Stretching almost 500 miles along the crest of the Appalachian mountains through North Carolina and Virginia, the Blue Ridge Parkway is the longest road planned as a single unit in the United States. Stretching far off its shoulders, the park protects a continuous series of panoramic views, excellent habitat for plants and wildlife, and encompasses some of the oldest settlements of both Native Americans and early European settlement. Those are just a few reasons why it’s known as one of the best drives in the world. Photo by Norman Lathrop (www.sharetheexperience.org).
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.
One of the longest continuously inhabited landscapes in North America, Canyon de Chelly National Monument is a place of natural beauty and living legends. A dry climate, sheltering cliffs and the watchful eyes of local residents protect the distinctive architecture, artifacts and rock imagery. Completely within the Navajo Nation in Arizona, the park’s signature vista is looking down at Spider Rock, an 825-foot-tall sandstone spire that got its name from the Navajo story of the Spider Woman. Rangers and Navajo guides share these stories to connect visitors to this special place. Photo by Nina Mayer Ritchie (www.sharetheexperience.org).
It’s the first day of spring! We’re excited about the promise of warmer weather and gorgeous wildflower blooms. Winter is still holding on in many places, but at Big Bend National Park, Texas bluebonnets blanket the hills in impressive numbers. Seeing the official state flower of Texas in full bloom across the landscape is a luxurious sight that you will never forget. March is a favorite time to visit the park, as the desert floor is covered in white, yellow and purple flowers. Just remember, as you explore, please be aware and careful – getting distracted by beauty is a real thing. Photo courtesy of Lee McMullen.
The last moments of light before the sun sets at Zion National Park in Utah are a sight to behold. The Watchman stands tall overlooking the Virgin River flowing along the iconic trail. A view like this is easier to achieve than you might think. Pick a few days and plan your next adventure. Photo courtesy of Kenny Chen.
The purple light of dawn glows in the morning sky above Mount Moran at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. The winter air is cold and fresh as frost and snow cover this gorgeous landscape. Less than 10 million years old, the Tetons are one of the youngest mountain ranges in North America. In that time, Mount Moran has risen 6,000 feet above the valley and supported the creation of Falling Ice and Skillet glaciers. Photo courtesy of Daniel Ewert.
For many public lands, one visit is never enough. Photographer Dawn Demaske made several summer trips to Badlands National Park in South Dakota, but hadn’t seen a winter sunrise until recently. Setting up near the park’s signature rock formations, Dawn watched the sky lighten. “The sunrise was spectacular and it was everything I wished it would be. I felt very fortunate to be there at that moment and I took it all in.” Photo courtesy of Dawn Demaske.
A blanket of snow and a river of fog soften the landscape of Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico. The park protects over 33,000 acres of rugged but beautiful canyon and mesa country as well as evidence of a human presence going back over 11,000 years. Petroglyphs, dwellings carved into the soft rock cliffs and standing masonry walls pay tribute to the early days of a culture that still lives in the surrounding communities. Photo by Andrew Gordon (www.sharetheexperience.org).
It’s the First Day of Winter! At many public lands like Arches National Park in Utah, winter offers relief from large crowds and high temperatures. Still, be aware of the challenges of snowy roads and slippery trails. With a little planning, you can enjoy frosty views and fresh air adventure. Photo by Michael Wu (www.sharetheexperience.org).
It’s easy to marvel at the striking symmetry of Shishaldin Volcano on Unimak Island. One of the many active volcanoes in Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, it stands 9,373 ft above sea level, making it the highest mountain peak on the Aleutian Islands. In this land of cold and ice, the steam from this smoking volcano makes a remarkable sight. Photo by Kristine Sowl, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.