For nature photographers, America’s national parks are the most exciting venues in the world. Nowhere else can you find such dramatic combinations of wildlife and breath- taking scenery. Not only is the potential for outstanding imagery unmatched elsewhere, but the infrastructure of roadways, lodges, campgrounds, and stores makes access and logistics simple. Here’s one very experienced photographer’s take on the 15 not to miss—plus one that will break your heart.
**Quick Tip: **At any park, your first stop should be the visitor center, where the staff generally have on-the-scene knowledge of the nature and state of the attractions. They can tell you where wildflowers are blooming, elk are rutting, and waterfalls are surging, and can provide an up-to-the-minute weather forecast and the exact time of sunrise. They can inform you about campsites and road closures, too. Spend some time at the bookstore browsing picture books, calendars, postcards, and posters to get a feeling for the park’s photographic potential. This will not only inspire you but also help you formulate a shooting plan.
**This photo: **Toroweap Overlook is arguably the most spectacular view in Grand Canyon, is accessed by 60 miles of rough gravel road in the remote northwest sector of the park.
Big Bend offers stunning scenery, gorgeous flora in all seasons, easily approached wildlife (roadrunners, coyotes, songbirds), pleasant weather, and no crowds except during holidays. Its varied terrain includes the rugged Chisos Mountains soaring to nearly 8,000 feet, expanses of cactus and creosote-studded Chihuahua desert spread over tilting planes, and dark canyons of the Rio Grande. Photographers neglect it only because of its isolated location in southern Texas. Plan to visit in late winter/early spring when temperatures are mild and wildflowers at their peak.