Badlands National Park vs. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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If you’re planning a vacation and would like a quick comparison of Badlands National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, we’ve got you covered.

We’ll take a look at what they have to offer in terms of hiking and wildlife, plus what the best time of year to visit might be.

Let’s get started with an overview of Badlands National Park.

Badlands National Park Overview

Badlands National Park is an incredible natural landscape located in the US state of South Dakota. Founded in 1941, Badlands is known for its sweeping canyons, rolling hills, and dramatic rock formations. The park is renowned for its rich variety of plants and animals, ranging from prickly cactus plants to bighorn sheep. There are also a number of historic sites within Badlands National Park, including Native American settlements and homesteads that exemplify the adventurous spirit of early settlers in the area. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing day hiking through scenic vistas or exploring the fascinating history of this iconic national park, Badlands has something for everyone!

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Overview

Ridge upon ridge of forest straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. World renowned for its diversity of plant and animal life, the beauty of its ancient mountains, and the quality of its remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture, this is America’s most visited national park. Plan your visit today!

Hiking At National Parks

Most national parks have some of the best hiking trails you’ll find anywhere in the US.

If you’re planning to take along your furry friend, double-check the rules before you go – as many of the parks have different rules about bringing animals along with you.

Badlands National Park Hiking Trails

Badlands National Park is home to some of the best hiking trails in the country. For those looking for an easy hike, the one-mile Notch Trail is a great option. The trailhead is located near the park visitor center, and the trail itself is relatively flat and well-maintained. For those looking for a more challenging hike, the seven-mile Castle Trail is a great option. The trailhead is located near the high point of Badlands Loop Road, and the trail features a number of steep climbs. However, hikers are rewarded with stunning views of Badlands formations along the way.

Best Hikes At Badlands National Park

The ratings below are based on user-submitted data at AllTrails.com

Hike Name Elevation Gain Difficulty Rating Type Average Rating
Sage Creek Loop 245.9736 5 loop 4
Sheep Mountain Table Road 180.7464 3 out and back 4.5
Notch Trail 39.9288 3 out and back 4.5
Castle Trail 95.7072 3 loop 4.5
The Door Trail 10.9728 3 out and back 4.5
Saddle Pass Trail 65.8368 3 out and back 4.5
Medicine Root Loop Trail 102.7176 1 loop 4
The Window Trail 1.8288 1 out and back 4
Cliff Shelf Nature Trail 19.812 1 loop 4
Fossil Exhibit Trail 3.9624 1 out and back 3.5

Hiking Overview at Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the best places to hike in the United States. The park has over 800 miles of trails, ranging from easy to difficult. For hikers who are looking for an easy hike, the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a great option. This 5-mile roundtrip hike winds through a beautiful forest and is mostly flat. For those looking for a more challenging hike, the 210-mile Appalachian Trail runs through Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This hike is not for the faint of heart, but those who complete it are rewarded with stunning views of the mountains. No matter what your hiking level, Great Smoky Mountains National Park has a trail for you.

Top 10 Hiking Trails at Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Hike Name Elevation Gain Difficulty Rating Type Average Rating
Jakes Creek Trail to Avent Cabin 146.9136 1 out and back 4.5
Mount Le Conte 993.9528 5 out and back 5
Gregory Bald via Twentymile 1145.7432 7 loop 4.5
Smokemont Loop Trail 428.8536 3 loop 4
Chestnut Branch Trail to Mount Cammerer 1005.84 5 out and back 4.5
Silers Bald and Forney Creek Loop Trail 1589.8368 7 loop 4.5
Cataloochee Divide Trail 850.6968 5 out and back 4.5
Chestnut Top Trail to Whiteoak Sink 602.8944 3 out and back 4
Brushy Mountain 528.828 5 out and back 4
Noland Divide Trail 1457.8584 5 point to point 4

Wildlife at Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park is home to a diverse array of plants and animals. The park’s landscape includes prairies, grasslands, and Badlands formations, providing habitat for many different species. Visitors to the park can expect to see bison, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, elk, and mule deer. Badlands National Park is also home to a variety of reptiles, including snakes and lizards. In addition, the park is home to more than 400 species of birds, making it a popular destination for birdwatchers. With such a diverse array of wildlife, Badlands National Park is an excellent place to enjoy the outdoors and observe some of America’s most iconic animals.

Wildlife at Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to an incredible diversity of plant and animal life. Over 10,000 species of plants and animals can be found throughout the park, making it one of the most biologically diverse areas in the world. Among the most popular animals in the park are black bears, white-tailed deer, elk, coyotes, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park bees. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is also home to a wide variety of bird species, including sandpipers, herons, woodpeckers, and red-tailed hawks. In addition to its abundance of wildlife, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is also home to some of the tallest trees in the eastern United States. The park’s forests are dominated by fir and hemlock trees, but you can also find maple, oak, and poplar trees throughout the park. No matter what time of year you visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there’s sure to be something new and exciting to see.

What’s the best time to visit?

A lot of times, weather can dictate when it makes the most sense to visit a particular national park.

Plus, depending on the types of activities you’re hoping to take part in, seasonality will be a huge factor in whether those things are even available.

Badlands National Park Weather Considerations

Badlands National Park experiences a wide range of weather conditions throughout the year. Temperatures can vary widely, from below freezing in the winter to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. The park also receives a significant amount of rainfall, which can make hiking and camping difficult. As a result, the best time to visit Badlands National Park depends on what activities you want to do. If you’re interested in hiking and camping, the spring months are typically the best time to go, as the weather is milder and there is less chance of rain. However, if you’re simply looking to enjoy the scenery, any time of year can be a good time to visit. No matter when you go, Badlands National Park is sure to provide an unforgettable experience.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Weather Considerations

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a beautiful place to visit any time of year. However, the weather can vary significantly depending on the season. In the winter, the temperatures can dip well below freezing, and the roads may be covered in ice and snow. Spring is a great time to visit, as the temperatures are milder and the flowers are in bloom. However, visitors should be aware that thunderstorms are common in the spring. Summer is the busiest time of year at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, as the weather is warm and sunny. However, visitors should be prepared for occasional afternoon showers. Fall is another great time to visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park, as the leaves change color and the crowds thin out. However, visitors should be aware that cold weather can arrive early in the fall, so it’s important to pack a jacket.