The National Park system in the United States provides affordable access to gorgeous and dramatic landscapes around the country. Amateur photography from the annual Share the Experience contest showcase beautiful places to tempt you to visit for your summer vacation.
Double rainbows over the dunes in Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Photography credit: Eric Magayne
The National Parks are extremely cheap, and sometimes even free, to visit. Most have some variety of camping available, along with educational programs for packing a bit of science into your vacation. Check the National Parks website to find a park near you, or to plan a road-trip route between beautiful places.
Starfish at the shoreline of Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Photography credit: Greg Clure
If you head to a park for a fantastic nature-rich vacation, pack your camera. Submit your photos for the chance at winning cash prizes, park passes, and other goodies, all while simultaneously showcasing the beauty of these natural treasures.
A glacial backdrop highlights a scoured island in Kenai Fjords National Park. Photography credit: Michael McRuiz
This year, the contest categories are expanded to include Night Sky, which dovetails nicely with my obsession with national parks that double as recognized Dark Sky Parks like the ones in Arizona, Texas, and Utah.
Eroded rock layers at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Photography credit: Steve Perry
Even if you aren't going to enter the contest, the past winners make for stunning incentive to visit the parks. Check out the full gallery of winners here for 2013.