Cosmic Campground International Dark Sky Sanctuary

Area Status: Open
This area is Open

photo-Cosmic CG sign

Cosmic Campground International Dark Sky Sanctuary (CCIDSS) is the first International Dark Sky Sanctuary located on National Forest System lands and also in North America. It is also one of only 14 certified IDA Sanctuaries in the world. International Dark Sky Sanctuaries are lands possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights.  For more information on dark skies, light pollution, or the International Dark Sky Association.

The CCIDSS offers a 360-degree, unobstructed view of the night sky, and often hosts “star parties” in cooperation with the partner group “Friends of the Cosmic Campground.” This site is situated where there nearest significant source of artificial light is more than 40 miles away, and across the state line in Arizona. 

Night vision is necessary to enjoy the night sky. If you look at white light from either your flashlight or your cell phone you will not be able to enjoy the wonders of the natural night sky for 20-30 minutes.  In order to respect your fellow star gazers the Forest Service recommends:

  • No parking on the observation/telescope pads
  • No camp fires on observation pads
  • Use a red filter over your flashlight lens
  • Try to arrive before dark so that your headlights won’t distort your night vision
  • Quiet times (no generator use) between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.

CCIDSS is a primitive campground with minimal site amenities including an information kiosk, a pit toilet, and four concrete telescope/observation pads. Currently, there is very minimal shade available however, future planning developments intend to erect a shade pavilion as well as improve individual campsite amenities as funding comes available.

photo showing road into Cosmic Campground photo of telescope observation pads Blue Horse Head Nebula Milky Way Rising Setting Milky Way

At a Glance

Operational Hours: Courtesy suggestions include arriving and setting up camp prior to dusk and discourages the use of bright lights/campfires when other visitors are enjoying the night sky.
Reservations: No reservations are necessary. First come, first served. All Gila NF camping is subject to the 14-day stay limit.
Area Amenities: Tent camping,Camping trailer,Toilets,Parking
Fees  No fee for this campground
Open Season: Year round
Usage: Light
Best Season: Spring/Fall/Winter or dark phase of the moon each month
  • No parking on the telescope observation pads.
  • No campfires on the telescope observation pads.
  • Use a red filter over your flashlight lens
  • Try to arrive before dark to minimize light pollution from headlights
  • Quiet hours are (recommend no generator use) between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.
Closest Towns: The closest community is Alma, NM about eight miles south of the campground. There is a combination convenience store, gas station and Alma Café there, and there is a combination convenience store/gas station in Glenwood, NM.  Silver City, NM is approximately 1.50 hours (60 miles) south of the campground, where there are three grocery stores, multiple gas stations and other amenities.
Water: No
Restroom: Vault
Operated By: Forest Service
Information Center: Glenwood Ranger District Phone:  (575)539-2481

General Information


The campground is located 8 miles north of Alma, NM off US Highway 180. There is a brown Forest Service sign opposite the entrance; and there are two other signs along US Highway 180 indicated the campground is ahead. Turn, cross the cattle guard, and drive about 1.3 miles.  Cosmic CG Locator Map


 Please do not park on the telescope pads.

General Notes:

Cosmic Campground is one of many sites on the Gila NF where night sky photography is at it's best. Late May - late October are the best times to see the Milky Way and get some premium photos.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Camping & Cabins

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Nature Viewing

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Camping trailer Maximum size 36'
Tent camping 8 sites
Toilets Vault
Areas & Activities


  Latitude : 

  Longitude : 

  Elevation : 
5,364 feet