america's great outdoors

There are skies and then there are Blue Ridge Parkway skies. The southern end of the parkway in North Carolina winds through the highest elevations, offering dramatic mountain top views. When photographer Robert Stephens chanced upon this scene at Bear Trap Gap, he said “It almost felt like an out of body experience. You can’t believe what you’re seeing, but it’s there! I was so in awe of the light filtering over the ridges I had to remember to snap my shutter!” Photo courtesy of Robert Stephens.

Spring green joins nature’s vibrant palette at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Colorado. Late spring is one of the more visually stunning times of the year at the park, when aspen and cottonwoods show bright new leaves, Medano Creek is flowing and the mountains are still snowcapped. The unexpected combination of these diverse elements brings a response of awe, along with a desire to share the experience with others. Photo by Patrick Myers, National Park Service.

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Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin, USA

Here’s a photo to get your heart racing. The massive stone column at Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming – known as “Bear’s Lodge” or “Bear’s Tipi” to local tribes – rises 867 feet from its base. Hundreds of parallel cracks divide Devils Tower into large hexagonal columns, making it one of the finest traditional crack climbing areas in North America. Approximately 5,000 climbers a year test their skills on this amazing natural tower. Photo by National Park Service.

America’s public lands are wonderful places to love and be in love. Experiences in national parks, wildlife refuges and scenic wildernesses are even better when shared with the people you care about most. We’re celebrating these great love stories with this cute video of romantic moments on public lands. Thanks to everyone who shared their photos and helped make this sweet Valentine’s Day video!

If not for the foresight of a few individuals including Theodore Roosevelt, the American bison could have become extinct. Hunted to the edge of annihilation, by the early 20th century only a few small herds remained. In 1956, 29 bison were brought from Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge in Nebraska and released in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. Here they roam freely on 46,000 acres and number in the hundreds. Photo by National Park Service.

Happy Fathers Day! A father’s love runs as deep as the Grand Canyon. Thanks to all the dads for being such great teachers, providers and comedians. Enjoy your day (and if you’re heading outdoors, be sure to bring plenty of water – it’s going to be HOT)! Photo of Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona by W. Tyson Joye, National Park Service.

Fall can turn into winter quickly at Conway Summit Area of Critical Environmental Concern in California. The dramatic landscape includes spectacular mountains, valleys, lakes, streams and scenery that will take your breath away. Photo by Bob Wick, @mypubliclands.

Avalanche Lake at Glacier National Park in Montana is your perfect summer escape. Surrounded by old growth cedar and hemlock forests, the cool water of the lake takes the edge off the warmth of the sun. Marvel at the reflections in the lake and listen as the wind plays its symphony in the trees of this natural amphitheater. Photo by Tim Rains, National Park Service.