Sometimes, going to national parks can feel like time travel. Exploring Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado gives you a chance to experience the preserved cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Pueblo people. Established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, the park contains 5,000+ known archeological sites – from the cliff dwellings to mesa top sites of pithouses, pueblos, masonry towers and farming structures. A visit here is like going 1,000 years into the past. Photo by Scott Reynolds (www.sharetheexperience.org).
With over 11 million people enjoying the park’s rolling splendor each year, Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee is always near the top of the list for yearly visitation. With epic views from Clingmans Dome and the sublime beauty of Cades Cove, it’s easy to see why so many people are drawn to this special place. Keep your eyes open for waterfalls, fireflies, black bears and amazing summer sunsets. Photo courtesy of Bob Carr.
This cute, little ball of fur is a baby snowshoe hare. 🐰 Brown in the summer and white in the winter, these adorable hares live in Alaska and forests in the upper elevations of the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains. Besides being shy, their natural coloring makes them hard to spot. This one was photographed at Denali National Park in Alaska before bounding away on its big, back feet. Photo by Tim Rains, National Park Service.
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.
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).
A true tropical paradise, National Park of American Samoa is the ideal island getaway. Photographer Ian Shive explains “The park is spectacularly beautiful. I was able to walk up the beach alone, without seeing any other people, just the occasional crab climbing out of a hole in the sand.” National Park of American Samoa is really ‘three parks’ on three separate islands–Ta’u, Ofu, and Tutuila in the South Pacific. Relax in the shade, learn about the area’s rich culture, snorkel and see an abundance of fish, and enjoy a walk along the beach. It’s time to recharge. Photo courtesy of Ian Shive.
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.
If you like strange and colorful landscapes, you’ve got to visit John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in Oregon. The yellows, golds, blacks and reds of the Painted Hills are striking and surreal. Changing light and moisture levels drastically affect the tones and hues visible in the hills. The seasons can also change the look of the Painted Hills. Spring often brings wildflowers that grow in between the hills, adding even more color. Photo by Chaney Swiney (www.sharetheexperience.org).
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).