Once you’re done with Thanksgiving leftovers, try getting out and exploring. We recommend a morning hike at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. Earlier in November, photographer Claire Codling captured this gorgeous moment. “The sun rose slowly over Thor’s Hammer, turning the hoodoos a glowing orange and red. The early morning mist and golden sky gave a real magical feel to the morning.” Photo courtesy of Claire Codling.
Take a walk through the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness in New Mexico, and you’ll feel like you’ve crossed over into another world. The natural elements have etched strange rock formations made of interbedded sandstone, shale, mudstone, coal and silt. With a myriad of unusual forms and shadows, this area is a photographer’s dream. Just be sure to come prepared with water and GPS or hire a guide. It’s important to come prepared, so the only way you get lost is in wonder. Photo by Jim Mangum (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Is it just us or does it look like these sunrise clouds are getting ready to fight? The forces of nature are powerful indeed, and the rugged landscape of City of Rocks National Reserve in Idaho is testament to more than two billion years of geologic upheaval. Faults stretch, mountains rise, ranges extend and wind and rain scour and smooth everything. The park’s unusual rock formations tell these ancient stories, leaving room for future tales under the ever-changing sky. Photo by National Park Service.
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.
As you drive or hike through western North Dakota, the gently rolling hills open up dramatically into the varied and colorful layers of the badlands. This is the same landscape that Theodore Roosevelt traveled to in 1883 to hunt bison and later spent time on his ranch. Today, a visit to Theodore Roosevelt National Park lets you explore the rugged badlands, prairies and forests that Roosevelt once called home. Photo by Yang Lu (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Get away from the crowd and venture into the amazing solitude of Capitol Reef National Park in Utah. Marked hiking routes lead into narrow, twisting gorges, slot canyons and to spectacular viewpoints high atop the Waterpocket Fold. Water, wind and gravity have shaped Cathedral Valley’s free-standing monoliths, or temples, out of the soft reddish-orange sandstone, leaving visitors feeling like they’ve stumbled onto an alien planet. Enjoy the beauty, but remember to take plenty of water and Leave No Trace. Photo by Dan Mitler (www.sharetheexperience.org).
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).