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For 10 decades, the National Park Service has been protecting our nation’s natural resources and providing awe-inspiring sights to people of all ages.

In honor of the National Park Service’s 100th birthday celebration, here are outtakes from three life-changing and perspective-altering adventures I’ve had in these brilliant and beautiful wild spaces.

Glacier National Park, West Glacier, Mont.

Depending on the season, Glacier National Park — located in the pristine and rugged mountains of Montana — is known as a paradise for cross-country skiers, anglers, backpackers, and hikers.

In addition to the glorious namesake glaciers and spectacular lake views, its diverse habitat is home to 71 species of mammals, including moose, bighorn sheep, elk, red fox, bats, and black bear.

glacier sheepTopping the scale at 300 pounds, it’s best not to lock horns with bighorn sheep.

glacier mooseIn many states, the moose population is in decline, which makes sightings a rare and beautiful gift.

Canyonlands National Park, Moab, Utah

If you think geology rocks, then Canyonlands is the place for you.

The park’s four districts — Island in The Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and The Rivers — offer visitors a colorful trip back in time thanks to powerful forces of erosion. The Green and Colorado Rivers began carving paths out of the sedimentary rock layers that form the glorious canyons 300 million years ago. Wind, rain, and snowmelt continue changing the landscape, creating new wonders.

canyonlandsTrails of all shapes and sizes cut through the rugged landscape of Canyonlands.

canyonlands 2The Needles District offers stunning views of the vast and majestic Colorado Plateau.

Crater Lake National Park, Crater Lake, Ore.

Often covered by clouds, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States. Its pristine and pure water is fed solely by rain and snow. (Use the web cam to see if it’s visible today!)

Backpackers come to roam the 170,000 plus acres of old growth forest, while cyclists come from far and wide to ride the Rim trail.

phantom ship

Phantom Ship is 400,000 years old and used to be one of the peaks of Mount Mazama, the former volcano that erupted and fell into the Earth, forming the caldera that became Crater Lake.

crater lakeWizard Island is a cinder cone inside the caldera that is Crater Lake.

Heidi Wachter is an Experience Life staff writer and editor of the magazine’s Head Out department. 

Photography by Heidi Wachter

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