As you enter Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in California, Moro Rock looms overhead, thousands of feet above the highway. This large granite dome is a spectacular geologic feature that can be enjoyed from above or below. A concrete and stone stairway leads over 350 steps to the summit where views open up from the foothills and San Joaquin Valley to the west, to deep into wilderness to the east. View from the top of Moro Rock by Cheryl Dickinson (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Like the park’s namesake tree, every visit to Joshua Tree National Park in California is different. Some are wide ranging and unpredictable, others are short and prickly, and some of them look best under a starry night sky. Grab your water bottle and find out which Joshua Tree experience is for you. Photo by Hannah Schwalbe, National Park Service.
As the golden sun dips behind El Capitan at Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas, a scattering of yellow remains on the desert plain. Skeleton-leaf goldeneye blooms throughout the late summer, growing in bunches up to 6 feet wide. An exceptionally drought-tolerant plant, it thrives in the dry soil of the desert plain below the mountains. Photo by Kelly Feeney (www.sharetheexperience.org).
In the calm of Chippewa Harbor at Isle Royale National Park in Michigan, the waters of Lake Superior look more like a bathtub than the largest lake in the country. The park occupies the entire 40-mile-long island, offering excellent hiking, boating and incredible views of the lake. Put it on your summer bucketlist! Photo courtesy of Kaitlin Knick.
Mountaintop sunrise viewing is a popular experience at Haleakala National Park in Hawaii, but there’s a lot more to do there. The Kīpahulu District of the park is located where the mountain slopes down to the rugged Maui coastline. Visitors are treated to views of waterfalls, extensive hiking trails, sweeping ocean vistas and Hawaiian cultural demonstrations. Some of the camping sites are tremendous places to enjoy the sunset. Photo by Vladislav Nodelman (www.sharetheexperience.org).
The wildflowers are on full display at Lemhi Pass in Idaho. This location is where Lewis and Clark crossed over the Continental Divide in 1805. This marked a major milestone in the U. S. westward expansion, but Lewis and Clark were not the first people to use the pass. They followed a well-traveled Shoshone Trail. Sacajawea lived as a child below the pass along Agency Creek until age 12 when she was captured during a battle with another another tribe and forced to North Dakota. It was here that she became part of the Corps of Discovery with Lewis and Clark and proved to be invaluable to the success of the expedition. Today the pass is traversed by a 35-mile long graded unpaved Backcountry Byway through public lands. Interpretive pullouts and scenic views abound. Pictured here are arrowleaf balsam-root (yellow), lupine and delphinium (purple) at sunset. Photo by Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management, @mypubliclands
If patience was a plant, it would be a Bristlecone pine. Cautiously growing in the harsh terrain of Great Basin National Park in Nevada, these amazing trees can grow to be more than 5,000 years old. Gnarled, twisted and scattered in groves on rocky ground, Bristlecone pines make excellent subjects for photos, especially with a night sky or sunset backdrop. Photo by Thomas Sikora (www.sharetheexperience.org).
One of the earliest wildlife refuges, Quillayute Needles was created by Teddy Roosevelt to protect and enhance habitat for seabird populations. Today 13 species of seabirds nest and raise their young on these windswept islets, rocks, reefs and islands that stretch along Washington’s coast. Black oystercatchers tend pebbly nests at the water’s edge, common murres lay gravity defying eggs on barren ledges, and tufted puffins burrow their nests deep into the loamy bluffs. Kelp beds surrounding the islands provide territory for a growing reintroduced sea otter population to cavort. While the refuge is closed to human disturbance because of it’s fragile and remote nature, visitors can view the refuge and its inhabitants at one of the several beaches in Olympic National Park. Photo by Melissa Hahn (www.sharetheexperience.org).
There is no best place for watching the sunset over the Grand Canyon – just great places and even better places. Look for viewpoints in the national park that jut into the canyon for views both east and west, and plan to arrive as much as 90 minutes before sunset. Don’t rush off. Stay at least 10 minutes after the sunsets and is no longer illuminating the buttes and pinnacles of this Arizona landmark – the sky may light up red, pink or orange. Photo courtesy of Jacob W. Frank.
As the snow melts on the rugged peaks of Kit Carson Mountain, water flows into seasonal creeks, weaving through valleys and around the massive Star Dune at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Colorado. The water, sand and stone catch the light and show unique textures that make photos of the park often look like oil paintings. Taking pictures, making memories and learning the stories are great ways to experience this unique park. Photo by Patrick Myers, National Park Service.