By Susan Farewell
No matter how many photos you've looked at, books you've read, or documentaries you've watched about the US National Parks, to understand just how magnificent they really are, you need to go see for yourselves. At the very least, plan to take the family to Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. But don’t wait to go when everyone else does.
While June, July and August are gorgeous months to be in Yellowstone, this is one of the world’s most truly magical winter wonderlands. With a backdrop of startlingly blue skies---and no crowds to compete with---the geysers are their most spectacular. The best way to visit in winter is to take one of the guided naturalist tours hosted by the Yellowstone Association Institute. Check out their lodging and learning programs.
Spring breaks in March or April are an especially good time to go to the Grand Canyon. It’s not as crowded and not as hot as it can be during the summer months. And…if you’ve always wanted to take a mule ride, it’s easier than ever. A three-hour ride is offered by Xanterra South Rim. This “Abyss Overlook Mule Ride” replaces the seven-hour trip to Plateau Point. You can reserve by calling toll-free within the United States at 1-888-297-2757.
If you’d rather keep your feet on the ground, the whole family can take a guide-led hike down into the canyon itself. The Grand Canyon Field Institute has a variety of hikes including a simple family-friendly “Meet the Canyon” day trip. Paths are three or four feet wide and a bit steep at times, but if you take your time and follow along, you’ll be fine.