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).
The name Observation Point mildly describes the epic view from this overlook at Zion National Park in Utah. More than 2,000 feet below, the North Fork of the Virgin River winds through the lush canyon, curving around the dramatic fin of Angels Landing. If the elevation gain of the hike there doesn’t take your breath away, then the view surely will. Photo by Leslie Poole (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Bobcats thrive at Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument in New Mexico but are rarely seen. Mostly nocturnal, they use stealth and excellent night vision to hunt small mammals in darkness. Bobcats are usually tawny with darker spots and streaks on their body and legs, and light-colored undersides. They have short black tufts on their ears and a ruff of longer fur on their face. The kittens may look like ordinary house cats, but they quickly grow to twice the size of domestic cats. Photo by 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).
Interior employees are happy to be back at work, welcoming visitors to America’s public lands like Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. A half inch of rain two weeks ago brought relief and a rainbow to this wildlife refuge in southwest Arizona. Running down the Kofa Mountains and spreading across the Sonoran Desert, the water was quickly sucked up by towering saguaro cacti, spiky prickly pears and rare fan palm trees. The refuge was established in 1939 following a campaign of local Boy Scouts hoping to preserve habitat for desert bighorn sheep. Their dream really did come true. Photo by Tom Brown, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service volunteer.
Peek-a-boo! Can you spot the deer at Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico? Best known for its fantastic cave system, the park also boasts above ground wonders like rocky canyons, a cactus-covered desert and wonderful wildlife. Take your time and see it all. Photo by Charlie Reed, National Park Service.
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).
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.
Located within the Pacific Flyway, Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge in California is an important resting and nesting place for migrating birds. With a fascinating history and an uncertain future, the refuge takes visitors 227 feet below sea level to witness a stunning desert landscape. It can get extremely hot in August, but well prepared adventurers can still find gulls and migrating shorebirds. Photo by Sarah Chah (www.sharetheexperience.org).