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.
Discover rich history, spectacular overlooks, unique rock formations, cascading waterfalls and an extensive trail system at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park in Kentucky. Following in the footsteps of Native Americans and early pioneers, modern day explorers can scramble up mountains or descend into the park’s elaborate cave system. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for wildlife, too. Deer, black bears, rabbits, raccoons, opossums, gray squirrels, foxes and wild turkeys are commonly spotted. Photo by Kim Maxwell (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Chase the sunset to Channel Islands National Park in California. Located over 12 miles off the coast, the park encompasses five remarkable islands and their ocean environment, preserving a wealth of natural and cultural resources. Each of the islands is a fascinating world unto itself with unique wildlife and awesome views. Sunset on Anacapa Island is a highlight for many visitors. Photo by Aaron Echols (www.sharetheexperience.org).
The peaceful beauty of a winter sunset at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon gives few hints of the landscape’s violent past. For approximately 400,000 years, volcanic eruptions built up a 12,000 foot mountain now called Mt. Mazama. 7,700 years ago, the volcano erupted in a cataclysmic explosion. Fatally weakened, the top of the mountain collapsed and created the hole – the caldera – that we now see today filled with pristine blue water. Photo courtesy of Albert Yang.
Evidence of magma just below the surface spills out and meets with the swirling clouds overhead. The rising steam you see from the crater during this time-lapse at Kīlauea in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is a good reminder of the monumental forces of creation and change that have shaped this landscape. The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory continues to closely monitor Kīlauea’s seismicity, deformation and gas emissions for any sign of reactivation. Video by Janice Wei, National Park Service.
The sun peeks out behind wispy clouds on a winter day at City of Rocks National Reserve in Idaho. With a warm coat and the promise of blue sky, you can enjoy an educational exploration of this fascinating park. Because of its complicated geologic history, City of Rocks is a perfect place to learn about the incredible forces that raised mountains, dropped valleys and stretched the Earth’s crust. Photo by Stephen King, National Park Service.
The desert can be a beautiful, but harsh place. At Saguaro National Park in Arizona, the namesake cacti grow very slowly, using a large root system to soak up all available water and nutrients. Rarely branching before the age of 50, an adult saguaro may weigh six tons and be over 50 feet tall. The average lifespan of a saguaro is usually 150 – 175 years, but biologists believe that some plants may live over 200 years. That means they’re patiently waiting for your visit. Photo by Hongxun Gao (www.sharetheexperience.org).
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.
A brilliant purple and orange sunset splashes across the sky off the George Washington Memorial Parkway in Virginia. The warm colors illuminate the cool winter scene of a partially frozen Potomac River. The parkway provides a scenic place to play and rest in the busy Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Photo courtesy of Geoff Livingston.