The night sky over Joshua Tree National Park is a glittering dome of sparkling stars, bright planets and streaking meteors – but most people no longer get to see it where they live. In urban and suburban settings, artificial lighting and atmospheric pollutants wash out the light of the stars. Boasting some of the darkest nights in Southern California, Joshua Tree offers many visitors the chance to admire the Milky Way for the first time in their lives and was recently designated an International Dark Sky Park. Photo by Brad Sutton, National Park Service.
Death Valley National Park is famous for its spectacular spring wildflower displays. While the intensity of the bloom varies greatly from year to year, flowers are never totally absent. This year, wildflowers are generally sparse along popular scenic routes, but intrepid photographers like Michael Hardridge are finding desert sand verbena blooming at Ibex Dunes, a remote area that requires a 4-wheel drive vehicle and good route finding skills. For exceptional wildflowers this year, head to other southern California parks like Joshua Tree and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Sunset photo taken on March 4 courtesy of Michael Hardridge.