Bare Dark Sky Observatory

Public Community Viewing Nights are canceled until further notice, but private viewings are available at $300 for up to ten people. Please email us for information-

Until further notice, in order to be in compliance with North Carolina Governor’s mandate, face coverings are required of all guests and staff while inside the Observatory. Face coverings are encouraged while in the presence of others outside the Observatory.
If a guest is unable or unwilling to comply with the requirement, a refund will be issued, and we welcome you to return when the mandate is lifted.

Please call 828-766-1277 with any questions or concerns.


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 the community 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

Join us for an evening of stargazing as you’ve never seen before. You will have the opportunity to view the moon, planets, and stars through our 34″ diameter mirror on our custom-built Newtonian telescope, as well as our smaller 14″ mirror Meade planetary telescope. With the assistance of our two observatory Managers, up to 25 people will spend two hours viewing and learning about the night sky.

A Shuttle van to and from the parking lot will be provided. Please arrive promptly at your designated time to the parking lot located at the Earth to Sky Park. Dress comfortably for nighttime weather, as it is sometimes chilly in the mountain air. Closed-toed shoes and flashlights are highly recommended.

Terms and Conditions:

  • Be prepared to walk up an approximately 200 foot incline to reach the Observatory.
  • In order to look through the large Sam telescope, you will need to be able to climb four to six steps of a rolling safety ladder.
  • You will be outside the entire viewing time. The Observatory will not be open during inclement weather (rain, snow, clouds, etc.). You will be notified via email of any inclement weather or cancellation 24 to 36 hours in advance.
  • Please note that you will be at the Observatory and Earth to Sky Park at your own risk and will hold Mayland Community College, and the Mayland Community College Foundation harmless in the event of an incident.  Mayland Community College is not responsible for lost, stolen, or damaged articles.
  • Please use caution as the terrain is uneven.
  • For more information review the FAQ page.

For questions regarding the Bare Dark Sky Observatory please email:

Bare Dark Sky Observatory Hours and Fees:

Community Visitors:

Adult Tickets: $20.00 from June 1st to October 31st

                         $15.00 from November 1st to May 31st

Child Ticket: $5.00 (12 and under).

Viewings are scheduled depending on the moon cycle and sunset times for two-hour blocks. This is ideal for families, individuals, and out of town visitors wishing to look through the telescope. To view times and days please click on the reservation link below.

Reservations here.

Group or Private Rental Rate: $150 per hour with a two-hour minimum.

Group or Private rentals are scheduled via phone.  These rentals are for groups with a maximum of 10 people for up to a 4-hour block. This is ideal for civic groups, astronomy clubs, and other large groups. To make a group reservation please call the event line at 828-766-1277.

For the latest observatory information please call 828-766-1214.

*The Observatory will not be open during inclement weather or on cloudy nights. In the case of inclement weather, ticket holders are notified 36 hours prior to the event of any changes. 



  • 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.

Suggested Places to Stay

No Camping is Allowed in the Earth to Sky Park
Terrell House Bed and Breakfast, Burnsville – 17 minutes away
Nu Wray Inn, Burnsville – 17 minutes away
Carolina Country Inn, Burnsville – 17 minutes away
High Pastures, Burnsville – 15 minutes away
Richmond Inn Bed and Breakfast, Spruce Pine – 20 minutes away
Switzerland Inn, Little Switzerland – 28 minutes away
Toe River Campground, Burnsville – 16 minutes away

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 the gate on foot, and use caution walking up the hill. You are welcome to bring your own telescope and set up on the flat ground around the Observatory or in the lower parking lot.

See current conditions.

To find out about upcoming events, please call 828-766-1214.

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.

IDA Dark Sky Association image: Milky Way galaxy as viewed from night sky

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 an f/3.6 StarStructure Newtonian telescope, with a 34 inch (0.86 meters) mirror. It is the largest telescope in the Southeast in dark skies dedicated for research and recreational activities.

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