The 10 Best National Parks

Mesa Verde National Park, Mesa Verde, CO

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Total Acres: 52,122

Number of Family-Friendly Trails: Five (two are accessible for jogging strollers)

Best Time to Visit: May and June, when it reaches 70 to 80 degrees and rainfall is low.

  • Features the largest selection of ancestral Pueblo structures and cliff dwellings in the world; the Junior Ranger program offers guided tours.
  • Houses a Kids' Room in the on-site Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum.
  • Will host an Indian Arts and Culture Festival May 25 to June 1 with activities for kids.
  • Offers 400 campsites and the Far View Lodge; atop an 8,000-foot mesa, all rooms have private balconies, which are perfect for star-gazing.
  • Has low injury rates and many first-aid stations and trained medical professionals.

Mesa Verde (Spanish for "green table") provides all the activities that you'd expect at a national park -- like hiking and wildlife viewing -- but its real treasure is the thousands of magnificently preserved ancient Pueblo cliff dwellings. Two family favorites: Spruce Tree House (it consists of more than 140 rooms that kids can see) and Balcony House (children like crawling through a tunnel on their hands and knees). "Families leave here with an understanding of Native American culture and language," says William R. Morris, the chief of interpretation. "Plus, the park often spurs children to ask about their own ancestors."

Contact: 970-529-4465; www.nps.gov/meve.

Entrance fee: $10 per vehicle.

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