April and May bring mild, dry weather — ideal conditions for hiking and river rafting in West Texas. The park, amid the Chisos Mountains and the Rio Grande, offers the best of those two recreational worlds. In spring, the usually languid Rio Grande sees its fastest days, and the river has carved three remarkable canyons: Santa Elena, Mariscal and Boquillas. For civilization, look no farther than funky Terlingua Ghost Town, just west of the park entrance. Standby restaurants include the Starlight Theatre, a historic movie house that's now an eatery and nightspot, and the cave-like barbecue joint La Kiva. — Photo by Ian Shive/Aurora
Believe it or not, while spring is almost at an end, many of the West's national parks remain snow-covered until July. So why not explore some of the Southwest's desert parks before the heat and the crowds arrive? Now is also a good time to head to Yellowstone for an early view of the wildlife. If you plan to visit national parks in the spring, here are seven great ones to explore.