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National Parks's insider take:

Three striking—and strikingly different—national parks are a short drive from Telluride. About two hours south is Mesa Verde, where visitors can climb a 32-foot-tall ladder, crawl through a 12-foot-long tunnel, and then scamper an additional 60 feet up ladders and stone steps to visit Balcony House, a 14th-century Anasazi cliff dwelling ( Two and a half hours west, in Utah, is Arches National Park, where eons ago rushing waters carved out arches, narrow canyons, and oddly-shaped rocks ( Near Montrose, Colorado, about 90 minutes north, is Black Canyon of the Gunnison, established in 1999. Eleven hundred feet across at its narrowest point and 2,772 feet deep, the canyon's dark walls are shaded most of the day, begetting the name. Fly-fishing, kayaking, and hiking rarely get more dramatic (

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