Rays of sunlight create a mesmerizing glow that illuminates Yosemite National Park in California. Spectacular autumn colors decorate the trees, enhanced by the morning’s soft light. As we shift from busier seasons into quieter ones for most of the national parks, take a minute to reflect. Winter is coming, and it’s sure to be its very own incredible adventure. Seasons may shift, but the resonating beauty offered at Yosemite continues to ignite the imagination and hearts of many. Photo by Menchor Cuizon (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Though many may assume that the high desert of Arizona is hot, dry, and barren, it is, in fact, full of life and color. Located near the Four Corners in northeastern Arizona, Canyon de Chelly National Monument experiences all four seasons, but Fall is arguably the best. The air is crisp and filled with the aroma of juniper and pinon burning in the wood stoves of traditional hogans dotting this still inhabited canyon. The cottonwood trees lining the wash start turning a vibrant yellow, creating a lovely display in this sacred place. Photo and words courtesy of Nina Mayer Ritchie.
Classy and classic, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming provides views that are nothing short of epic. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone was created when the Yellowstone River carved down more than 1,000 feet to create the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The Upper and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River add to the grandeur of the unique natural treasure. Witnessing Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, you’ll instantly know why it’s one of the most photographed and popular areas in the park. Have you seen this wonder for yourself? Photo by Peter Mangolds.
It turns out, the golden views at Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge are what you find at the end of the rainbow. This Colorado wildlife refuge offers glimpses of both the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Great Sand Dunes National Park in the distance. The auto-tour route between April and early fall allows a drive, in solitude, amongst wetlands home to dozens of bird species. Along the Rio Grande River Trail, you will see a wide variety of habitats, from lush grasses to dense stands of willow, to towering cottonwood trees. Photo courtesy of Patricia Henschen.
You can take a deep breath while you’re here with permission to marvel. From Cape Royal, the southernmost viewpoint on the North Rim, visitors witness the most comprehensive panorama of any Grand Canyon overlook, providing breathtaking expansive views across the canyon. With seemingly unlimited vistas to the east and west, this view is popular at both sunrise and sunset. The North Rim of the canyon is open for the season until October 15th, but we celebrate the views and memories made all year long. Photo by Shu Xu (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Inspiration point overlooks winding ridges and a dazzling view of Channel Islands National Park in California. Close to the mainland, but far enough to have low visitation, the park encompasses five of the eight California Channel Islands (Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel and Santa Barbara). Aside from stunning and serene views, this park supports incredible wildlife diversity. The Channel Islands are home to over 2,000 plant and animal species, of which 145 are found nowhere else in the world. Photo by Gary Fua (www.sharetheexperience.org).
It’s easy to have a good time in Badlands National Park in South Dakota. The park’s rugged beauty comes from millions of years of geologic forces building up and tearing down this unique landscape and can be explored from numerous trails. Visitors can see bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs and black-footed ferrets in their native habitat as well as the fossilized remains of ancient mammals like three-toed horses, oreodonts and saber-toothed cats. Pretty cool. Photo by David Restivo, National Park Service.
A social media darling, Horseshoe Bend has become one of the most recognized and visited places at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Arizona. Below the red rock rim, the Colorado River makes a wide sweep around a sandstone escarpment, created a roughly 1,000-feet deep, 270º horseshoe-shaped bend in Glen Canyon. It’s a breathtaking view and a glimpse into the area’s geologic past. Photo courtesy of Josh Packer.
Photographer Saxon Smith loves making the drive out to Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma. It’s a great place to escape the city and explore a lovely natural area. “After a gorgeous hike among wildflowers and blooming cacti this spring, we stayed in the refuge until dusk to see the sunset before heading home. As with most Oklahoma sunsets – especially with the backdrop of our beautifully worn and ancient Wichita mountains – it did not disappoint.” Photo courtesy of Saxon Smith.