic flows make up Lava Beds National Monument, a desert landscape that is the product of thousands of years of volcanic activity. Only the northeast sliver of this California park is directly in the annularity’s path, but the section just outside it may be a good vantage for another fascinating feature of the eclipse: Baily’s beads, short-lived bright dots caused when sunbeams stream through the crags and valleys of the lunar surface.
The southern edge of the US path of annularity cuts through Great Basin National Park, where park staff will be available to guide viewers, according to the National Park Service. The agency also notes that, while the park tends to be less busy in October, eclipse watchers should be prepared for the event to bring out crowds.
Parsons-Bernstein ordered 20,000 eclipse glasses that will be distributed across Utah’s state parks on a first come, first serve basis. “In the entire state, there’s no less than 83 percent view of the annularity,” she says. But several areas are “dead-on 100 percent,” including 13 parks that are directly in the eclipse’s path. One of those is Goblin Valley State Park, which boasts rocky scenery so otherworldly that the movie Galaxy Quest used it as an alien planet.
Other Utah parks in the path:
Bryce Canyon National Park
Capitol Reef National Park
Canyonlands National Park
Escalante Petrified Forest State Park
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
Goosenecks State Park
Kodachrome Basin State Park
Hovenweep National Monument
Natural Bridges National Monument
Rainbow Bridge National Monument
Territorial Statehouse State Park Museum
The moon’s shadow will zip into Arizona at speeds of around 3,150 mph, slowing to 2,626 mph as it leaves. It will pass through Navajo National Monument, where, for hundreds of years, Hopi, Navajo, and other Native Americans lived in the canyons. However, visitors to the Hopi Reservation and Navajo Nation should be aware that, in some traditions, eclipses are sacred times to pray or meditate indoors.
Other Arizona parks in the path:
Canyon De Chelly National Monument
Celebrating its remarkable Ancestral Pueblo cliff settlements, Mesa Verde National Park became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. Go for the eclipse, but stick around after nightfall on campgrounds and scenic overlooks: The park has one of the darkest skies in the continental US, and boasts stellar views of the Milky Way.
Other Colorado parks in the path:
Yucca House National Monument
The Manhattan Project National Historical Park at Los Alamos was once the secret city where physicists developed the atomic bomb. Now, certain areas are open to the public (many of the buildings are within an area secured by the Energy Department that’s only occasionally available by guided tour). But hikers can take the trail loop on Kwage Mesa, which will offer views of the annularity.
Other New Mexico parks in the path:
Aztec Ruins National Monument
Bandelier National Monument
Chaco Culture National Historical Park
Pecos National Historical Park
Petroglyph National Monument
Rio Grande Nature Center State Park
Salinas Pueblo Mission National Monument
Valles Caldera National Preserve
As the eclipse falls over the Lone Star State, it will darken 17 state parks as well as San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. Just after noon, it will depart the US for the Gulf of Mexico, but not before touching one last bit of public American land: the Padre Island National Seashore, which is just a quick drive from Corpus Christi and famous for its unique, biodiverse mudflats.