We’re kicking off National Park Week with a gorgeous scene from our first national park. Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming was established in 1872 to protect the area’s incredible natural scenery, unique geothermal features and wonderful wildlife. Every day, bison herds move through picturesque valleys and geysers erupt in towering clouds of steam. Each visit to Yellowstone – and all our national parks – is a chance to see something new and connect yourself to the natural world and generations of human history. Photo of steamy bison by Jacob W. Frank, National Park Service.
This isn’t a scene you’d expect to find in the Nevada desert: pools of Caribbean-blue water supporting a grove of ash trees. Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge is a unique oasis and an internationally recognized wetland of importance. Nearly 30 species of plants and animals that don’t exist any place else on Earth are found in this isolated wonderland. Springs of fossil water – melted ice buried thousands of years ago – feed the pools. You’ve got to see it for yourself. Photo by Rod Colvin, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service volunteer.
A storm is brewing over the Atlantic near Cumberland Island National Seashore in Georgia. Purple clouds catch the light and sea oats sway in the breeze. The white powdery sand is cool beneath your feet and seagulls screech out, flying low over your head. Without a building in sight, it’s easy to imagine that you’re the first person ever here, but Cumberland Island is as historic as it is beautiful. Native Americans, missionaries, enslaved African Americans and wealthy industrialists all walked here. But right now, it’s just you and the salt air. Photo by Stephen Michel (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Sonoran Desert National Monument in Arizona is a magnificent example of untrammeled desert. Within one of the most biologically diverse North American deserts, the most striking aspect of the monument’s plant community is the extensive saguaro cactus forest. The monument also contains three mountain ranges all separated by wide valleys. Visitors can explore wilderness areas and remnants of several important historic trails and have all the fun under the sun. Photo by Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management.
Rising 8,751 feet, high above the dry plains of West Texas, Guadalupe Peak is the highest point in the state. From the top of Texas, visitors can see the wide expanse of Guadalupe Mountains National Park and stand on an ancient reef, born under an inland sea over 250 million years ago. The geology, history and views in this park are all spectacular. Photo by E. Jackson, National Park Service.
Are you planning a trip to Grand Canyon National Park this summer? To get the full experience, take a walk along the rim or hike into the canyon. Trails range from easy to strenuous, but all provide spectacular views. Just remember, every step down has to be repeated as a step up on the return trip. The bright line you see here shows the numerous switchbacks and change in elevation. Be sure to pack water, snacks and common sense. Photo by National Park Service.
We can’t get enough of these Superbloom photos. This hillside near Palm Springs, California is absolutely covered in poppies. Walking on the trails past these colorful fields with the beautiful snow-capped San Bernardino Mountains rising in the distance is a springtime delight. In addition to poppies, there are several other native flowers, butterflies and birds enjoying this year’s wildflower show. Please be sure to stay on trails, don’t pick flowers and Leave No Trace, so others can enjoy this natural wonder. Photo by Doug Herrema, Bureau of Land Management (@mypubliclands).
If the colors and curves of Reflection Canyon don’t leave you breathless, the journey to get there will. Deep in the backcountry of Utah’s Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, this secluded wonder requires a 50-mile drive down dirt roads and a 20-mile round trip hike to find. Only experienced hikers should attempt this adventure. Trekking over unmarked, rugged terrain with only the water and shelter you can carry is not for the faint of heart. But we can all enjoy this incredible picture. Photo by Wan Shi (www.sharetheexperience.org).
This sunrise photo was taken last year, but it paints a lovely picture of what Shenandoah National Park will look like as the weather gets warmer. Over 850 species of flowering plants grow in the Virginia park. The variety of colors and petals are fun to discover as you wander the trails and enjoy the gorgeous mountain views. Photo by N. Lewis, National Park Service.
Last month, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was redesignated as America’s 61st national park. Located in northwest Indiana, the park includes 15 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline and 15,000 acres of beaches, woods, prairies and marshes. If you love sand, surf and sun, start planning your visit to Indiana Dunes National Park. Photo by Rafi Wilkinson, National Park Service.