Great Basin National Park, Nevada

One of America's Best Parks to Hike

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White Sands National Monument

White Sands National Monument

This would have to be my favorite park to visit that allows dogs to explore with you. If you want to stay the night, pay $3 for the backcountry camping pass. You will have to haul everything in and out, but it's so worth it. The quiet nights and sunrise are unlike anything I'€™ve ever experienced elsewhere. 960 1280

Alison Turner  

Redwood National and State Parks

Redwood National and State Parks

A great way to feel completely insignificant is to visit this forest. The tall redwood trees will make you feel a bit like you took a step back in time. 960 1280

  

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

This is the most beautiful place I've ever seen. It was more incredible than I could have ever imagined. Over the years, I've visited several times and the best time to visit (in my opinion) is late August or early September. The kids and crowds thin out by then and the weather is gorgeous. 960 1280

Alison Turner  

Arches National Park

Arches National Park

Even if you only have time for a drive-through, it'€™s worth it. However, I would plan on going during the off season (late fall to early spring) to score a spot at Devils Garden, the park's only campground, and take an early hike to Delicate Arch. 960 1280

Alison Turner  

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park

This is the best place to climb a boulder and sleep among the stars. 960 1280

Alison Turner  

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

I went during the off season so I had the park to myself. If you want to bring a dog along, the off season (read: not summer) is best since the sand is cool to the touch and safe for paws. The views are simply amazing and if you want to hike to the top, you're in for a great workout. 960 1280

Alison Turner  

Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park

This is the best park to visit if you don'€™t like crowds. There is always an exception, but I took a hike to a natural arch and was the only person on the trail. The drive to and from the park is exceptional as well. 960 1280

Alison Turner  

Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park

I spent a month here during the summer without any reservations and lucked out at several campsites. There is even a hot spring as well as endless places to explore. 960 1280

Alison Turner  

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

I like to call this park a mini grand canyon without the massive crowds. It is quite spectacular to see. I recommend waking up before the sun to watch it rise on one of the many lookout spots. Simply beautiful. 960 1280

Alison Turner  

Lava Beds National Monument

Lava Beds National Monument

My second favorite national monument is mostly unknown. I stumbled upon it driving and instantly fell in love. There are so many caves to explore and because it's self guided, you can go at your own pace. Bring a headlamp and a flashlight and go as far inside of a cave as you feel comfortable. Feel daring? Turn off all your lights. 960 1280

Alison Turner  

We asked about your favorite national parks, and Travel Channel Facebook fans responded. First up: Acadia National Park in Maine where you can be one of the first people in the US to see the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain. 960 1280

Oscar Gutierrez  

Badlands National Park in South Dakota is partly managed by the Oglala Lokata tribe and includes 'Red Shirt Table,' the park's highest point at 3,340 feet. 960 1280

  

Zion National Park in Utah is known for canyons, wildlife, rivers and natural arches like the one pictured here. 960 1280

  

Rim Trail's elevation varies from 8,000 to 9,000 feet leading to Sunset Point in Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. 960 1280

  

Carved by the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon in Arizona was one of the first national parks in the United States. 960 1280

  

View from Clingman's Dome, the highest peak in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, along the border of North Carolina and Tennessee. Despite being at 6,643 feet, it offers a relatively easy, paved path to the observation tower. 960 1280

  

Sunrise view of Long's Peak from Trail Ridge Road, which runs through the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. 960 1280

  

Wild Goose Island in Saint Mary Lake, the second-largest lake in Glacier National Park, Montana. The park ranges from prairie to tundra, but only 25 active glaciers remain of the estimated 150 that existed in the mid-19th century. 960 1280

  

The second runner-up? Yosemite National Park. Yosemite Valley makes up only 1% of the park area, but this is where most visitors arrive and stay. 960 1280

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Known for its wildlife and geysers such as Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park was the fan favorite by far. Here the Great Fountain Geyser erupts on a perfect, sunny day. 960 1280

  

If you thought the only attraction between Utah and California were the gaudy lights of Las Vegas, then a visit to Great Basin National Park in Nevada is long overdue. Though the untrained eye might see little more than desert when driving through the Great Basin, a closer look will reveal a land full of flora and fauna that is in a state of constant change. Geologists even theorize that the Earth's crust below the basin may someday separate, dividing North America into two continents.

The best way to see Great Basin is by foot, and a number of well-maintained trails lead visitors to a variety of attractions. The Bristlecone Trail grants hikers the chance to see and learn about the rare and ancient bristlecone pine tree. These trees thrive in unusually adverse climates, and many are found in high-elevation groves within the park. These trees grow slowly in a twisted, gnarled fashion, and are known to survive for thousands of years; the tree known as "Prometheus" was found to be over 4,900 years old. From the Bristlecone Trail, visitors can take the Glacier Trail and see the only glacier to still exist in the Great Basin Desert. Lexington Arch, a six-story limestone arch that is quite possibly the park's main attraction, is accessible from the Lexington Arch Trail.

The grand landscape and determined plant and animal life of the Great Basin proves the tenacity of nature over time, and seems symbolic of the strength and courage of the ranchers and miners who settled this land over a century ago, thriving as they worked with, rather than against, natural resources.

Geological History
Great Basin National Park is part of the Great Basin Desert and includes the South Snake Range of mountains. These mountains are coined a "desert mountain island" because they are surrounded by a "sea" of desert. This region is called the Great Basin because the streams and rivers have no outlet to the sea; instead, water collects in salt lakes, marshes and mud flats, where it eventually evaporates. During the last ice age, glaciers covered the peaks of these mountains, and as the climate turned warmer, the area beyond the mountains became a desert.

Park Activities
Great Basin offers a variety of activities, and some are simply not to be missed. The only glacier in the Great Basin Desert lies at the foot of 13,063-foot-tall Wheeler Peak, and is easily accessible to visitors. Another popular stop for tourists is the looming Lexington Arch, a rare example of a natural arch carved entirely from limestone. Even after it seems that you've seen all there is to see in the Basin, more natural wonders await visitors underground! Lehman Caves offers glimpses of many shield formations, as well as stalactites, stalagmites, helictites and flowstone formations.

Where to Stay
One sure-fire way to fully appreciate Nevada's "Wild West" is with a stay on a real, working horse ranch. Hidden Canyon Guest Ranch lets visitors stay in tipis or bedroom cabins, all furnished with beds, electric blankets, carpeting and electric lights. When they're not enjoying the ranch's ATV tours or paintball games, guests can spend time with the Norwegian Fjord horses that are raised right on the property.

Nearby Sights/Side Trips
Whoever said cowboys weren't sensitive, or for that matter creative, obviously never checked out the Western Folklife Center in Nevada. This is the place that hosts the Annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering each January, a weeklong showcase of passionate rhymes, conversation, stories, singing, dancing, bona fide Western gear and some pretty darn good cookin'. This is an unforgettable peek into the other side of life on the range. Workshops stretch far beyond simple poetry writing and include everything from an "Introduction to Great Basin Swing Dance" to "Rawhide Braiding". The center features regular exhibits on Western Folklife Media as well as general folk arts.

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