There’s a Rock City in Chattanooga and Georgia, and then there’s City of Rocks State Park in New Mexico. Only in City of Rocks can you spend a night under the desert stars in a landscape that looks like it’s straight out of a science fiction movie.

Wondering what created this natural marvel? Over 35 million years ago, a volcano exploded and its ashes descended upon the grasslands of modern-day New Mexico. Over time natural erosion, wind and water set in and the spectacular cone-shaped rocks that jut toward throughout the park came to be.

Science class aside, City of Rocks is a rarity as only six other places on Earth have volcanic rock formations like it. The trails dart in between and sometimes over the tall, protruding rocks and will have you scampering around like a child during the daytime, but the wide open skies in the evening are the real stunner.

Ready to get going?

Here are three ways to enjoy the park — and the stars — at City of Rocks State Park:

Go back to the basics

Camping in this state park is a real treat because you can get up close and personal with the rocks that make it so famous. Skip the fancy RV and go old-school with a small tent under the stars. You’ll love being so close to nature, especially with a roaring campfire and coyotes serenading you in the background.

Make it a day trip 

Need an escape from the hustle and bustle of Sante Fe? Consider City of Rocks your oasis. Only an hour drive, the state park makes for a perfect family outing or as a budget-friendly date, especially if you opt to explore the park in the afternoon and then head up to the observatory for some fun after dark. Plan ahead and tour the state park during one of its monthly special events through the Stars-N-Parks program.

Don’t forget the camera

The best advice for visiting this park? Keep your head toward the sky. During the day, you will see 35 different species of birds that live in the area, while at night you’ll be amazed by how many stars one sky can hold. Pro Tip: Go for a visit during a full moon. Not only will it be beautiful, but the extra light will help you get some amazing shots so you can spend more time enjoying the views and less time messing with your camera settings.