They happen every day, and yet somehow sunsets seem to touch upon something profound and shared in the human psyche. Maybe it’s our innate fascination with ending and beginnings, or perhaps we just want a cool looking picture to use on our Facebook profile. Either way, a good sunset is something that is worth seeing. This is especially true when one gets away from the noise and light-pollution of the city. When the sun sets in the wilds of nature, it feels as if the planet itself is holding its breath. So while you plan your next visit to one of our country’s national parks take a moment and consider what kind of sunset you’re going to be treated to. Here are seven parks that you’ll want to be visiting when the sun starts sinking low.
Zion National Park
Located near Springdale, Utah, Zion national park is really one of the most beautiful canyon formations in the world. From the peak of Horse Ranch Mountain down to the lower deserts of Coalpits Wash some 5,000 feet below, the entire area is a banquet of visuals. This becomes especially true at sundown. Desert winds have a tendency to kick dust from the local sandstone up into the air, which produces some amazing red and pink effects when the sun begins to dip towards the horizon. And as that light plays across the already orange cliff faces, the whole area seems to glow like an ember.
Waterton Lakes National Park
One of the great things about sunsets, is that you can combine so many dissimilar ingredients and come up with a thousand different variations, and they all look amazing. Waterton Lakes National Park, sitting on the border between Alberta and Montana, has several of those ingredients: Mountains, various types of forests, high meadows and tundra, and some of the bluest lakes you could imagine. At sunset, the fading light plays across these components and creates a painted masterpiece. The last points to be illuminated are the mountain peaks, and they take on a shimmering golden hue, like beacons in the rapidly approaching darkness. And should you visit during winter, you’ll be treated to the many colors that snow can reflect during the twilight hours.
Unlike the other entries on this list, Mount Rushmore is a manmade wonder. Completed in 1941, the mountain features the carved likenesses of former US presidents Washington, Jefferson, T. Roosevelt, and Lincoln. The sun sets behind the figures (which are facing southeast) so you won’t be able to enjoy the extreme shadow play across the faces of our beloved former presidents. You will, however, get treated to an amazing silhouette of the mountain as the light fades behind it. Seeing the form of the sculpture without the details makes for an impressive sight.
Denali National Park
Located in Alaska and containing the highest mountain on the continent, Denali contains forests, tundra, mountains, and glaciers. Wilderness doesn’t get much wilder than this. The glaciers have carved some impressively jagged mountain formations, and when the sun sinks towards the horizon, these peaks sometimes take on very subtle hues of pink and even purple. At other times, the entire landscape is bathed in an unnatural sepia tone. And once the sun has disappeared, the sights continue, as Denali is far enough north for Aurora Borealis to make regular appearances.
Acadia National Park
Found on the coast of Maine, Acadia has lakes, woodlands, mountains, and a beautiful shoreline. And although east coast destinations don’t usually offer very good ocean-view sunsets, Acadia has the benefit of being made up of several islands. So you’ll get to enjoy the sun whether it’s coming or going. And if you’ve never seen islands when the sun in low on the horizon, it’s something you’re going to want to experience. The individual landmasses end up looking like they’re floating in a sea of fire.
Badlands National Park
Erosion isn’t always a very good thing, but when it comes to national parks, it’s awesome. Badlands National Park may sound like the last place that you’d want to enjoy a sunset, but despite its unappealing name, the park itself is an awe inspiring wealth of spires, slopes, cliffs, and buttes. As dusk approaches, the shadows lengthen across the uneven landscape and create high-contrast and fleeting works of luminescentart.
Yosemite National Park
has many of the things that have already been mentioned as being what make other parks great. It has snow covered mountains, verdant forests, various streams and rivers, and unique geological formations. What really sets Yosemite apart is Half Dome. Rising nearly 5000 feet above the valley and facing southwest, the formation seems as though it were created just so it could light up like a golden nugget whenever the day comes to a close. It’s a fitting addition to the Golden State, and yes, it would also make a good Facebook Timeline picture.