Big Bend National Park vs Great Basin National Park

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Big Bend National Park and Great Basin National Park may not be located in the same region of the country, but they both offer visitors a chance to explore some of the most spectacular natural landscapes in the United States. From the rugged desert terrain of Big Bend to the snow-capped peaks and ancient bristlecone pines of Great Basin, these two parks offer vastly different experiences for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you’re looking for a rugged backpacking adventure or a leisurely stroll through a beautiful alpine landscape, these parks have something for everyone. So pack your bags, grab your hiking boots, and get ready to explore two of America’s most breathtaking national parks.

Hiking Trails in Big Bend National Park and Great Basin National Park

Big Bend National Park and Great Basin National Park are both popular destinations for hikers, but the types of hiking trails offered at each park vary.

Big Bend National Park offers over 150 miles of trails, ranging from easy nature walks to strenuous backcountry hikes. Some of the easiest hikes in the park include the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Trail, which is a 0.5-mile loop that takes visitors through the park’s desert ecosystem. The Lost Mine Trail is a 4.8-mile hike that takes visitors to the summit of the Chisos Mountains and offers spectacular views of the surrounding desert. The park also offers some of the most challenging hikes like the South Rim Trail, which is a 14-mile hike that takes visitors to the summit of the Chisos Mountains and offers a strenuous hike with steep elevation gain.

Great Basin National Park offers a variety of trails, ranging from easy nature walks to strenuous backcountry hikes. Some of the easiest hikes in the park include the Bristlecone Pine Trail, which is a 0.3-mile hike that takes visitors to the ancient Bristlecone Pine trees. The park also offers some of the most challenging hikes like the Baker Lake Trail, which is a 14-mile hike that takes visitors to the beautiful Baker Lake and offers a strenuous hike with steep elevation gain. Another challenging hike is the Wheeler Peak Trail, which is a 8.5-mile hike that takes visitors to the summit of the 13,063-foot Wheeler Peak, the highest point in the park.

In summary, Big Bend National Park and Great Basin National Park both offer a wide range of hiking trails, from easy nature walks to strenuous backcountry hikes. Both parks offer challenging hikes like the South Rim Trail and the Baker Lake trail in Big Bend National Park and the Wheeler Peak trail in Great Basin National Park, but also offer easy hikes like the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Trail and the Bristlecone Pine Trail.

Most Popular Hiking Trails in Big Bend National Park

Name Length Elevation Type Difficulty Visitor Ratings
Lost Mine Trail 4.19 mi 1,098.80 ft out and back Moderate 5/5
South Rim Trail – Boot Springs Trail 10.98 mi 2,328.80 ft loop Hard 5/5
The Window Trail 5.19 mi 947.92 ft out and back Moderate 4.5/5
Emory Peak Trail 8.48 mi 2,400.96 ft out and back Hard 5/5
Santa Elena Canyon Trail 1.50 mi 610.08 ft out and back Easy 4.5/5
Balanced Rock Trail 1.90 mi 232.88 ft out and back Easy 4.5/5
Boquillas Canyon Trail 1.20 mi 229.60 ft out and back Moderate 4/5
Hot Springs Canyon Trail 5.49 mi 921.68 ft loop Moderate 4.5/5
Outer Mountain Loop 24.05 mi 5,707.20 ft loop Hard 4.5/5
Big Bend Hot Springs Trail 1.10 mi 127.92 ft loop Easy 4/5

Most Popular Hiking Trails in Great Basin National Park

Name Length Elevation Type Difficulty Visitor Ratings
Wheeler Peak Trail via Stella Lake Trail 8.18 mi 2,906.08 ft out and back Hard 5/5
Bristlecone Pine Glacier Trail 4.49 mi 1,059.44 ft out and back Moderate 4.5/5
Alpine Lakes Trail 2.69 mi 469.04 ft loop Easy 4.5/5
Lehman Cave 0.40 mi 45.92 ft loop Easy 4.5/5
Bristlecone and Alpine Lakes Loop 5.29 mi 1,013.52 ft loop Moderate 4.5/5
Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive 23.25 mi 3,857.28 ft out and back Easy 4.5/5
Baker Lake Trail 10.38 mi 2,669.92 ft out and back Hard 4.5/5
Teresa Lake 1.50 mi 305.04 ft out and back Moderate 5/5
Baker Lake-Johnson Lake Loop 12.87 mi 4,365.68 ft loop Hard 4.5/5
Lexington Arch Trail 2.89 mi 1,118.48 ft out and back Moderate 4/5

