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Partly within the Los Angeles city limits, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in California is home to a small population of mountain lions. National Park Service researchers have monitored more than 50 mountain lions in the park since 2002. Roaming freely, these big cats face unique challenges living so closely to urban areas. Photo by National Park Service.

Big enough to be overwhelming, still intimate enough to feel the pulse of time, Black Canyon of the Gunnison exposes you to some of the steepest cliffs, oldest rock and craggiest spires in North America. This western Colorado landmark was sculpted by the Gunnison River and the forces of weather over 2 million years. Photo of a snowy and fog-filled canyon by Judd Clark, National Park Service.

Sequoia National Park is the land of giants with huge mountains, deep canyons and the world’s largest trees. It can be hard to appreciate the size of the giant sequoias – the largest are as tall as an average 26-story building, and their diameters at the base exceed the width of many city streets. Explore this special place and all other public lands with free entrance on Monday for Presidents’ Day. Photo by Volunteer-in-Parks Hal Gamble.