It’s International Mountain Day! Not only are mountains majestic, they’re also critical to the water cycle, food production and tourism. If you asked someone to draw a mountain, they’d probably sketch something like the rugged beauty of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. With its snow-capped peaks catching the sunrise light above the Snake River, it’s one of the most stunning sights in America. Photo by Adam Jewell (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Some sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway have already seen snow this year, but we couldn’t let fall come to a close without one more amazing photo of autumn splendor. The forested mountains of North Carolina and Virginia are the perfect showcase for changing leaves and amazing sunrises. Each turn on the road and trail overlook provides a breathtaking view. Photo by Ric Chamblee (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 because you live in a city doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the outdoors. Urban wildlife refuges provide an easy escape to nature for millions of Americans every year. Within view of Denver’s skyscrapers, visitors to Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge can see bison, bald eagles, snow geese and sunsets. It’s just one of many resources for city dwellers. Find more: www.fws.gov/urban/wildlifeRefuges.php Sunset photo by Dave Showalter, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
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).