Memo to TripAdvisor: If you're going to crow about your survey running down the top 10 parks in the National Park System, make sure they're all in the National Park System and, preferably, make sure they're all "national parks."
Yes, yes, yes, we're sticklers here at the Traveler. But if you can't come up with 10 gems in the National Park System, you haven't gotten out enough. Really, with 391 units in the park system, you'd think that if you're going to name the top 10 "national parks" that you could stick within the system, right?
Well, the folks at TripAdvisor didn't see it that way. Their top 10 list is really a top 9 plus one U.S. Bureau of Land Management unit. And even the nine within the park system aren't formally "national parks."
According to TripAdvisor, "America's Best National Parks" are Zion, Grand Canyon, White Sands National Monument, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Redwood National and State Parks, Grand Teton National Park, Mount Rainier National Park, Yosemite National Park, Acadia National Park and Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.
Oh, wait a minute. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area isn't in the National Park System. It's a BLM unit.
Now, Red Rock Canyon no doubt is very beautiful. But it doesn't meet the requirements of the survey's title. When I pointed that out to the folks at TripAdvisory, they replied, "As a natural area incredibly popular with our travelers, we thought it was appropriate to include Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in the top 10 list even though it is not a unit of the National Park System."
Would they add a casino to the park system if it were popular with their travelers?
Popular it might be, but it's not part of the park system, and there are countless other "national parks" that it couldn't hold a candle to. Parks such as Glacier, Great Smoky Mountains, Rocky Mountain, Great Sand Dunes, North Cascades, and no doubt every "national park" in Alaska. I could go on, but you get the idea.
Oh, and White Sands National Monument? True, it's part of the park system, but it's a "national monument" not a "national park."
Mystery photo solution: Yep, it's none other than Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Nice, but not a park. Or even a monument.