The Best Travel Destinations for Seeing the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse

April 11, 2017

  • by
  • Melanie Ott

The August 2017 Total Solar Eclipse is quickly approaching, and the United States has front-row seats. While all lower 48 states will observe at least a partial eclipse, the 70-mile wide path of totality – the vantage point from where the perfectly-full eclipse is visible – passes through certain states from coast to coast.

From day hikes to off-the-grid backpacking, check out some of Active Junky's favorite locations from select states to take in this once-in-a-lifetime total solar eclipse. Travel destinations along the path already are booking up, so plan your eclipse vacation now to make sure you’ve got the best seat under the sun come August 21.

Oregon

Silver Falls State Park

Located about 40 minutes east of Salem, Silver Falls State Park lies entirely in the path of totality. With both day and overnight activities fit for all age groups, it will be a popular location for visitors eager for a great view of the 2017 solar eclipse in Oregon. 

When to See It: 10:05am to 12:38pm; total eclipse 11:18am

Things to Do in the Area:

  • Hiking: Miles of trails wind around the park and past scenic views. Check out the Trail of Ten Falls for a moderate 7.2-mile hike above, around and behind ten waterfalls.
  • Mountain Biking: Over 25 miles of shared backcountry trails are bike friendly, including the Perimeter Trail with 10.8 miles of singletrack with 1,860 feet elevation change, 27% max grade.
  • Camping: The park is increasing reservation campsites and creating temporary eclipse sites to accommodate more visitors. Reservations can be made on the park’s website. Have a look at some Active Junky recommended group camping products.

Insider/Travel Tips: Silver Falls State Park will be busy during the eclipse, so don’t expect solitude or quiet here. But it’s a good choice for families looking for day activities.

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The Cove Palisades State Park 

An hour north of Bend, the Cove Palisades State Park peninsula stretches into Lake Billy Chinook reservoir, which provides water sports from swimming to boating. The entire park and surrounding area fall within the 2017 solar eclipse path of totality.

When to See It: 10:06am to 12:40pm; total eclipse 11:20am

Things to Do in the Area:

  • Water Activities: Cove Palisades Resort & Marina offers houseboat, ski-boat, waverunner, and paddling rentals, so you can choose from a variety of water-based activities.
  • Fishing: Fishing and pontoon boats are available for rental, and the lake holds Bull Trout, Kokanee, Rainbow Trout, Brook Trout, and German browns, so don't forget your fishing gear.
  • Hiking: Over ten miles of hiking trails throughout the park lead you around the rim of the plateau circling the lake. The Tam-a-lau Trail is a scenic hike passing native vegetation, wildlife, and views of the Cascade Mountains.

Insider/Travel Tips: Like Silver Falls, this state park will likely be a busy place in Oregon to view the 2017 solar eclipse, but a solid choice if you’re looking to spend some time on the water.

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Idaho

Sawtooth National Forest

Located in central Idaho, the total eclipse will not be visible from the southern-most areas of the Sawtooth National Forest. Bald Mountain ski area and north will be in the path of totality, while due west, Rocky Bar ghost town will be just outside the path’s curve.

When to See It: 10:12am to 12:52pm; total eclipse 11:29am

Things to Do in the Area:

  • Backpacking: Staying north of Steel Mountain and Two-Point Mountain will ensure you remain in the path of totality, but before and after, you can find ample designated backcountry sites to setup basecamp outside the path. Make sure to obtain a self-issued wilderness permit before heading out.
  • Hiking: Some beautiful day hikes are available in the Sawtooths, including to Sawtooth Lake. The well-traveled 8.5-mile round trip hike puts you at the foot of the lake and of Alpine Peak. If you find this area too busy, you can wander the trail system to other small nearby lakes.
  • Fishing: Lake or river, the Sawtooth Mountains offer plenty of fishing options. The Chemeketan Campground lies within the path of totality and provides access to the Salmon River where trout and steelhead are plentiful. Check out our article on Fishing and traveling by SUP in the Sawtooths.

Gear Up:

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Insider/Travel Tips: To remain in the path of totality, make sure you stay in the central to northern areas of the Sawtooth Range. If you’re north of Ketchum on I75, you’ll be good to go.

Borah Peak 

An amazing view of the eclipse can be had from Borah Peak, the tallest in Idaho sitting at 12,665 feet. It’s situated in the center of the state in the Lost River Range, and the trailhead is a sub-four-hour drive west of Idaho Falls.

When to See It: 10:13am to 12:54pm; total eclipse 11:31am

Things to Do in the Area:

  • Summit: With 5,260 vertical feet over four miles, the trail starts and remains fairly steep the entire hike and includes some class 3 to 4 scrambles in certain areas, including Chicken Out Ridge.

Gear Up:

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Insider/Travel Tips: Depending on fitness level and experience, the entire hike may take eight or more hours. Plan at least five hours to reach the peak, so for the total eclipse around 11:30am, you’ll want to leave before 6:30am to experience it from the summit.

Wyoming

Grand Teton National Park

Located in western Wyoming on the border of Idaho, Grand Teton National Park lies entirely in the path of totality, so it will be bustling with people looking for an amazing view of the eclipse while being surrounded by a stunning panorama.

When to See It: 10:16am to 1:00pm; total eclipse 11:36am

Things to Do in the Area:

  • Backpacking: Miles of trails weave through the backcountry past hidden lakes, rocky peaks, and beautiful scenery. Permits are required to camp in the backcountry, with campsites to accommodate parties of all sizes.
  • Hiking: Depending on the area, hikes range from a couple of miles up to more than 20, so you can find options for day-hikes for your family or to disappear off the grid for a few hours of solitude for the solar eclipse.
  • Camping: All lodging in the park is already booked, according to the park’s website, but there are some first-come, first-served car camping sites, though availability will be limited as the park is anticipating one of its busiest days ever.