Wildlife in Big Bend National Park and Great Basin National Park

Big Bend National Park and Great Basin National Park are both home to a diverse array of wildlife. At Big Bend, visitors may see animals such as desert bighorn sheep, mule deer, black bears, mountain lions, and coyotes. The park is also home to a variety of bird species, including golden eagles, roadrunners, and peregrine falcons. Additionally, Big Bend is known for its diverse plant life, including cacti, yucca, and agave.

Great Basin National Park, on the other hand, is known for its alpine and subalpine habitats, and as a result, the wildlife found there is quite different from that of Big Bend. Visitors to Great Basin may see animals such as bighorn sheep, pronghorn, and elk. The park is also home to a variety of bird species, including golden eagles, great gray owls, and peregrine falcons. Additionally, Great Basin is known for its coniferous forests and aspen groves, as well as its wildflowers in summer and fall.

Both parks are great for wildlife viewing and offer unique and diverse experiences. Big Bend is a great destination for those interested in desert wildlife, while Great Basin is a great destination for those interested in alpine and subalpine wildlife.

Below are lists of the most commonly spotted wildlife at Big Bend National Park and Great Basin National Park. However, you can see a full list of wildlife at each national park here.

Birds

Big Bend National Park Great Basin National Park
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 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

Mammals

Big Bend National Park Great Basin National Park
Coyote Coyote
American Beaver American Beaver
Muskrat Muskrat
Big Brown Bat Big Brown Bat
Bobcat Bobcat
Striped Skunk Striped Skunk
Deer Mouse Little Brown Bat
Raccoon Deer Mouse
Black Bear Raccoon
Porcupine Porcupine
Silver-Haired Bat Silver-Haired Bat
Hoary Bat Hoary Bat
Long-Tailed Weasel Red Fox
House Mouse Long-Tailed Weasel
Mountain Lion House Mouse
Mule Deer Lion
Common Gray Fox Mink
Gray Wolf Mule Deer
Long-Legged Myotis Gray Fox
American Badger Gray Wolf
California Myotis Long-Legged Myotis
Fringed Myotis Long-Eared Myotis
Brazilian Free-Tailed Bat Badger
Townsend’s Big-Eared Bat Ermine
Western Harvest Mouse Californis Myotis

Reptiles

Big Bend National Park Great Basin National Park
Sonoran Gophersnake Racer
Prairie Rattlesnake Greater Short-Horned Lizard
Ring-Necked Snake Rubber Boa
Common Side-Blotched Lizard Long-Nosed Leopard Lizard
Desert Kingsnake Eastern Collared Lizard
Texas Nightsnake Eastern Fence Lizard
Long-Nosed Leopard Lizard Long-Nosed Snake
Mexican Milksnake Desert Spiny Lizard
Central Texas Whipsnake Western Fence Lizard
Smith’s Black-Headed Snake
Big Bend Tree Lizard
Eastern Collared Lizard
Glossy Snake
Long-Nosed Snake
Desert Spiny Lizard

Amphibians

Big Bend National Park Great Basin National Park
Barred Tiger Salamander Tiger Salamander
American Bullfrog Woodhouse’s Toad
Southwestern Woodhouse’s Toad Red-Spotted Toad
Red-Spotted Toad Canyon Treefrog
Canyon Treefrog

Fish

Big Bend National Park Great Basin National Park
Largemouth Bass Rainbow Trout
Green Sunfish Brook Trout
Bluegill Brown Trout
Fathead Minnow Mottled Sculpin
Common Carp Speckled Dace
Longnose Dace Cutthroat Trout
Yellow Bullhead
Channel Catfish
Mosquitofish

Beautiful Landscapes in Big Bend National Park and Great Basin National Park

Big Bend National Park, located in Texas, is known for its rugged terrain and diverse landscapes. Visitors can see the Chisos Mountains, which rise out of the desert floor, as well as the Santa Elena Canyon, which towers 1,500 feet above the Rio Grande. The park also features hot springs, cacti-studded deserts, and an array of wildlife. On the other hand, Great Basin National Park, located in Nevada, is home to the 13,063-foot Wheeler Peak, the highest point in the park. Visitors can also see ancient Bristlecone Pine trees, limestone caverns, and alpine lakes. The park also offers a variety of hiking and camping opportunities, as well as stargazing opportunities in the night sky. Both Big Bend National Park and Great Basin National Park offer visitors the chance to explore unique and diverse landscapes, but in very different ways.

