There’s no wonder why Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one our most popular national parks for hiking. The rolling mountains along the North Carolina – Tennessee border are gorgeous in all seasons, but the transition to bright fall colors is a sight to behold. In golden sunset light, the beauty of this place is overwhelming. Photo by Jerome Ginsberg (www.sharetheexperience.org).
In 1792, America’s first planned industrial city was established around the Great Falls of the Passaic River. Harnessing the power of the falls, cotton and silk mills began to spring up along the river. It was here in Paterson, New Jersey, that the American Industrial Revolution was born, making our country an economic player on the world stage. Today, the history and the stunning falls are protected as Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park. Photo by volunteer Terry McKenna, National Park Service.
The rolling plains and scattered wetlands of Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge in Montana were created by receding glaciers more than 12,000 years ago. Today, these lands and waters serve as habitat for a great variety of wildlife, especially migrating waterfowl. Depending on the season, the sky can hold a lone eagle, fill with waves of tundra swans or show dramatic sunset colors. Photo by Christal Steele (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Happy 40th birthday, Badlands National Park! This South Dakota park was established on this day in 1978, and it’s anything but bad. Long before it was a park, the Badlands’ rugged beauty has drawn visitors from around the world. These striking geologic deposits contain one of the world’s richest fossil beds. Today, the park’s 244,000 acres protect an expanse of mixed-grass prairie where bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs and black-footed ferrets live. Photo by William Green (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Buffalo National River in Arkansas flows pure and clear over a 132-mile meandering course through grassy meadows and by rocky bluffs. Its ancient current gives life to well over 300 species of fish, insects, freshwater mussels and aquatic plants. In addition to the thriving aquatic life, on land there are many more natural wonders to behold: caves with hidden formations, untrodden passageways, tall waterfalls and old pioneer farmsteads that provide food for elk, whitetail deer, wild turkey, bobwhite quail and many other species of wildlife. Settle on a rock by the river and you’ll see for yourself. Photo by John Bingaman (www.sharetheexperience.org).
In a land of stark white sand, a little fall color really stands out. White Sands National Monument in New Mexico preserves part the world’s largest gypsum dunefield. Gypsum sand is considered rare because gypsum is water soluble – it dissolves in water like sugar in iced tea. The 275-square miles of dunes are comprised of over 4.5 billion tons of gypsum sand. It is one of the many things that make White Sands a unique and special place. Photo by Jim Langford (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Just an hour from downtown Washington, D.C., Douglas Point offers a tranquil respite from the rush of the city. Several hiking trails (including part of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail) lead through a beautiful hardwood forest to narrow beaches along the Potomac tidewaters. The Bureau of Land Management and the State of Maryland jointly acquired about 1,270 acres of land known as Douglas Point, and it’s one of the last remaining undeveloped tracts along the Potomac River. In addition to connecting nearby residents to the outdoors, Douglas Point offers visitors a chance to learn about the region’s history – close by are a Civil War encampment site of approximately 25,000 troops, archeological sites and the evolving ecosystems of the shipwrecks at Mallow Bay. Photo by Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management, @mypubliclands
Forested hills slope down to the banks of the mighty Mississippi River at Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa. The yellow leaves of maple trees are catching the sunlight, providing a lovely and soothing atmosphere for hikers, anglers, kayakers and photographers. Other autumn visitors include thousands of migrating birds pausing at the refuge as they make their way south. Photo by Jessica Bolser, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Fall colors frame a stunning view at New River Gorge National River in West Virginia. From over 1,000 feet above the river, you can look down on the clouds nestled in the valley below and enjoy sweeping views of mountains and forests. The park encompasses over 70,000 acres of land along the New River, which is rich in cultural and natural history, and offers spectacular scenic and recreational opportunities. Photo by National Park Service.
From mountaintops to underground caves, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park encourages discovery. Located at the junction of Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia, Cumberland Gap was the first gateway to the West and helps tell the stories of Native Americans, pioneers, Civil War soldiers and mountain communities. With historic buildings scattered among the forested mountains, it’s easy to feel like you’re going back in time. Visit in the autumn for spectacular fall colors. Photo by National Park Service.