Badlands National Park vs Denali National Park & Preserve

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Badlands National Park and Denali National Park & Preserve are two national parks that offer visitors vastly different experiences. The Badlands, located in South Dakota, is a rugged and otherworldly landscape of layered rock formations, deep canyons, and rolling prairies. Denali, located in Alaska, is home to North America’s tallest mountain, Denali, and offers visitors a chance to see some of the most iconic wildlife in the world such as grizzly bears, wolves and moose. Both parks offer visitors the opportunity to explore some of the most beautiful and unique landscapes in the country, but in very different ways. If you’re looking for a rugged, otherworldly adventure, Badlands National Park is the perfect destination. If you’re looking to explore the grandeur of nature and discover the wilds of Alaska, Denali National Park & Preserve is the place to go. In this article, we will take a closer look at the two parks and compare their landscapes, wildlife, and activities, making it easier for you to decide which park to visit next.

Hiking Trails in Badlands National Park and Denali National Park & Preserve

Badlands National Park and Denali National Park & Preserve both offer visitors a wide range of hiking trails, but the types of hikes that visitors can experience at each park can vary quite significantly.

Badlands National Park offers visitors a diverse range of hiking trails that vary in difficulty. Some of the easiest hikes in the park include the Door Trail, which is a short, 0.75-mile trail that offers visitors the chance to see the park’s unique rock formations and badlands landscapes. Another easy hike is the Fossil Exhibit Trail, which is a short, 0.25-mile trail that takes visitors to an area where they can see fossils of ancient animals that once lived in the area. For those looking for a more challenging hike, the Badlands Loop Road offers a 30-mile scenic drive that takes visitors through the park’s rugged terrain and offers several hiking opportunities along the way.

Denali National Park & Preserve, on the other hand, is known for its rugged wilderness and offers visitors a wide range of hiking trails that vary in difficulty. Some of the easiest hikes in the park include the Horseshoe Lake Trail, which is a 1.5-mile hike that takes visitors to a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains and offers great views of the park’s wildlife. Another easy hike is the Savage River Loop, which is a 2.5-mile hike that takes visitors through a beautiful forest and offers the chance to see a variety of wildlife. For those looking for a more challenging hike, the McKinley Bar Trail is a strenuous hike that takes visitors to the base of North America’s highest mountain, Denali, with a total distance of 17 miles.

In conclusion, both Badlands National Park and Denali National Park & Preserve offer visitors a wide range of hiking trails that vary in difficulty. Badlands National Park is known for its unique rock formations and badlands landscapes, while Denali National Park & Preserve is known for its rugged wilderness and the opportunity to hike to the base of North America’s highest mountain. Both parks offer easy and challenging hikes, but the difficulty level varies, and the hikes in Denali National Park & Preserve are more challenging than those in Badlands National Park.

Most Popular Hiking Trails in Badlands National Park

Name Length Elevation Type Difficulty Visitor Ratings
Notch Trail 1.30 mi 131.20 ft out and back Moderate 4.5/5
Castle Trail 10.48 mi 314.88 ft loop Moderate 4.5/5
The Door Trail 0.80 mi 36.08 ft out and back Moderate 4.5/5
Saddle Pass Trail 0.70 mi 216.48 ft out and back Moderate 4.5/5
Medicine Root Loop Trail 4.49 mi 337.84 ft loop Easy 4/5
The Window Trail 0.20 mi 6.56 ft out and back Easy 4/5
Cliff Shelf Nature Trail 0.50 mi 65.60 ft loop Easy 4/5
Fossil Exhibit Trail 0.40 mi 13.12 ft out and back Easy 3.5/5
Sage Creek Loop 22.75 mi 806.88 ft loop Hard 4/5
Sheep Mountain Table Road 14.57 mi 593.68 ft out and back Moderate 4.5/5

Most Popular Hiking Trails in Denali National Park & Preserve

Name Length Elevation Type Difficulty Visitor Ratings
Mount Healy Overlook Trail 4.29 mi 1,666.24 ft out and back Moderate 4.5/5
Horseshoe Lake Trail 2.10 mi 393.60 ft loop Easy 4.5/5
Triple Lakes Trail 18.46 mi 3,690.00 ft out and back Hard 4.5/5
Bison Gulch 6.98 mi 3,867.12 ft out and back Hard 4.5/5
Rock Creek Trail 4.39 mi 944.64 ft out and back Moderate 4/5
Taiga Trail 1.60 mi 206.64 ft loop Moderate 4/5
McKinley Station Trail 2.89 mi 373.92 ft loop Easy 4.5/5
Mount Thorofare Ridge Loop 4.09 mi 1,666.24 ft loop Hard 4.5/5
McKinley Bar Trail 4.59 mi 970.88 ft out and back Easy 4/5
Tiaga Loop and Horseshoe Lake Trail to Beaver Dam 2.99 mi 521.52 ft loop Moderate 4.5/5

Wildlife in Badlands National Park and Denali National Park & Preserve

Badlands National Park and Denali National Park & Preserve are both home to a diverse array of wildlife, but the types of animals, birds, and plants that are commonly seen in each park are quite different.

