Bare Dark Sky Observatory

The Bare Dark Sky Observatory is Closed Today

Grand Opening Celebration: Rain Date, June 1, 2017 @ 4:00pm

Bare Dark Sky Observatory

The Bare Dark Sky Observatory, named for Warren and Larissa Bare, is located at the Mayland Earth to Sky Park in Yancey County. The observatory will allow community members an opportunity to experience the wonders of the universe, while providing Astronomy students with hands-on learning. The observatory sits at an elevation of 2,736 feet and offers a 360-degree view.

Visitor Information

Bare Dark Sky Observatory Hours and Fees:

The observatory is open by reservation only.  To make a reservation or schedule a group please call 828-766-1233.

Admission Fees: Vary by group size

*The Observatory will not be open during inclement weather or on cloudy nights. Please check the website to see if it is open prior to your visit.



  • The GPS coordinates are: 35°55′52″N 082°11′03″W
  • The physical address is: 66 Energy Exchange Dr, Burnsville, NC 28714
  • Detailed directions are available on the Mayland Earth to Sky Park page.
  • Need a place to stay? Camping is available at the nearby Toe River Campground. Bed and Breakfasts and hotels are available in nearby Burnsville and Spruce Pine. No camping is allowed inside the Mayland Earth to Sky Park.

Please note that visitors to the Bare Dark Sky Observatory and Earth to Sky Park are here at their own risk, and will hold Mayland Community College and the MCC Foundation harmless in the event of an incident. The road to the Park is steep and winding, and there may be large trucks on the way to and from the neighboring waste transfer station. You may hear noise from MCC’s firing range which is nearby.

If you visit for star-gazing at night, please remember that lighting is kept to a minimum so that we preserve our dark skies, so bring a flashlight and be prepared to walk on uneven terrain. If the gate is closed, please park just outside the gate, without blocking the gate - it must be allowed to open. Walk around/ under the gate on foot, and use caution walking up the hill. You are welcome to bring your own telescope and set up on flat ground around the Observatory or in the lower parking lot.

See current conditions.

To find out about upcoming events, please call 828-766-1233

International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) Certification

The Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina have stood as silent witnesses to the uninterrupted, nightly rain of starlight for nearly a half-billion years, but artificial light now threatens this nightly show. In honor of notable local efforts to preserve the natural nighttime landscape of western North Carolina, the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) designated the Mayland Earth to Sky Park and Observatory as the first IDA-certified Star Park in the southeastern United States. The Blue Ridge Astronomy Group (BRAG), a local amateur astronomy society, was instrumental in supporting MCC’s application to the Dark Sky Places Program.

The MCC Bare Dark Sky Observatory is the first program participant:

  • located in the southeastern United States
  • operated under the auspices of an institution of higher learning
  • includes outdoor lighting that consists entirely of fully-shielded, low-color-temperature light emitting diode (LED) fixtures at the time the IDA award is conferred.


The International Dark Sky Association, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Tucson, Arizona, advocates for the protection of the nighttime environment and dark night skies by educating policymakers and the public on the subject of night sky conservation and by promoting environmentally responsible outdoor lighting. IDA established the International Dark Sky Places conservation program in 2001 to recognize excellent stewardship of the night sky. Designations are based on stringent outdoor lighting standards and innovative community outreach. For more information about the International Dark Sky Places Program, visit

The Mayland Earth to Sky Park and Bare Dark Sky Observatory’s outdoor lighting consists entirely of fully-shielded, low-color-temperature light emitting diode (LED) fixtures. Jon Wilmesherr, MCC Director of Learning Resources Center and Distance Education, and who led the effort to secure the IDA award, is optimistic that the Park will serve as a model for lighting conservation and highlighting the urgent need for the preservation of the natural night sky. Wilmesherr retrofitted all the existing outdoor lighting at the park with new state-of-the-art Cree LED light bulbs, each using only 6 watts of electricity. The lights fit all the optimum specifications for brightness, color temperature, and low wattage. Cree is a North Carolina company with headquarters in Durham. 

For additional information about the Mayland Earth to Sky Park designation please visit:


Named the “Sam Scope” in memory of Samuel Phillips, the telescope is a f/3.6 StarStructure Newtonian telescope, with a 34 inch (0.86 meter) mirror. It will be the largest telescope in the Southeast in dark skies dedicated for research and recreational activities. For similar telescopes, see

The Samuel L. Phillips Family Foundation, a local nonprofit organization, provided funding for fabrication of the telescope. To see our telescope mirror, go to and scroll about half way down the page to see our “34" f/3.6 visual Newtonian.”