There are plenty of things you cannot see from outer space: your home, the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal. Most man-made structures are hard to enjoy from beyond the edges of low Earth orbit (save for, debatably, the Great Wall of China). Nature, on the other hand, takes on a whole new kind of beauty from the edges of our atmosphere.
In 2016 the National Park Service saw over 330 million visitors across its 84 million acres. On the ground level, those numbers are huge. From space, the numbers seem a bit more manageable. While considering your next trip, explore some of these iconic sights the way our national bird might: from above.
Olympic National Park
NASA astronaut Jeff Williams made this composite image of Olympic National Park, highlighting some of the park’s well-known glaciers and rugged peaks.
Yellowstone National Park
The iconic Grand Prismatic Spring and Excelsior Geyser Crater of Yellowstone stand out in this satellite image, but the lesser known Opal Pool and Turquoise Pool are worth exploring as well. The parking lot and highway to the right give you a true sense of scale in relation to these massive natural wonders.
Grand Canyon National Park
The jagged edges of the Grand Canyon rim are intersected by an extensive stretch of snow, giving this satellite image a wonderfully intricate, abstract look.
Kenai Fjords National Park
It can be challenging to find your bearings amidst the depth, colors, and textures of this aerial look at Bear Glacier in Kenai Fjords. Jagged pieces of ice break off into melted blue waters in this satellite image.
Katmai National Park
Rich blues and bright whites dance through the light and shadows around Katmai National Park. Clouds roll in from the right, but from the sky they appear to blend with the white mountains.
Biscayne National Park
This view of Biscayne National Park provides a glimpse into the dramatic and diverse shades of blue as the depth changes around Biscayne Bay. The pristine greens of the national park islands of Sands Key, Elliott Key, Totten Key, and Old Rhodes Key stand in stark contrast to the coast and the islands around it.
Grand Teton National Park
Though you cannot see a state line crossing from space, this view shows the vastness of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, as well as neighboring cities of Driggs, Darby, and others in Idaho.
Acadia National Park
This park blends in seamlessly with its surroundings on Mount Desert Island and the inlets and islands surrounding match the lush green terrain.
Death Valley National Park
Just north of Funeral Peak, the Badwater area of Death Valley National Park exposes its intricate layering of springs and accumulated salts that make up the “bad water” in the pool of the basin. The Badwater basin is also the lowest point in North America and an elevation of 282 feet.
Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park
Kilauea, one of five volcanoes that created the island of Hawai’i, is protected by Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park in the southeast of the Big Island. Kilauea is still one of the most active volcanoes on Earth.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
On the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, you’ll find the peaks and rivers of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. While the terrain looks serrated and harsh from above, the rushing mountain streams are a beautiful sight from the ground or the sky.
Check out some of the most popular parks or our favorite lesser-known parks. All 59 parks are free on April 15-16 and April 22-23, 2017 in celebration of National Park Week.