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Planning to be in the perfect spot to catch the first total solar eclipse across the mainland United States since 1918? You're not alone. Rural areas of Wyoming and Nebraska — where the eclipse will be visible in totality as the moon passes between earth and sun — are bracing for hundreds of thousands of visitors for the event; as many as 600,000 are expected in Wyoming along, doubling the population of the state. Just south of the line of totality, the Vail Valley sits in a prime location to experience the eclipse at nearly 92 percent coverage, and the elevation and plentiful vantage points should make for some incredible viewing opportunities — without the hordes. If you get a chance to sneak out of work on Monday, August 21 — we're thinking an early lunch break might be the perfect excuse — we've mapped out everything you need to know to catch the solar event.

The Basics

The path of totality — a 70-mile wide swath where the moon will completely blot out the sun — is located 175 miles northeast of Vail at its closest point, Vail is geographically close enough to the spectacle to satisfy all but the most insufferable of eclipse snobs. Viewers will starts to notice the shadow at 10:21 a.m., with the peak occurring at 11:44 a.m., and the moon totally moving out of the sun's path by 1:12 p.m. 

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Where to Watch

Beaver Creek, Vail, and Walking Mountains Science Center all have solar eclipse viewing parties and activities planned to commemorate (and, of course, watch) Monday's near-total solar eclipse. 

Walking Mountains Science Center Solar Eclipse Watch Party

10 a.m to 12 p.m., Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa, Free

Walking Mountains Science Center's watch party is a family friendly option that's free to particpants. Kids can take part in crafts and astronomy-related games, and all attendees are given solar eclipse viewing glasses. Or, step into the solar eclipse flow with the Westin's "Salute the Sun" yoga class at noon. walkingmountains.org, spaanjali.com

Solar Eclipse Guided Hike & Lodging Package at Vail Mountain

Vail Mountain's watch party whisks eclipse-viewers up to Eagle's Nest via the Vista Bahn Gondola for a guided wildflower hike that ends at a scenic spot to take in the event, with the Lodge at Vail and Vail Mountain offering discounted lodging rates (from $161) when booking the guided eclipse hike package. 970-754-8245; vail.com

Solar Eclipse Expedition on Beaver Creek Mountain

The Beav's eclipse-viewing party takes attendees to a primo viewing area on one of the mountain's observation decks, either by way of 4x4 Jeep tour or on mountain hike, where guests will be treated to a picnic lunch and special solar eclipse viewing glasses. $175.  970-754-6653; beavercreek.com

Do-It-Yourself

If you can't justify splurging on an eclipse viewing party — or you're looking for a quiet place to take in some dark solitude — any hike that offers unobscured views of the valley is a safe bet to set up camp for the day (we love East Vail hikes, but recommend wider parts of the valley where eclipse-watchers will have a better chance to score a wide-angle view). If you're heading to a high alpine (above treeline) destination, keep in mind that you'll want to avoid afternoon storms and head down shortly after the eclipse peaks just before noon. Most importantly, don't forget your solar eclipse glasses; looking directly at the sun, even when it's mostly covered by the moon, can damage your eyes. And if you just have to experience the purist's eclipse somewhere where totality happens outside of our fair valley, plan your trip early and prepare for traffic and crowds. CDOT is suggesting that travelers heading to Wyoming bring walkie talkies, as local cell phone towers aren't equipped to handle the volume of people expected to descend on the area. Travelers can also text "ECLIPSE" to 888777 for up to date travel and road information.

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