The violet light of sunset reflects on the water at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland, while this great blue heron concentrates on its next meal. Great blue herons live year-round in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and spend most of their waking time fishing. Growing up to 4 feet tall with a wingspan of more than 6 feet, they are graceful birds flying through the air or wading in the water. Where is your favorite place to watch great blue herons and other birds? Photo by Kaila Ferrufino (www.sharetheexperience.org).
The road to Clingmans Dome is open again, offering visitors the chance to enjoy stunning mountain views up to 100 miles. At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the tallest mountain in Tennessee. It’s 7 miles to the end of Clingmans Dome Road, and there are scenic pullouts with endless views of ridges and valleys along the way. The road ends in a large parking area where a short trail leads to an observation tower on top. Photo by Vivek Sharma (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Along the lower reaches of the Columbia River in Washington, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge preserves unique habitat for wintering birds and other fascinating wildlife. Quiet and attentive visitors may be treated to the sight of a long tailed weasel running across a trail or a group of river otters playing in the water. Look out over distant fields and you might see a coyote hunting for rodents or a white tailed deer grazing watchfully. The refuge is a place where people can share a bond with nature, and each other, by passing on outdoor traditions to new generations. Sunset photo by Donna Torres (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).
What a view! The blue-green waters of Lake Superior stretch out from the gray cliffs at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan. Lake Superior is the largest, coldest and most pristine of the Great Lakes. It has the largest surface of any freshwater lake on earth and it is the third largest lake by volume. Storms, snow, fog, humidity, temperatures and wind generated from the lake impact every park ecosystem, causing dramatic seasonal changes. Photo by Gregory Lloyd (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).
As evening falls over Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, the sunset sends light streaming over the silhouetted Teton Range. It’s one of the most beautiful sights you’ll ever see. Until sunrise lights up the mountains the next morning. Photo by Robert Warrington (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Thanks to a recent donation, Sabinoso Wilderness in New Mexico is now publicly accessible for the first time since it was established. Hikers, hunters, photographers, horseback riders and outdoor enthusiasts can now marvel at the sandstone cliffs of Canyon Largo, gorgeous cottonwood and ponderosa forests, and ancient pueblo ruins. With very little evidence of humans, the wilderness is an excellent place to find solitude and recreation. Photo by Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management.
Over 1.25 million years ago, a massive volcanic eruption created a 13-mile wide dimple in northern New Mexico. Hot springs, fumaroles and Redondo Peak, a 11,00-foot tall lava dome, reveal the caldera’s geologic past. Most of the area is now part of Valles Caldera National Preserve. Native Americans in the area used volcanic obsidian for arrowheads and spear points, starting a hunting tradition that lives on in the park today. Photo by Andrew Gordon (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Bering Land Bridge National Preserve in Alaska erupts with color during the short fall season. You can find more than gorgeous views and amazing wildlife here, though. Field research continues to uncover evidence of prehistoric animals and the first people to settle the continent. Photo by Katie Cullen, National Park Service.