Bare Dark Sky Observatory

Tickets available through online reservation system

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

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 Sam Scope, as well as our smaller planetary telescope. With the assistance of our two Observatory Managers, up to 25 people will spend 2 hours viewing and learning about the dark skies.

Shuttles 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 cool in the mountain air. Closed-toed shoes and a flashlight are highly recommended.

Terms and Conditions:

In order to look through the Sam Scope you will need to be able to climb three to four steps of a rolling safety ladder. Be prepared to walk approximately 200 feet up a dirt and sand incline to reach the Observatory. Gravel paths are currently under construction. You will be outside the entire viewing time. The Observatory will not be open during inclement weather (rain, snow, clouds, etc.) We will always try to offer a rain date within the next two nights of the originally scheduled viewing night. You will be notified via email of any inclement weather, rain dates, or cancelations 36 hours in advance. In the event of a cancelation, you will receive a full refund. 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 questions regarding the Bare Dark Sky Observatory please email:

Bare Dark Sky Observatory Hours and Fees:

Community Visitors:

Adult Tickets: $15.00

Child Ticket : $5.00 (12 and under)

Viewings are scheduled depending on the moon cycle and sunset times for 2 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 Rental Rate: $150 per hour with a two hour minimum.

Group rentals are scheduled via phone.  These rentals are for groups with a maximum of 25 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. 

Join the MCC Astronomy Club!!

Individual Membership: $30

Family Membership: $100

The MCC Astronomy Club is a student led club and members of the public are welcome to join. Club meetings will take place at the Earth to Sky Park in September, November, February, and April. The club will not meet during the summer months because students will not be on campus. Each meeting will be themed and present information on a different astronomical topic. Following the meeting, members will have the opportunity to participate in a members-only viewing at the Bare Dark Sky Observatory. Members will also receive a discounted ticket price for special speakers at the Earth to Sky Park. Club officers are limited to Mayland students.

Members will be issued a MCC Astronomy Club membership card that they will need to show at each meeting and to receive discounted speaker tickets. Members do not receive discounts on community viewing night tickets or private rentals. A family membership includes immediate family members or grandparents with grandchildren.

To become a member or if you have questions email



  • 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
Green Mountain Farm, Green Mountain – 33 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 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 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.”