Top 10 national parks, thanks to TripAdvisor

More than 3,000 TripAdvisor readers in the United States have selected the top 10 national parks. Big shock: nine out of 10 are out west. Only Maine made it onto the list. But, let’s face it – if you want big, impressive national parks, you have leave the East Coast.

These readers are definitely interested in the national park scene. More than 70 percent plan to visit one this year, up from 62 percent in 2008. And, searches on TripAdvisor for “national park” and “national parks” are up 21 percent for the first five months of 2009 (relative to the same period last year).

So, what are the top spots?

  1. Zion National Park, Utah
  2. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
  3. White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
  4. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
  5. Redwood National and State Parks, California
  6. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Nevada
  7. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
  8. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
  9. Yosemite National Park, California
  10. Acadia National Park, Maine

“As Americans look for inexpensive travel ideas this summer, many are seeking out the amazing natural beauty that lies in our country’s own back yard,” said Michele Perry, vice president of global communications for TripAdvisor. “National Parks can offer travelers an active, affordable and often awe-inspiring escape outdoors.”

Gun-friendly national parks possibly coming soon

I’ve been in national parks from Acadia in Maine to Glacier in Montana to Zion in Utah to the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina. (You can start humming “This Land is Your Land” if you like.) I’ve always felt safe–aggravated sometimes by over-sized RVs, but safe.

I even felt safe when I was hiking in Glacier with my husband, then boyfriend, when we saw a mother grizzly bear and her cub in the distance. We were far enough away from them that they looked like dogs. Even when my husband, then boyfriend, said, “All I have to do is out run you if they come for us,” I felt safe.

Evidently, I may not have been as safe as I thought. If I had had a gun, I’d feel safer. That’s the general idea of the proposal that is on the table to allow guns in the national park system. The people who think this is a good idea must have seen the “The River Wild’ several times over. That’s the flick when Meryl Streep‘s character takes on Kevin Bacon’s character–the bad guy, during a family raft trip down a river in some western state. It was filmed in Montana and Oregon.

There are people that think this idea is about as dumb as they come. According the this article in The New York Times, The national parks are supposed to be family-friendly. Family-friendly places don’t have guns. Look at this picture taken in Yosemite by James Gordon. Is there any place that looks more family-friendly than that? Plus, there is a chance someone feeling threatened might kill an animal when there isn’t a threat at all.

Personally, I’m on the side of folks who aren’t happy with the idea of guns in national parks. I’m a fairly calm person, but I know what it feels like to not find a parking space because some large vehicle pulling another large vehicle is taking up more than one space–or what it’s like to not be able to get around a large vehicle pulling another large vehicle on a windy road. Add summer heat, limited vacation time and you have to pee, but can’t stop because there’s no room to pull over, and you’ve got trouble. “Road Rage at the Grand Canyon” coming to a theater near you.