The 10 Best National Parks

Great Basin National Park, Baker, NV

Total Acres: 77,180

Number of Family-Friendly Trails: 10

Best Time to Visit: June to September, when high temperatures range from 60 to 70 degrees and rainfall is low.

  • Operates the Great Basin for Kids program; children of all ages meet in the amphitheater to learn about the park's flowers and trees and take magnifying boxes to a stream to identify insects.
  • Features 4,000- to 5,000-year-old Great Basin Bristlecone Pine trees; they were saplings when the Egyptian pyramids were built.
  • Lends backpacks with plant- and mammal-identification books and small tools that help families explore the park.
  • Employs a large number of guides and medical personnel.
  • Offers excellent hiking opportunities for families. At first glance, Great Basin National Park looks like a typical desert. But below and above ground, it's nothing of the sort.

Children love to take the 30- to 90-minute tours of Lehman Caves, a single limestone cavern that's more than 5 million years old. "Guides involve kids in the tours, asking them what kinds of animals they see in the cave's various formations," says Brandi Roberts, education program coordinator. After the tour, families can stop at nearby Lehman cafe for delicious ice cream sandwiches made with chocolate chip or oatmeal cookies.

The rest of the spectacular sights are uphill. From the Lehman Caves, hop in your car for the 12-mile journey along Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive. Climbing 3,400 feet, you'll pass through pinyon-juniper woodlands, a creek bed lined with aspen trees, a zone of mountain mahogany and manzanita, and dense forests of Englemann spruce and Douglas fir. Along the way, there are plenty of places to pull over and soak in the amazing view.

Contact: 775-234-7331; www.nps.gov/grba.

Entrance fee: Free.

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