The 10 Best National Parks

Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, CO

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Total Acres: 265,769

Number of Family-Friendly Trails: 25 (four are stroller-accessible)

Best Time to Visit: July and August, when temperatures reach the low 70s

  • Features the Beaver Boardwalk, a mini-trail that crosses a pond recently inhabited by colonies of beavers; signs posted along the trail tell the beavers' tale.
  • Schedules the Rocky After Dark programs, ranger-led flashlight tours focusing on identifying trees by touch and learning which animals see well at night.
  • Offers 260 miles of trails for horseback-riding; you can hire horses with guides.
  • Has 150 hotels, motels, and bed-and-breakfasts within five miles of the park's entrance.
  • Showcases a wide variety of wildlife, such as elk, mule deer, moose, and coyote.

In July and August, Rocky Mountain National Park offers a winter and a summer vacation. In the park's higher elevations, you can have a friendly snowball fight or build a snowman. At the lower levels, you'll be surrounded by wildflowers as you travel through more than two dozen short hiking trails in 70-degree weather. "Kids think it's cool to experience both climates in the same day," says Leanne Benton, park ranger. "Plus, children, from toddlers to preteens, enjoy participating in the park's activities."

Favorites include Tails for Tots (kids 3 to 5 learn about forest animals from puppet shows and stories), the Kids Adventure Program (6- to 10-year-olds pretend they're animals and discover the "Web of Life"), Come Bug a Ranger (kids 6 to 12 explore insects), and Fly's Feet and Grasshopper's Knees (children 6 to 12 learn about animals' senses).

Contact: 970-586-1206; www.nps.gov/romo.

Entrance fee: $15 per vehicle.

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