Your Guide to the 2017 Solar Eclipse

On August 21, 2017, the continental United States will witness its first total solar eclipse in 38 years. The moon’s shadow will come ashore in Oregon and begin an hour-and-a-half-long journey in a broad arc across 12 states before rejoining the ocean off South Carolina. While many Americans are lucky enough to live in the direct path of the total eclipse, most will need to travel out of state to see it. We’ve put together this guide on where members can see the eclipse, how to get there, and what to bring.

Eclipse Basics

Partial solar eclipses vs. total solar eclipses

Members anywhere in the continental U.S. will be able to see a partial solar eclipse, in which the moon covers some but not all of the sun. The partial eclipse lasts a few hours, depending on where it’s viewed.

Members who live or travel to a narrow strip that stretches across the country will see a total solar eclipse, meaning the sun will be 100 percent covered by the moon. Though the total eclipse will only last a couple minutes, it’s the most spectacular part of the event.

Courtesy of Goddard Science Visualization Studio, NASA

Safe viewing

Proper eye protection is necessary to view a partial solar eclipse; even when partially covered, the sun can still cause serious eye damage. Sunglasses aren’t enough—viewers need specialized eclipse viewers that use heavy-duty welder’s glass. Another tried-and-true method is to make a simple pinhole camera by poking a hole in a sheet of paper and letting the sun project through it onto another surface.

Eye protection isn’t necessary to view a total solar eclipse, since the sun is completely obscured. However, viewers should take caution to ensure that the total eclipse has truly begun before removing protective eyegear, and be sure to put it back on as soon as the total eclipse transitions back into a partial eclipse.

Where to see the eclipse

There are a number of considerations when deciding where to view an eclipse:

  • All else equal, lower elevations are better than higher ones—they're less likely to have cloud cover.
  • Check weather forecasts. If cloud cover is predicted for your viewing spot, consider a different one.
  • Public gathering places such as parks and observatories will be crowded the day of the eclipse. Arrive early or seek an out-of-the-way venue instead.
  • Because the moon’s shadow is a circle, viewing spots closer to the centerline of the eclipse path will see longer total eclipses.

Good Places to See the Eclipse in Each State:

Oregon

Oregon

Salem

Partial eclipse begins: 9:05 a.m. PDT

Total eclipse begins: 10:17 a.m. PDT

Total eclipse duration: 1 minute, 54 seconds

Eclipse viewers who don't want to stray too far from the transit hub of Portland can watch the total eclipse in Salem, which also offers other attractions, such as the Oregon State Capitol. Salem is relatively close to the coast, though, so watch the forecast for possible clouds.

Madras

Partial eclipse begins: 9:06 a.m. PDT

Total eclipse begins: 10:19 a.m. PDT

Total eclipse duration: 2 minutes, 2 seconds

This small town in central Oregon is very close to the eclipse’s centerline, ensuring it will see a lengthy total eclipse, and the Cascade Range shields it from Pacific clouds. On the other hand, it’s remote: about a three-hour drive from both Portland and Eugene.

Idaho

Idaho

Idaho Falls

Partial eclipse begins: 10:15 a.m. MDT

Total eclipse begins: 11:33 a.m. MDT

Total eclipse duration: 1 minute, 47 seconds

The biggest city in eastern Idaho is a good spot either for viewing the eclipse, or as a hub from which to reach other Snake River Plain viewing spots that will enjoy longer total eclipses, such as nearby Rexburg (2 minutes, 17 seconds).

Weiser

Partial eclipse begins: 10:10 a.m. MDT

Total eclipse begins: 11:25 a.m. MDT

Total eclipse duration: 2 minutes, 5 seconds

If viewers prefer a spot closer to the state capital of Boise, the small town of Weiser is a 75-mile drive to the northwest. Like Idaho Falls, it’s within the Snake River Plain, meaning cloud cover shouldn’t be a major problem.

Wyoming

Wyoming

Casper

Partial eclipse begins: 10:22 a.m. MDT

Total eclipse begins: 11:42 a.m. MDT

Total eclipse duration: 2 minutes, 25 seconds

Casper is smack-dab in the middle of the eclipse path, which means it will enjoy a particularly long totality. It’s also a good starting point for nearby viewing spots. Thunderstorms are possible in summer, so keep an eye on the forecasts.

Riverton

Partial eclipse begins: 10:19 a.m. MDT

Total eclipse begins: 11:39 a.m. MDT

Total eclipse duration: 2 minutes, 12 seconds

If Casper is expected to be overcast, viewers can leave the plains of eastern Wyoming for the mountains of the west. The Teton Range protects Riverton from clouds, and the mountains are a destination in themselves before or after the eclipse.

