Even though the total solar eclipse doesn’t hit until August 21, the places that will deliver “path of totality”—astronomer-speak for the optimal position from which to view the event because you’re in the direct path of the resulting blackness—have already become highly prized. Want to ride a helicopter to a private outpost to view the solar eclipse? Big Mountain Helicopter Tours out of Bend, Oregon, has you covered. But for us mere mortals, it’s not too late to start plotting your own land grab. And while the eclipse will be visible throughout North America, only a 70-mile-wide region of the U.S.—from Oregon to South Carolina—will be in that famed “path of totality.” To find the perfect spot, feel free to plumb the depths of NASA’s own (free) maps. Or just use our regional guide.
First up, our home state of Oregon, which is forecasted to receive as many as 500,000 visitors to witness the event. So if you haven’t already made your plans, it might be too late, but it’s worth dreaming about.
Solar eclipse purists would scoff—the state’s largest city will only see 99.3 percent of the sun covered at 10:09 AM (local)—but staying in Portland offers more than just near-complete totality, including restaurants, bars, and the whole damn city itself. And bonus: unlike smaller locales, the profusion of hotels, nearby campsites, and Airbnbs should make it easier to find a place to stay.
The total eclipse will be visible here for 1 min and 54 sec, starting 10:17 AM—and legions of folks are planning for that exact moment. Lodging will be hard to land, but camping nearby (and making the trek into town come solar eclipse time) could be an option if you’re lucky enough to have reserved a spot; all the state parks are already booked for this event. But you can try your luck with regional parks or private campsites.
John Day Fossil Beds National Monument
Pair those few minutes of total darkness with the hours of outdoor recreation available at this national monument. The eclipse will be visible at all three units of this national parkland, with both Painted Hills and Sheep Rock directly under the center line, with a darkness duration that’ll range from 1:40 to just more than two minutes. The secret is definitely out—and much of the park that is typically open to vehicles will be open to only foot traffic.
Hit Oregon SolarFest, an official NASA viewing center at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds in Madras—or up your game by attending a five-day event in the Ochoco National Forest, dubbed the Oregon Star Party.