Visitors to City of Rocks National Reserve in Idaho often get really into geology. With classic examples of features like tafoni, panholes, xenoliths and intrusions, the park makes an excellent outdoor classroom. But if you don’t find the rocks that fascinating, you can still enjoy the natural beauty of this rugged landscape. Photo by National Park Service.
One of the most daunting tasks facing visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park is choosing a trail. Start by deciding on what you would like to see. Waterfalls? Wildflowers and forests? Endless mountain views? Then decide how far you would like to hike. If you haven’t hiked much recently, be cautious. Five miles roundtrip is a good maximum distance for novices. Just remember to take plenty of water and your sense of adventure, and don’t forget to tell someone where you’re heading. Photo by Stavros Mitchelides (www.sharetheexperience.org).
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).
Colorful and bold, the sandstone cliffs at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan tower 50-200 feet directly above the dynamic waters of Lake Superior. Wind and water carved the stone into unique shapes. Chapel Rock is a favorite destination for visitors, who enjoy the nearby beach and taking photos of this interesting formation topped by a tree. Photo by Viktor Posnov (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Born in the Appalachian Mountains, the New River flows north through several states before joining the Ohio River system, then the Mississippi River and finally the Gulf of Mexico. In West Virginia, it tumbles through the wide valley of New River Gorge – an area rich in natural and cultural history. 70,000 acres of this forested valley are protected as New River Gorge National River, where people and wildlife can enjoy the endless natural splendor. Photo by Richard Burgess (www.sharetheexperience.org).
On the one mile Yahoo Falls loop trail at Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area in Kentucky, visitors can actually walk behind the waterfalls as they plunge 113 feet over the large rock shelf. In the deep forest, passing from sun to shade with the roar of the water in your ears and the spray of mist on your skin, it’s an adventure for all your senses. It’s just one of the many spectacular outdoor experiences you can have in this wonderful 125,000-acre park. Photo by Tom Wood (www.sharetheexperience.org).