National Parks Photo Contest Highlights America's Most Beautiful Scenery

Each year the National Park Foundation hosts its "Share the Experience" photo contest; a competition that encourages every day explorers to capture inspiring photos that highlight the very best views and adventures within U.S. national parks and public lands.

Open for entry between May 10 and December 31, 2013's contest saw close to 20,000 submissions and after a long deliberation, the winning photos were finally announced yesterday.

First place winner Courtney Kotewa of southern Michigan submitted a stunning shot that she captured during a family outing at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in northern Michigan along the shore of Lake Superior.

The gorgeous photo (featured below) won her $15,000, a Columbia Sportswear backpack, an Air Wick Limited Edition National Park Collection prize pack and a Federal Recreational Lands Interagency Pass. As part of her prize the photo may also be featured on the annual Federal Recreational Lands Pass.

The contest also awards second and third place prizes and includes honorable mentions and fan favorite photos on the winning entries page.

See this year's top five photos below.

1st Place: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Mich.

Photo Credit: Courtney Kotewa

2nd Place: Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wis.

Photo Credit: Michael DeWitt

3rd Place: Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Ariz. & Utah

Photo Credit: Darrell Staggs 

Fan Favorite: Grand Canyon National Park, Ariz.

Photo Credit: Peter Blanchard

Fan Favorite: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tenn.

Photo Credit: Manish Mamtani