Nebraska

Nebraska

Alliance

Partial eclipse begins: 10:27 a.m. MDT

Total eclipse begins: 11:49 a.m. MDT

Total eclipse duration: 2 minutes, 30 seconds

Both of our Nebraska watch spots are right on the eclipse centerline, but Alliance offers some other benefits. It’s less likely to be cloudy than Grand Island, and it’s less than an hour’s drive from Chimney Rock National Monument.

Grand Island

Partial eclipse begins: 11:34 a.m. CDT

Total eclipse begins: 12:58 a.m. CDT

Total eclipse duration: 2 minutes, 34 seconds

Grand Island will get one of the longest total eclipses in Nebraska, and it’s relatively close to the major airport in Omaha. On the flip side, it’s also more prone to cloudy weather in summer; viewers may need to detour to a nearby Plan B, such as Kearney.

Kansas and Missouri

Kansas and Missouri

St. Joseph

Partial eclipse begins: 11:40 a.m. CDT

Total eclipse begins: 1:06 p.m. CDT

Total eclipse duration: 2 minutes, 38 seconds

The disk of the total eclipse will just barely graze Kansas City; depending on where they are, residents may see a very short total eclipse or none at all. A better option is to drive north to St. Joseph, which is on the centerline and is usually less overcast than points east.

St. Clair

Partial eclipse begins: 11:48 a.m. CDT

Total eclipse begins: 1:16 p.m. CDT

Total eclipse duration: 2 minutes, 39 seconds

Like Kansas City, most of the St. Louis area will miss most of the total eclipse, so those who want to experience the full event can head to the small town of St. Clair. One unavoidable concern will be cloud cover, which becomes increasingly likely as the eclipse continues east.

Illinois and Kentucky

Illinois and Kentucky

Carbondale

Partial eclipse begins: 11:52 a.m. CDT

Total eclipse begins: 1:20 p.m. CDT

Total eclipse duration: 2 minutes, 37 seconds

Carbondale, Illinois, is the biggest town near the spot where the total eclipse will last longest: 2 minutes and 40 seconds, within nearby Giant City State Park. After viewing the eclipse, visitors can explore Giant City or head east to Shawnee National Forest.

Hopkinsville

Partial eclipse begins: 11:56 a.m. CDT

Total eclipse begins: 1:24 p.m. CDT

Total eclipse duration: 2 minutes, 39 seconds

To the southeast in Kentucky is Hopkinsville, which will experience a (slightly) longer total eclipse than the city of Carbondale proper. It’s also close to the point of maximum eclipse magnitude, the point at which the moon will appear largest compared to the sun.

Tennessee

Tennessee

Nashville

Partial eclipse begins: 11:58 a.m. CDT

Total eclipse begins: 1:27 p.m. CDT

Total eclipse duration: 1 minute, 54 seconds

Only one major city will witness a lengthy total eclipse: Nashville. When it comes to attractions and amenities, no other town on this list can compete with Music City. Unfortunately, the city is frequently cloudy in August, so viewers should have a backup plan.

Spring City

Partial eclipse begins: 12:03 p.m. CDT

Total eclipse begins: 1:31 p.m. CDT

Total eclipse duration: 2 minutes, 39 seconds

Spring City doesn’t have the glamor of Nashville, but it does have the geographic advantage of being in the Tennessee Valley, which is less prone to cloud cover. As with all viewing spots in the South, weather forecasts will be an important consideration.

Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina

Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina

Charleston

Partial eclipse begins: 1:16 p.m. EDT

Total eclipse begins: 2:46 p.m. EDT

Total eclipse duration: 1 minute, 48 seconds

Charleston will have the honor of being the last American city to see the total eclipse. The city itself will see a decent-length totality, but viewers can get enjoy a longer one by heading northeast to Bucks Hall Recreation Area (2 minutes, 34 seconds).

Clemson

Partial eclipse begins: 1:08 p.m. EDT

Total eclipse begins: 2:37 p.m. EDT

Total eclipse duration: 2 minutes, 37 seconds

Clemson, home to the university of the same name, isn’t the best viewing spot on this list, but it’s convenient for viewers in western South Carolina or northern Georgia who don’t want to drive more than a few hours. Nearby Lake Hartwell may help reduce cloud cover on the big day.


TURN YOUR TRIP INTO AN ADVENTURE WITH AN RV

The solar eclipse is a once-in-a-decade chance to witness a cosmic spectacle, but there’s plenty to see right here on Earth, too. Plus, AAA members enjoy up to 10% off nightly rates on RV rentals with El Monte RV. SAVE ON AN RV RENTAL.


Information current as of April 1, 2017. Terrain maps courtesy of the National Geographic Society. AAA has made every effort to provide accurate, up-to-date information but accepts no responsibility for loss or injury sustained by any person while using this guide.

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