The sun sinks behind the horizon, coloring the sky a bright orange before night falls in South Florida. Big Cypress National Preserve protects 729,000 acres of unique freshwater swamp, offering refuge to a wide variety of plants and animals. From hardwood hammocks hiding rare Florida panthers to tidal estuaries teeming with birds and fish, there is so much to see in this wonderful place. Photo by National Park Service.
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).
As the sun nears the horizon of this huge, high-elevation valley at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, its intense light shines through soft atmospheric haze – shifting the color spectrum toward crimson. Early explorers were moved by this phenomenon and named this Colorado mountain range Sangre de Cristo, meaning the “Blood of Christ.” Visitors today are also inspired by the vibrant color and light in these mountains, which reach over 14,000 feet! Photo by Patrick Myers, National Park Service.
Famous for its place in space travel history, Canaveral National Seashore in Florida has wonders that are much easier to experience than the walking on the Moon. As high-tech rockets soar into space, sea turtles – one of the oldest animals still living on Earth – nest on a nearby beach. Walking paths lead visitors by more than 1,000 species of plants as exotic birds fly overhead. Mosquito Lagoon harbors an amazing variety of fish, oysters, crabs and shrimp. We also recommend settling in the sand and watching the sunset. Photo by Phillip Lott (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Happy Presidents’ Day! Tall and dignified, the Washington Monument on the National Mall and Memorial Parks in Washington, D.C., honors our first president, George Washington. Presidents’ Day is still officially “Washington’s Birthday,” but commonly includes Abraham Lincoln’s February 12 birthday in the celebration. Photo by Michelle Holshue (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Channel Islands National Park in California encompasses five remarkable islands and the surrounding ocean, preserving and protecting a wealth of natural and cultural resources. Isolation over thousands of years has created unique animals, plants and archeological resources found nowhere else on Earth. Besides being an amazing outdoor classroom, it’s also a great place to watch the sunset. Photo by Angela Scolaro (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 Niobrara Valley in Nebraska is home to Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge and 76 miles of the Niobrara National Scenic River. The valley boasts dramatic bluffs, gorgeous waterfalls, world-class fossil resources, rich forests, wide grasslands and incredible wildlife diversity. Over 350 bison live on the refuge, letting visitors enjoy iconic scenes like this sunset. Photo by Kristen Maxfield, National Park Service.
Tucson, Arizona, is home to the nation’s largest cacti. The universal symbol of the American west, these majestic plants are found only in a small portion of the United States and protected by Saguaro National Park. Here you have a chance to see these enormous cacti silhouetted by the beauty of a magnificent desert sunset. Photo by Debbie Angel (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).