On the morning of August 21, 2017, at approximately 10:15 a.m. PST, anyone standing on a 62-mile-wide swath of Oregon's coastline from just south of Cape Lookout down to Waldport will get a rare glimpse of a total solar eclipse. The viewing path will begin to move in a gentle southeastern direction across Oregon, through Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains, and into Wyoming through Grand Teton National Park and the heart of the Wind River Range. The path continues through the Midwest just touching Kansas City and St. Louis, then Nashville and across the Great Smoky Mountains before traveling the length of South Carolina and entering the Atlantic Ocean over Charleston at 2:49 p.m. EST.
So, if you want to watch the total eclipse while you are out camping, backpacking, or otherwise spending time in nature, you get to choose from some pretty amazing places to go. Yes, it's true that the eclipse will be just as ecliptic in a city, but why wouldn't you find a mountain top or quiet lake to see it from? This may be what makes August's eclipse so wonderful. It happens during the prime of the summer backpacking season.
The totality is confined to a narrow band (outside of which it will appear as a partial eclipse), and it will last somewhere between 120 and 180 seconds depending on where you are. It's never too early to plan how and where to watch the eclipse. But before I tell you some great places to go, do yourself a favor and get the appropriate eyewear for viewing the spectacle, because damaging your vision really isn't worth two minutes of celestial awesomeness.
If you want to be the first to see the total eclipse over land, head to Depoe Bay or watch from your campsite at Beverly Beach State Park. If those sites are full or crowded, there are many other beaches and campgrounds along this stretch of the Oregon Coast (and note, you can click on any of these adventures and scroll down to see what campgrounds and other adventures are nearby).
As the eclipse moves inland, it'll pass over the Cascade Range at Mount Jefferson. Unfortunately, the Whitewater Fire has closed most of the Mount Jefferson Wilderness. Those who were planning to access areas such as Jefferson Park will have to find alternate viewing locations. Air quality in surrounding locations such as Detroit Lake and even east of the divide will be miserable. It will be a good idea to avoid this area entirely during the eclipse.
The Ochoco Mountains and Blue Mountains are the next great outdoor destinations in the eclipse's path. Some points and campgrounds worth checking out if you want to see the eclipse without a person in sight are Lookout Mountain, Walton Lake Campground, anywhere along the Elkhorn Crest Trail, Strawberry Mountain, and Bates State Park along the Middle Fork John Day River.
The eclipse crosses into Idaho where the Snake River Plain meets the border with Oregon, and it runs between Boise to the south and Stanley to the north. Amazingly, the Sawtooth Mountains are squarely in the eclipse's path. With so many places to go camping or hike into the backcountry, it'd be impossible to list them all. Some recommendations are to find a spot at Redfish Lake, like Glacier View Campground. Or head out backpacking to a spot like Baron Lakes or Fall Creek Canyon.
One option a bit further east is to backpack into Hyndman Basin. Or if you are feeling like taking on a bold challenge that day, make an attempt to catch the eclipse atop Borah Peak, Idaho's highest point. After this, the path of the eclipse continues across the farmlands of Eastern Idaho on the Snake River Plain until it reaches Wyoming and runs directly into the Teton Crest.
Yes, it's true, all of Grand Teton National Park is in the path of the solar eclipse. What an amazing opportunity to say you were on the Teton Crest at the time of the eclipse. And after the Teton Range, the path continues over the northern half of the Wind River Range and across the Continental Divide. Cirque of the Towers is going to be just to the south of the totality, but if you are in the Titcomb Basin at the time, it'll be prime viewing from there.
From here on out, the water flows east and the eclipse follows the great plains across eastern Wyoming and into Nebraska. The beautiful rock formations on the Bison Trail in Northeastern Nebraska are as great a place as any to explore on the day of the eclipse and capture some otherworldly photographs.
After what will mostly be viewings of the eclipse from the cities and towns in Missouri, Southern Illinois and Eastern Tennessee, the path of the eclipse runs directly into Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Expect the observation tower at Clingmans Dome to be incredibly crowded, and opt for a trail to one of the other nearby mountaintops instead. The path cuts a swath that includes portions of Northern Georgia where viewing will be optimal.
A few options to consider in the national park are Gregory Bald + Shuckstack Fire Tower and Thunderhead Mountain + Rocky Top. In Georgia, Yonah Mountain and Black Balsam Knob via the Fork Mountain Loop both offer backcountry camping options and views atop some of the high points in the Appalachian Mountains.
I hope from reading this it's clear this is just scratching the surface of places to see the upcoming eclipse. Hopefully the list is thought of as encouragement to find your own special spot for viewing this rare spectacle. Add the date to your calendar, and don't forget to pack your dark polarized glasses to see the best of the total eclipse on August 21, 2017.