Things To-Do and Activities in Big Bend National Park and Great Basin National Park

Big Bend National Park and Great Basin National Park are both known for their diverse landscapes and outdoor activities. Both parks offer a wide range of activities for visitors to enjoy, but there are some key differences in what people love to do when visiting these parks.

At Big Bend National Park, one of the most popular activities is hiking. The park features over 150 miles of trails that offer stunning views of the Chisos Mountains, Santa Elena Canyon, and the Rio Grande River. The park also offers camping, backpacking, and river trips for those who want to explore the park more deeply. Another popular activity at Big Bend is stargazing, as the park has some of the darkest night skies in the country.

On the other hand, Great Basin National Park is known for its cave system, which is the most extensive in the country. Visitors can explore the Lehman Caves, which are home to over 300 different types of formations, including stalactites, stalagmites, and flowstone. The park also offers a variety of hiking trails that lead to high alpine lakes, ancient Bristlecone Pine forests, and some of the most remote wilderness in the lower 48 states. The park also offers ranger-led programs, including ranger-led cave tours, star parties, and backcountry permits for overnight camping.

Both Big Bend and Great Basin National Parks are great options for visitors who love the outdoors and want to explore a wide range of landscapes. However, if you’re looking for a park that is more focused on hiking and backpacking, Big Bend is the better option. If you’re interested in exploring caves and learning more about geology, Great Basin is the better choice.

Best Time to Visit Big Bend National Park and Great Basin National Park

Big Bend National Park and Great Basin National Park are both located in the western United States and have distinct seasonal weather patterns that can affect when is the best time to visit the park.

Big Bend National Park is located in southwestern Texas and has a desert climate, which means that it can be extremely hot during the summer months with temperatures reaching over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Winters are mild with temperatures around 60 degrees Fahrenheit, making it the best time to visit the park. Spring and fall are also pleasant with temperatures in the 70s and 80s. Rainfall is rare and occurs mostly during the summer months, with the occasional flash flood.

Great Basin National Park is located in eastern Nevada, and it has a high desert climate. The summers can be hot with temperatures reaching into the 90s, while winters can be cold with temperatures dropping below freezing. Spring and fall are the best time to visit the park with mild temperatures and comfortable weather. The park also receives snowfall during the winter months, which makes it ideal for winter sports like skiing and snowshoeing.

In summary, the best time to visit Big Bend National Park is during the winter months when temperatures are mild, while the best time to visit Great Basin National Park is during the spring and fall when temperatures are mild and comfortable. The high temperatures in the summer and cold temperatures in the winter may make it less pleasant to visit the park during those months. Additionally, visitors should keep in mind that Great Basin National Park offers winter activities like skiing and snowshoeing during the winter months.

Family Friendliness of Big Bend National Park and Great Basin National Park

Big Bend National Park and Great Basin National Park are both popular destinations for families looking to experience the great outdoors. Both parks offer a wide range of activities and natural wonders for visitors to explore.

Big Bend National Park is located in Texas and is known for its rugged beauty and diverse wildlife. Visitors can hike through the Chisos Mountains, raft the Rio Grande, or take a scenic drive through the park. The park also offers a variety of ranger-led programs and activities for families, such as bird watching, stargazing, and campfire programs.

Great Basin National Park, located in Nevada, is known for its ancient bristlecone pine trees, limestone caves, and stunning views of the night sky. The park offers several easy hiking trails that are suitable for families, such as the Bristlecone Trail, and the park also offers ranger-led cave tours. In addition, the park has several campground options and picnic areas for families to enjoy.

Both Big Bend National Park and Great Basin National Park offer unique and diverse landscapes and activities that families can enjoy. However, Big Bend National Park may be slightly more family-friendly due to its wider range of ranger-led programs and activities, as well as more developed facilities.

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