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10. Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

This wilderness area preserves the largest exposed fossil reef in the world, with remnants from an underwater world that existed 260 million years ago when this part of West Texas was covered by the sea. Visitors can also see one of the park’s most famous landmarks, El Capitan (shown here), the tallest mountain in Texas, and hike a stream bed through the winding limestone walls of McKittrick Canyon, where deciduous trees and other vegetation stand in vibrant contrast with the surrounding desert. Though they are outside the boundary of the wilderness area, it’s also worth heading to the west side of the park to explore the curious Salt Basin Dunes where rare gypsum deposits glitter in the sun.

Photo © Vladimir Gorbenko/Dreamstime.

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Editor of Online Communications Jennifer Errick