Fall is such a great time to explore the California coast! The weather is still warm, the summer fog is less prevalent, and trees, grasses and shrubs begin to show their fall colors. From its thunderous ocean breakers crashing against rocky headlands and expansive sand beaches to its open grasslands, brushy hillsides, and forested ridges, Point Reyes National Seashore offers visitors over 1500 species of plants and animals to discover. Home to several cultures over thousands of years, the Seashore preserves a tapestry of stories and interactions of people.
One of Colorado’s lesser known national parks is Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve. The tallest dunes in North America are the centerpiece in a diverse landscape of grasslands, wetlands, conifer and aspen forests, alpine lakes, and tundra. Here you can experience this diversity through hiking, sand sledding, splashing in Medano Creek, wildlife watching, and more! The park and preserve are always open, so you can also experience night skies and nocturnal wildlife.
The five national parks in Utah draw several million visitors from around the world each year to marvel at surreal scenery and create their own unforgettable experiences. A must-see is the sunrise over the towering depths of the canyons or perhaps at the famed Mesa Arch at Canyonlands National Park. Here you can explore a wilderness of countless canyons and fantastically formed buttes carved by the Colorado River and its tributaries. Rivers divide the park into four districts: Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and the rivers themselves. These areas share a primitive desert atmosphere, but each offers different opportunities for sightseeing and adventure.
Lily Lake offers splendid views of Longs Peak and Mount Meeker amid rocky outcrops. The broad, flat path begins by winding along the base of Lily Mountain, then meanders through meadow and open forest on the west shore of the lake, and finally passes through a wetlands area, populated by a variety of water fowl, on the southern shore. This level packed gravel trail encircles the lake, which features educational exhibits and a fishing pier. Strollers permitted. Enos Mills, the “father of Rocky Mountain National Park,” enjoyed walking to Lily Lake from his nearby cabin. Look for wildflowers in the spring and early summer. In the winter the trail around the lake is often suitable for walking in boots, or as a short snowshoe or ski.
Lily Lake offers hikers some of the best mountain views from an easy, roadside trail. The Diamond Face of Longs Peak towers to the south; the Twin Sisters, rocky escarpments skirted in scenic woodlands, lie to the east; and Lily Mountain, yet another spectacular stone-crowned peak, dominates the northern horizon. If you have the time, you can hike the nearby Lily Mountain trail, which lies outside the park proper.
To reach the trailhead from Estes Park, drive 6.3 miles south on Colorado Highway 7 to the Lily Lake parking area. You can park at the lake or in a dirt lot across the highway. In 1992 the Lily Lake area was purchased by Rocky Mountain National Park. Five years later, with funding from the Rocky Mountain Conservancy, the popular handicapped accessible trail was constructed using hard packed gravel. Although you can start in either direction, this description follows the loop in a clockwise direction.
In addition to being an outstanding family hike, the trail offers several picnic opportunities along the way. Fishing is also a popular activity, but is catch and release only. The lake is stocked with greenback cutthroat trout, a federally listed threatened species.
Photographer and graphic artist Rob Decker studied photography with Ansel Adams in Yosemite National Park during the summer of 1979 when he was just 19. IT was an experience solidified his love of photography and our National Parks. Now he is on a journey to photograph and create iconic WPA-style posters of all 59 major national parks as we celebrate the next 100 years of the National Park Service.
Click the images below to check out his three Rocky Mountain National Park posters!
Established on June 28, 1980, Biscayne National Park is the largest marine park in the National Park System and protects a rare combination of aquamarine waters, emerald islands, and fish-bejeweled coral reefs. Here too is evidence of 10,000 years of human history, from pirates and shipwrecks to pineapple farmers and presidents. Outdoor enthusiasts can boat, snorkel, camp, watch wildlife…or simply relax in a rocking chair gazing out over the bay. In the early 20th century the islands became secluded destinations for wealthy Miamians who built getaway homes and social clubs. Mark C. Honeywell’s guesthouse on Boca Chita Key was the area’s most elaborate private retreat, and featured a mock lighthouse.
If you are visiting for a day, you should sign up in advance for guided educational eco experiences with the Biscayne National Park Institute that can include sailing, snorkeling, paddling and exploring the islands. Programs range from a few hours to a full day, and highlight the park’s amazing wildlife, rich history, and awe-inspiring marine ecosystems. The true beauty of Biscayne National Park is that it offers a different experience for everyone. No matter what you’re interested in, you can learn more about the habitats and history of the park.
Established in 1944, Big Bend National Park is located in a remote part of Southern Texas and borders Mexico along 118 miles of the Rio Grande. It has national significance as the largest protected area of Chihuahuan Desert topography and ecology in the United States. It contains more than 1,200 species of plants, more than 450 species of birds, 56 species of reptiles, and 75 species of mammals. The Rio Grande corridor is also a migration highway for many species passing through the desert. Elevation contrast create varied microclimates that further enhance the diversity of plant and animal life.
Redwood National Park is known as the home of the tallest trees on Earth. Redwoods grow from the seeds the size of a tomato seed, yet can weigh 500 tons and stand taller than the Statue of Liberty. Its foot-thick bark makes the tree all but impervious to fire and insects.The parks also protect vast prairies, oak woodlands, wild riverways, and nearly 40 miles of rugged coastline. For thousands of years people have lived in this verdant landscape. Together, the National Park Service and California State Parks manage these lands for the inspiration, enjoyment, and education of all.
Volcanoes are monuments to Earth’s origin, evidence that its primordial forces are still at work. During a volcanic eruption, we are reminded that our planet is an ever-changing environment whose basic processes are beyond human control. As much as we have altered the face of the Earth to suit our needs, we can only stand in awe before the power of an eruption.
Established in 1916, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is located in the U.S. state of Hawaii on the island of Hawaii. It encompasses two active volcanoes: Kīlauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, and Mauna Loa, the world’s most massive shield volcano. The park provides scientists with insights into the birth of the Hawaiian Islands and ongoing studies into the processes of volcanism. For visitors, the park offers dramatic volcanic landscapes as well as glimpses of rare flora and fauna.
Known as the Crown of the Continent, at Glacier National Park you can explore and experience pristine forests, alpine meadows, rugged mountains, spectacular lakes, moraines and glaciers. With over 700 miles of trails, it is a hiker’s paradise for visitors seeking wilderness and solitude. Established in 1910, today you can relive the days of old through historic lodges, chalets, transportation, and stories of Native Americans.
Some 70 miles west of Key West Florida, in the Gulf of Mexico, lies one of North America’s most inaccessible national parks. Renowned for pirate legends, shipwrecks, and sheer unspoiled beauty, Dry Tortugas National Park harbors unrivaled coral reefs and marine life, an annual birding spectacle, and majestic Fort Jefferson, the largest masonry stronghold in the Western Hemisphere.