While not as famous as its fellow Utah parks, Capitol Reef National Park delivers the dramatic cliffs, canyons, domes and natural bridges you’ve come to expect from the heart of red rock country. Perfect for day hikes or week-long backcountry adventures, visitors can discover 200 million years of geologic history and pick fresh fruit and nuts from the 3,000-tree historic orchard. It’s a really sweet experience, but please remember to follow the posted rules and drop your money in the self-pay station. Photo by Douglas Croft (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Shifting light and dramatic skies make every view at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah unique. Along the rim of this natural amphitheater, visitors can look out over the forest of hoodoos from Sunrise Point to Sunset Point. Inspiration Point – seen here – offers an incredible panorama of this incredible landscape. Put it on your bucket list! Photo by Michael Barbuti (www.sharetheexperience.org).
The best part of camping at Badlands National Park in South Dakota is waking up in time to see the sunrise. The colorful rock formations – carved by wind and water over thousands of years – catch the glowing light of daybreak and display their rugged beauty. It’s a great way to start off the day before exploring ancient fossil beds and taking pictures of bighorn sheep and bison. Photo by Kevin Huston (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Sometimes we need to push ourselves. Get off the beaten path. Try something new. Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona offers backcountry adventures in a startlingly unique landscape. Deep blues, purples, reds and whites color the badlands and seem to shift throughout the day and with the seasons. Off the trail, you’ll need a good map, compass, sturdy shoes, sun protection, food and lots of water. The challenge is its own reward. The natural beauty is a bonus. Photo by Marlon Ignacio (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Here’s a great view from Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area on the Wyoming-Montana border. From the fabulous Pryor Mountain wild horses to majestic bighorn sheep, hundreds of bird species and a world-class fishery, Bighorn Canyon is an excellent destination for outdoors lovers. The centerpiece of the 68,000 acre recreation area is the canyon itself, boasting steep walls as deep as 2,500 feet in some locations. It’s quite a sight from hiking trails on the canyon rim or from a boat drifting on the river below. Photo by Todd Johnson, National Park Service.
Morning sunbeams shine down on Washerwoman Arch and Monster Tower at Canyonlands National Park in Utah. Two of many wonderful rock formations near the Island in the Sky Mesa, these stone towers are favorites of climbers wanting to test their skills. For visitors who want to keep their feet on the ground, Canyonlands offers hundreds of miles of hiking trails and remote roads for motorbikes and mountain bikes. Make sure to carry plenty of water and stop frequently to enjoy the amazing views. Photo by Dustin Baugh (www.sharethexperience.org).
Soaring above a maze of red canyons, the Fisher Towers are a dramatic sight along the Colorado River in Utah. A National Scenic Trail winds 2.2 miles around the stone pinnacles and climbs up to nearly 360 degree views. Experienced climbers can test their skills on the rock faces while less daring visitors can enjoy relaxing moments at the nearby Bureau of Land Management campsite. Pro-tip: clear nights offer incredible stargazing opportunities. Photo by Adam Jewell (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Layered rock formations rise like islands in an ocean of fog at Badlands National Park in South Dakota. From golden sunrises to star-filled nights, Badlands offers terrific chances to explore ancient fossil beds, observe a variety of wildlife and learn about the park’s fascinating cultural history. Young visitors, don’t forget to get your Junior Ranger badge! Photo by Barry Castetter (www.sharetheexperience.org).
The natural amphitheater of Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah provides the perfect venue for enjoying fascinating landscapes and stunning skies. In winter, snow decorates the bright cliffs and hoodoos. Make sure to take a walk along the Rim Trail for all the best views. Photo by Jim Su (www.sharetheexperience.org).
The rugged beauty of Badlands National Park in South Dakota is undeniable. From hiking past unique rock formations and fossil beds to watching bison run across the grasslands and the surprise of a swift storm moving in, outdoor adventures abound. Photo by Christina Laws (www.sharetheexperience.org).