Insider/Travel Tips: Backcountry permits can be reserved in advance through May 15, 2017, and some camping areas will be saved for first-come, first-served, but the eclipse will be a popular time, so plan in advance if you choose Grand Tetons for your eclipse vacation. AirBNBs like VRBO are a great option, too.

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Snake River, Jackson Hole 

A quick drive south from Grand Tetons you’ll find Jackson Hole, a popular tourist location year-round, and what will certainly be a popular place to view the total eclipse of the sun as it lies under the path of totality, including from the nearby section of the Snake River.

When to See It: 10:16am to 1:00pm; total eclipse 11:36am

Things to Do in the Area:

  • White Water Rafting: The portion of the Snake River outside of Jackson Hole is a popular float area for rafting tours, kayakers and paddlers of all experience levels. With eight miles of rapids that max out at Class III, it’s suitable for all ages and generally takes about three to four hours to float.

Gear Up:

Astral green jacket pfd main Astral GreenJacket PFD $233.96 - $245.70 Granitegearslackerpackerdrysack Granite Gear Slacker Packer Drysack $36.51 - $37.80

Insider/Travel Tips: Permits are required for larger groups, but small groups and individuals are not regulated. The Snake is busy during peak season on a typical day, so anticipate larger crowds than normal on the river for this event.

Wind River Range

With Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons so close, the Wind River Range is often overlooked, and therefore a lesser-traveled and less crowded backcountry gem of gnarly granite peaks and alpine lakes – a great place for those looking for a more intimate locale for the eclipse. Need more convincing? Have a look at Active Junky's 5 Reasons to Backpack the Wind River Range.

When to See It: 10:17am to 1:02pm; total eclipse 11:37

Things to Do in the Area:

  • Backpacking: The Wind River Range offers some of the most beautiful backpacking in the country, and you can truly get off the grid and away from civilization. A favorite trail is to Titcomb Basin, a 30-mile roundtrip that is an excellent choice if you can escape for three or four days. If you have less time or want to travel less distance, there are several other nice stopping areas along the trail.
  • Hiking: Day hikes are also available in the area, and places like Lake Louise is a solid choice. A 4.4-mile roundtrip with 1,000 feet gain make this a fairly simple yet beautiful hike to a secluded lake sitting at 8,600 elevation.
  • Gannett Peak: At 13,809 feet, it’s the tallest peak in Wyoming, and considered one of the more difficult state high peaks. The Pole Creek Trail to Titcomb Basin route makes for a 40-mile roundtrip to the summit and back. This trip will take several days, so plan accordingly if you hope to view the eclipse from the impressive summit.

Gear Up:

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Insider/Travel Tips: Car camping options are also available at Dubois, Lander, Riverton and Shoshoni campgrounds if backcountry backpacking doesn’t fit your eclipse vacation plans.

Illinois

Shawnee National Forest

Shawnee National Forest is in south-eastern Illinois and surrounds the viewing point of the longest eclipse for this event, between Carbondale and Marion. The entire forest is in the path of totality for this 2017 solar eclipse and offers activities from water to trail.

When to See It: 10:54am to 1:49pm; total eclipse 12:23pm

Things to Do in the Area:

  • Hiking: With over 300 miles of trails, 30 are hiking specific and wind through forest, past lakes and to hidden picnicking areas. The Little Grand Canyon Trail is a 3.6-mile loop through a box canyon up a riverbed with cascading waterfalls, depending on the season.
  • Water Activities: Motorized boats are allowed on certain bodies of water like the Ohio River, and 11 lakes and 52 ponds are actively managed for optimal fishing.
  • Rock Climbing: Jackson Falls is the only area in the forest where climbing is permitted, but it has the largest number of routes in the state. Between 30- and 70-foot walls offer a variety of routes, most of which are sport with some trad and a few toprope. Check out some tips from Active Junky experts on planning an epic climbing trip.

Insider/Travel Tips: All camping and picnic areas are first-come, first-served, so plan ahead and get there early for the eclipse.

Book Your Trip

Tennessee

Great Smokey Mountains National Park

Covering a large section of eastern Tennessee and in to North Carolina, Great Smokey Mountain National Park offers stunning views of the Appalachian Mountains with all its diverse wildlife, flora and recreation, and a beautiful location to take in the 2017 total solar eclipse.

When to See It: 11:06am to 2:00pm; total eclipse 12:35pm

Things to Do in the Area:

  • Hiking: Several hiking options provide stunning views of the park, including Alum Cave Bluffs and Rainbow Falls. Charlies Bunion is a stone outcropping at the end of a 4-mile hike that undoubtedly would provide a spectacular and unobstructed view of the solar eclipse, though it lies just outside the path of totality.
  • Clingmans Dome: This observation tower is the tallest point in the park at 6,643 feet and provides a stunning vantage point out across the park and would be a spectacular place to view the eclipse, though it will likely be a popular place for other visitors, as well.
  • Camping: Backpacking in the backcountry requires a permit, which can be acquired via online reservation, and car camping is available in 10 locations, the majority of which are first-come, first-served though many group sites can be reserved. 

Insider/Travel Tips: The path of totality ends north of highway 441 in Tennessee, so to view the total eclipse, make sure you’re in the southern area of this national park.

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More About the Eclipse From Our Sister-Site, Space.com:

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