Badlands National Park is home to a wide variety of animals, including bison, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, bison, coyotes, and prairie dogs. Visitors may also spot mule deer, elk, and black-footed ferrets. The park is also home to a number of bird species, such as the golden eagle, the prairie falcon, and the burrowing owl. In terms of plants, the park is home to a diverse array of grasses, cacti, and wildflowers, as well as sagebrush and juniper trees.

Denali National Park & Preserve is home to a much wider variety of animals, birds, and plants than Badlands National Park. Visitors to Denali may spot grizzly bears, wolves, caribou, moose, Dall sheep, and marmots. In terms of birds, the park is home to a wide variety of species, including the golden eagle, the northern hawk owl, and the rock ptarmigan. In terms of plants, the park is home to a wide variety of species, including wildflowers, mosses, and lichens, as well as spruce, birch, and willow trees.

Overall, Badlands National Park is known for its rugged terrain, striking rock formations, and the variety of animals and birds that can be found in the park. Denali National Park & Preserve is known for its wider variety of animals, birds, and plants, as well as its breathtaking landscapes and the opportunity to see some of the most iconic wild animals of North America such as the grizzly bears, wolves, and caribou.

Below are lists of the most commonly spotted wildlife at Badlands National Park and Denali National Park & Preserve. However, you can see a full list of wildlife at each national park here.

Birds

Badlands National Park Denali National Park & Preserve
Peregrine Falcon Peregrine Falcon
Northern Harrier Northern Harrier
Sharp-Shinned Hawk Sharp-Shinned Hawk
Osprey Osprey
Tree Swallow Tree Swallow
Mallard Mallard
Canada Goose Canada Goose
Lincoln’s Sparrow Lincoln’s Sparrow
Ruby-Crowned Kinglet Ruby-Crowned Kinglet
American Robin American Robin
Great Horned Owl Great Horned Owl
Red-Tailed Hawk Red-Tailed Hawk
Northern Flicker Northern Flicker
Merlin Merlin
Barn Swallow Barn Swallow
Savannah Sparrow Savannah Sparrow
Great Blue Heron Hermit Thrush
Hermit Thrush American Kestrel
American Kestrel Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle Song Sparrow
Song Sparrow European Starling
European Starling Northern Pintail
Northern Pintail American Wigeon
American Wigeon Green-Winged Teal
Green-Winged Teal Swainson’s Thrush

Mammals

Badlands National Park Denali National Park & Preserve
Coyote Coyote
American Beaver American Beaver
Muskrat Muskrat
Big Brown Bat Little Brown Bat
Bobcat Black Bear
Striped Skunk Porcupine
Little Brown Bat Red Fox
Deer Mouse Mink
Raccoon Wolf
Porcupine Short-Tailed Weasel
Silver-Haired Bat Snowshoe Hare
Hoary Bat River Otter
Red Fox Common Shrew
Long-Tailed Weasel Water Shrew
House Red Squirrel
Mountain Lion Montane Shrew
Mule Deer Lynx
Gray Fox Wolverine
Long-Legged Myotis American Marten
Northern Myotis Northern Flying Squirrel
Badger Grizzly Bear
Weasel Meadow Vole
North American River Otter Moose
Common Shrew Least Weasel
Pacific Townsend’s Big-Eared Bat Pygmy Shrew

Amphibians

Badlands National Park Denali National Park & Preserve
Northern Leopard Frog Wood Frog
Tiger Salamander
Bullfrog
Woodhouse’s Toad
Plains Spadefoot

Fish

Badlands National Park Denali National Park & Preserve
Fathead Minnow Longnose Sucker
Golden Shiner Lake Trout
European Carp Northern Pike
Longnose Dace Burbot
Yellow Bullhead Coho Salmon
Channel Catfish Chinook Salmon
Black Bullhead Slimy Sculpin
Creek Chub Chum Salmon
Dolly Varden
Arctic Grayling

Beautiful Landscapes in Badlands National Park and Denali National Park & Preserve

Badlands National Park is famous for its unique and otherworldly landscapes. The park is characterized by layered rock formations, deep canyons, and rolling prairies. Visitors can explore the park’s many hiking trails, which wind through these landscapes and offer breathtaking views of the Badlands formations. Some of the park’s most popular hikes include the Badlands Loop Road, which offers a scenic drive through the park and several overlooks of the Badlands formations, and the Castle Trail, a challenging hike that takes visitors to the top of the highest point in the park, Pinnacles Overlook.

