By Hilary Howard
Updated: February 02, 2017

Photographer Ian Shive has shot hundreds of our nation’s wildest spaces, many of which appeared in The National Parks, Our American Landscape (Earth Aware). The only trouble: they’re often overrun with visitors. Here, Shive reveals five of his favorite experiences in parks both familiar and unsung.

National Parks: Maine

Acadia National Park: Scrambling up the granite rocks of Cadillac Mountain is a classic, but Shive recommends staying after sunset to watch the town of Bar Harbor light up. Where to sleep? “The Harborside Hotel ($$$) has a cozy, old Americana vibe.”

National Parks: Texas

Big Bend National Park: Langford Hot Springs is a series of 105-degree lithium-rich pools in a sheltered cove of the Rio Grande. “I like to lie there and look straight into Mexico.”

National Parks: Montana

Glacier National Park: To get away from the crowds on Going-to-the-Sun Road, Shive always stays at Granite Park Chalet ($), built a century ago seven miles into the backcountry and surrounded by panoramic mountain views.

National Parks: New Mexico

White Sands National Monument: If you’re lucky enough to get one of the 10 nightly backpacking permits here (given out daily; details at, you can walk the moonlit gypsum dunes and camp on pure white sand. “It’s like falling asleep in a Georgia O’Keeffe painting.”

National Parks: California

Channel Islands National Park: “Don’t miss snorkeling in the kelp forest filled with garibaldi fish, spiny lobster, and hundreds of sea lions,” Shive says of the so-called Galápagos of North America. The eight-island archipelago is home to red foxes, bald eagles, and bottlenose dolphins.

Ian Shive’s Photography Tips

Change Your Point of View: “Compositions shot at eye level are the most challenging to create, since we all experience the world from there. Kneel or climb up on a boulder for a more interesting perspective.”

Shoot at Dawn: “Take pictures before and after the sun crests the horizon, when the light is low and rich.”

Revisit the Same Spots: “I often come back to key locations, watching the weather and the light. Good photographers need to be Zen masters, constantly aware of everything around them.”

Hotel Pricing Key
$ Less than $200
$$ $200 to $350
$$$ $350 to $500
$$$$ $500 to $1,000
$$$$$ More than $1,000