National Geographic Traveler
All travel, All the time

from July/August 2005
Authentic Shopping Guide

Photo: Indian shoes

Find authentic handcrafted items from around the world.
» Click Here

Ultimate Travel Library

Photo: travel books

Take a globe-spanning literary ramble with the world's best travel books.
» Click Here

Photo of the Week

Photo: Boats on the Douro River, Portugal

Brighten your workday! Download a new Traveler photo every week . . . free.
» Get Wallpaper

North Pole Photo Gallery

Photo: North Pole expedition

Learn how to enjoy the Eternal City's rich history, culture, and art without spending a single euro.
» Click Here

WorldWise Trivia Quiz

Photo: Marula fruit as a headdress

Test your geography IQ with our interactive quiz.
» Play Now

A*List: Best of Travel Newsletter

Photo: Vlissingen, Netherlands

Sign up for our newsletter packed with tried-and-true travel tips, exclusive deals, book discounts, and more!
» Click Here

51 Ways to Cut Vacation Costs

Photo: Los Angeles International Airport

Don't get caught in a tourist money trap. Learn how to avoid hidden charges, and get expert money-saving tips.
» Click Here


Destination Scorecard: National Parks

Hot Springs National Park
ARKANSAS (Score: 55)

"This urban park preserves the tradition of 'taking the waters.' Bathhouse Row is an architectural wonder" —which needs "millions more for renovation." The town's historic district is compatible, but not sprawl on the fringe.

21. Mount Rushmore National Memorial/Badlands National Park
SOUTH DAKOTA (Score: 54)

"Two different experiences. Badlands is relatively remote and unspoiled; Rushmore is like a shopping mall." Rushmore can still stir the patriotic blood, but gateways are "cheesy and sprawling" and relations with the Lakota Sioux, who claim part of Badlands, are "edgy."

22. Carlsbad Caverns National Park
NEW MEXICO (Score: 53)

 Panelists split on Carlsbad's tourist sections, from "good visitor control and education" to "significant formation damage" and "a case study in placing visitor use above sustainability. Shameful." Above ground, the park draws praise, the gateways criticism—"glitzy tourist attractions unsuited to the landscape."

Grand Canyon
National Park
ARIZONA (Score: 53)

At this "geological wonder of the world," South Rim throngs dominate the visitor experience. "The chances of finding a peaceful South Rim sunset spot are equal to winning at a Vegas casino." Many panelists also take points off for incoming air pollution, noisy overflights, too many cars generally, the failure to bring in trolleys instead, and disrupted water levels in the Colorado River. The Tusayan gateway is "filling up with fast-food and hotel chains with no sense of place."

Point Pelee National Park

"Heavily impacted by the feet of birders" and ecologically isolated between farmland and Lake Erie, tiny, stressed Point Pelee's birding fame has made bird habitats regionally popular, as in the lauded gateway town of Leamington.

23. Gettysburg National Military Park

The consensus on notoriously tacky Gettysburg? It's getting better. "Taking down the observation tower and curtailing the most obnoxious elements in the encroaching phalanx of fast-food establishments represents a victory." Park management is improving, and the historic downtown thriving, but so is adjacent sprawl and "a dense corridor of wax museums, T-shirt shops, and chain eateries."

Yellowstone/Grand Teton National Parks

"Yellowstone, our oldest national park, faces some of the most serious threats—water quality, erosion, overuse, wildlife issues. The local community is informed and supportive" except perhaps for the controversial snowmobile proponents, lambasted by many panelists, with a minority mildly dissenting. "Teton is in better shape than Yellowstone, but both are overrun" except for Yellowstone's big backcountry.

24. Cape Hatteras National Seashore

The nation's grandest stretch of barrier island beach is "obscenely over-developed" north of the National Seashore. "This place doesn't have the same family feel that it used to have." At the south end, Ocracoke still draws praise.

Rock Bottom

Destructive external pressures and major internal difficulties afflict three parks.

25. Shenandoah National Park
VIRGINIA (Score: 48)

Best of the beset by far, Shenandoah needs a buffer zone to protect its famous vistas from more residential sprawl. Haze, invasive species, and plant diseases add to its troubles. Several panelists agree on the secret to a visit: "Hoards drive along Skyline Drive and see each other's bumpers, but a back dirt road can take you to miles of hiking without a soul in sight." Gateway town centers retain some charm.

Traveler Subscription Offer

Our Picks

Center for Sustainable Destinations

Learn how to preserve the authenticity of the places you love.

» Click Here

National Geographic Traveler Places of a Lifetime
Our guides lead you to the best in ten world-class cities with photo galleries, walking tours, and what to know before you go.

Click Here

The National Geographic Traveler Reader Panel

Are you a real traveler? Someone who cares about authenticity? Who has a point of view about where we should travel—and how? Then tell us what you think and be eligible to win a trip to almost anywhere in the United States.

» Click Here