Denali National Park & Preserve is famous for its rugged and wild landscapes, and most notably for the mountain Denali, the tallest mountain in North America. The park is characterized by its vast expanses of wilderness, including tundra, taiga, and glaciers, which are home to a diverse array of wildlife. Visitors can explore the park’s many hiking trails, which offer breathtaking views of Denali and the surrounding wilderness. Some of the park’s most popular hikes include the Savage River Loop, which offers a scenic hike through the park’s taiga forest, and the Mount Healy Overlook Trail, a challenging hike that takes visitors to the top of Mount Healy and offers panoramic views of the park.

Both parks offer a unique and diverse set of landscapes, but in different ways. While Badlands is known for its layered rock formations and deep canyons, Denali is known for its rugged wilderness and tallest mountain in North America. Both are natural wonders that will leave visitors in awe.

Things To-Do and Activities in Badlands National Park and Denali National Park & Preserve

Badlands National Park and Denali National Park & Preserve are both popular tourist destinations, known for their unique landscapes and diverse range of activities.

Badlands National Park, located in South Dakota, is known for its rugged terrain, featuring layered rock formations and deep canyons. Visitors to the park enjoy hiking and backpacking on the park’s many trails, as well as wildlife viewing, particularly bison, bighorn sheep, and pronghorn. The park also offers scenic drives, including the Badlands Loop Road, which takes visitors through the park’s most iconic landscapes.

Denali National Park & Preserve, located in Alaska, is home to the highest mountain in North America, Denali (formerly known as Mt. McKinley). Visitors to the park can enjoy hiking and backpacking on the park’s many trails, wildlife viewing, particularly grizzly bears, wolves, and Dall sheep, and scenic drives along the park road, which takes visitors deep into the park’s wilderness. The park also offers backcountry camping and mountaineering opportunities, with guided climbs of Denali being a popular activity.

In summary, both Badlands National Park and Denali National Park & Preserve offer a wide range of activities including hiking, backpacking, wildlife viewing, scenic drives and camping. However, Denali National Park & Preserve has a unique feature of providing the opportunity of climbing the highest peak in North America, Denali.

Best Time to Visit Badlands National Park and Denali National Park & Preserve

Badlands National Park and Denali National Park & Preserve are both located in very different climates, which affects the seasonal weather and the best time of year to visit each park.

Badlands National Park is located in South Dakota, and the weather there can be quite hot and dry during the summer months, with temperatures often reaching into the 90s Fahrenheit. The park is also known for its strong winds, which can make hiking challenging. Spring and fall are generally considered the best times to visit the park, as temperatures are cooler and the wildflowers are in bloom. Summer is also a good time to visit, but it can be very hot. Winters are cold and the park can be covered with snow and ice, making it difficult to access many of the trails and roads.

Denali National Park & Preserve is located in Alaska, and the weather there can be quite cold and snowy during the winter months, with temperatures often dropping well below freezing. The park is also known for its long daylight hours during the summer months, which can make hiking and other outdoor activities more pleasant. Summer is considered the best time to visit the park, as the weather is milder and the wildflowers are in bloom. The park can be accessed by car and the park road is open for public use from mid-May through mid-September. Winters are very cold and snowy, making it difficult to access many of the trails and roads, and many facilities are closed.

Overall, the best time to visit Badlands National Park is during the spring and fall, when temperatures are cooler and the wildflowers are in bloom. The best time to visit Denali National Park & Preserve is during the summer, when the weather is milder and the wildflowers are in bloom, and the park road is open for public use.

Family Friendliness of Badlands National Park and Denali National Park & Preserve

Both Badlands National Park and Denali National Park & Preserve offer a variety of activities for families to enjoy, but they each have their own unique features that make them more or less family-friendly.

Badlands National Park offers a variety of short, easy trails that are perfect for families with young children. The park also offers a Junior Ranger program, which is a great way to engage children in learning about the park’s unique features. There are several picnic areas and overlooks with great views of the park’s stunning landscapes. The Ben Reifel Visitor Center offers educational exhibits and ranger-led activities during the summer months.

Denali National Park & Preserve is a bit more challenging for families with young children, as the park is quite remote and the weather can be harsh. It is a great destination for families who are looking for a more rugged, wilderness experience. The park offers a variety of ranger-led activities, including guided hikes and wildlife viewing. There is also a Junior Ranger program. Denali is a great destination for those who enjoy spotting wildlife such as grizzly bears, wolves, lynx, and moose.

Overall, If you’re looking for a more rugged, wilderness experience with a good chance of spotting wildlife Denali National Park & Preserve is the place to go. But if you’re looking for an easier and more accessible park with a variety of short, easy trails that are perfect for families with young children, Badlands National Park is a better option.

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