On Monday, the moon will pass between the sun and Earth, casting a 170-mile arc of darkness across the continental United States from Oregon to South Carolina. This is not just another eclipse: Those in the “totality" zone will be plunged into night for several minutes as the moon reduces the sun to a crescent, then to a thin glowing ring. Stars will even appear in the dark sky.
How rare is this? It’s not an exaggeration to say that you’ve probably never experienced anything like it. The last total eclipse to darken more than a few US states happened in 1918.
This makes the “Great American eclipse” eminently road-trip worthy. You’ll be able to see at least a partial eclipse from many points in the US, but those who have experienced totality assure us that it’s worth it to get to the epicenter. Unfortunately, a lot of picturesque spots are already booked up—or asking for thousands of dollars a night. However, it’s a big country, and it may be possible to snag someplace to spend the weekend in these prime locations.
To map out your own eclipse road trip, consult a map that shows the coast-to-coast arc or this list of local times. The mindblowing part of the eclipse when the sun is completely blocked, aka totality, will last two to three minutes. Don’t be late: The entire event will sweep across the United States in under fifteen minutes. Don’t forget your eclipse glasses.
When: 10:15 a.m. Pacific Time
The Oregon coast will be the first part of our continent to see the shadow, so savvy travelers have been snapping up spots here for at least a year. Campgrounds are booked, and ordinary motels are asking hundreds or thousands of dollars a night. Airbnb still has a smattering of listings for rooms, houses, and tents, but be warned: rates are much higher than normal.
Salmon-Challis National Forest
When: 11:26 a.m. Mountain Time.
The eclipse passes just south of Yellowstone National Park, but not to worry; the part of Idaho darkened by the eclipse is just as ruggedly beautiful. This area is so isolated that part of it is called the River of No Return Wilderness. Indoor lodging is scarce and reservable campgrounds are likely all booked, but you can get a backcountry permit to camp in the wilderness, or stake out in the first-come, first-served Boundary Creek Campground, which has vault toilets, but no drinking water.
INSIDER TIPNearby Sun Valley is worth a visit for fine dining, outdoor adventures, and a vibrant art scene.
Arnold State Recreation Area
When: 12:54 Central Time.
The flatlands may not be able to compete with the mountain states for scenic eclipse backdrops, but on the upside, maybe Nebraska will be less crowded. At Arnold State Recreation Area, camping around the only lake for 50 miles is first-come, first-served. You might even see the sun reflected, as it shrinks to nothing, in the mirror-like water. You can walk a mile into the tiny village of Arnold for supplies.
You could also try the private Hidden Valley Campground, where sites are $10 to $25.
When: 1:11 p.m. Central Time
This tiny former rail town is now a picturesque pitstop for bicyclists on the limestone-bluff-lined Katy Trail. Try to get a room in one of the bed and breakfasts or inns that normally cater to cyclists. Or, pitch a tent for free in the Three Creeks Conservation Area, 30 miles to the southeast and also in the path of totality.
Shawnee National Forest
When: 1:22 p.m. Central Time
This idyllic area at the southern tip of Illinois features lakes, bluffs, and unique geology. All campsites in the forest are first-come, first-serve, and the Oak Point Campground, on Lake Glendale, is directly under the path of totality.
INSIDER TIPBefore you leave, be sure to hike the Garden of the Gods recreation area, whose natural sandstone sculptures are featured on the state quarter.
Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area
When: 1:23 p.m. Central Time.
This park has considerately cataloged the best places to watch the eclipse in the area, even listing how many parking spots each has. There are a few campgrounds in the park, but if they’re full, lodging abounds north of the park, such as the condos as Green Turtle Bay Resort & Marina, which cost $700 a night and up.
When: 1:27 p.m. Central Time.
While Music City is at the southern edge of the totality zone, meaning you might not have much of a glimpse at the complete blackout, it’s the closest metropolis to the eclipse route. So if camping isn’t your thing, this may be your spot.
Although the experience will be much less serene than camping by a mountain lake, there will be more hoopla here than in the wilderness—tour companies have even booked eclipse weddings for those who want to tie the knot under a waning and waxing sun.
Almost all hotels are completely booked, but if you’re willing to spend a pretty penny, you can still find some AirBnBs available.
Nantahala National Forest
WHERE: North Carolina
Chattahoochee National Forest
When: 2:35 pm Eastern Time.
First-come, first-served campgrounds allow folks to stay for up to three weeks, so you may have to pitch a tent really early to snag a spot here. Fortunately, there is plenty to do in this 750,000-acre park while you wait, such as walking to the lovely Anna Ruby Falls, where some visitors spy whitetail deer.
Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge
WHERE: South Carolina
When: 2:46 p.m. Eastern Time.
This will be the last bit of the United States darkened by the eclipse. Are you brave enough to view the event from a stand-up paddle board? More importantly, are you coordinated enough to keep your protective lenses on while you balance? If so, you might find yourself viewing the eclipse alongside a pod of dolphins off Bull Island.
There is plenty of lodging in Charleston, at the southern edge of the eclipse area, and since the interlude of darkness won’t occur until afternoon, you’d have time to drive to a better spot after a leisurely breakfast. If you want to wake up right under the path of totality, the Francis Marion National Forest has a number of first-come, first-served campsites.
This article was originally published on April 17. It was updated on August 17.