Big Bend, TX
The "Grande" Canyon
Big Bend is one of those hidden jewels in the national park system. Very hidden. Tucked in a far corner of southwest Texas, it's more than 100 miles from the nearest interstate, and at least 200 miles from the closest city.
But don't let distance stop you and your family from taking a trip here. The park, named for a curve in the Rio Grande River, closely rivals the Grand Canyon in beauty and adventure. There are more than 1,200 rugged square miles of stark desert, craggy, tree-covered mountains, steep river canyons, crystal clear skies, and untrammeled trails along the muddy ol' River.
What's more, Big Bend's far-flung location actually works in your favor. While others are jockeying for parking spaces at Arizona's big hole in the ground, your family can be taking a scenic drive, hiking, rafting, stargazing and rock scrambling -- all without crushing crowds.
Because of its remote desert location, you'll need to plan carefully. Reserve at least a long weekend for your visit, arrive before or after the searing summer heat, and include plenty of sightseeing stops -- not to mention bribes -- for your most fidgety travelers.