Bryce Canyon National Park vs Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

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Bryce Canyon National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve are two of the most unique and diverse national parks in the United States. Both parks offer visitors the chance to experience awe-inspiring landscapes, diverse wildlife, and a wide range of recreational activities. If you’re looking for a vacation that combines natural beauty, adventure, and fun, then Bryce Canyon and Great Sand Dunes are the perfect destinations for you. Whether you’re a nature lover, a hiker, a camper, or a photographer, these parks have something to offer for everyone. In this article, we will take a closer look at these two national treasures and see how they compare in terms of landscapes, wildlife, activities, and weather. Get ready for an unforgettable journey and discover the best that Bryce Canyon and Great Sand Dunes have to offer.

Hiking Trails in Bryce Canyon National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

Bryce Canyon National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve both offer a variety of hiking trails for visitors to explore.

At Bryce Canyon National Park, the most popular hike is the Rim Trail, which offers breathtaking views of the hoodoos and other unique rock formations. This trail is considered easy and is accessible for most visitors. Another popular hike is the Navajo Loop Trail, which takes visitors through a slot canyon and offers a more strenuous hike.

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve also offers a variety of hiking trails, but the most popular is the Medano Pass Primitive Road. This trail leads to the top of the dunes and offers a moderate hike. Another popular trail is the Sand Ramp Trail, which is considered easy and allows visitors to hike to the base of the dunes. The High Dune hike is considered strenuous and offers a challenging climb to the top of the dunes.

Both parks offer a range of easy to difficult hikes, allowing visitors to choose their level of difficulty. However, Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve is more suitable for experienced hikers and those looking for a challenge.

Most Popular Hiking Trails in Bryce Canyon National Park

Name Length Elevation Type Difficulty Visitor Ratings
Navajo Loop and Queen’s Garden Trail 2.59 mi 623.20 ft loop Moderate 5/5
Fairyland Loop Trail 7.38 mi 1,541.60 ft loop Moderate 5/5
Peekaboo Loop Trail 5.19 mi 1,453.04 ft loop Moderate 5/5
Navajo Loop Trail 1.40 mi 459.20 ft loop Moderate 4.5/5
Wall Street and Queens Garden Loop Trail 3.09 mi 577.28 ft loop Moderate 5/5
Sunset Point to Sunrise Point 1.10 mi 82.00 ft out and back Easy 4.5/5
Mossy Cave Turret Arch and Little Windows Trail 1.00 mi 118.08 ft out and back Easy 4/5
Queen Victoria via Queen’s Garden Loop 2.10 mi 406.72 ft out and back Easy 4.5/5
Tower Bridge Trail 3.39 mi 826.56 ft out and back Easy 4.5/5
Wall Street and Queens Garden Loop to Peekaboo Loop (Figure Eight Trail) 6.29 mi 1,498.96 ft loop Moderate 5/5

Most Popular Hiking Trails in Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

Name Length Elevation Type Difficulty Visitor Ratings
High Dune Trail 2.99 mi 629.76 ft out and back Hard 5/5
Mosca Pass Trail 6.39 mi 1,459.60 ft out and back Moderate 4.5/5
Dunes Trail from Pinyon Flats 4.49 mi 954.48 ft loop Hard 4.5/5
Sand Dunes Loop Trail 4.99 mi 741.28 ft loop Moderate 4.5/5
Upper Sand Creek Lake Trail 7.38 mi 1,964.72 ft out and back Very Hard 4.5/5
Medano Lake Trail 7.88 mi 2,289.44 ft out and back Moderate 4/5
Montville Nature Trail 0.50 mi 88.56 ft loop Easy 4/5
Dunes Overlook Sand Ramp Trail 1.50 mi 265.68 ft out and back Moderate 3.5/5
Little Medano Creek Trail to Medano Lake 25.04 mi 3,542.40 ft out and back Moderate 4/5
Wellington Ditch Trail 1.80 mi 157.44 ft out and back Easy 4/5

Wildlife in Bryce Canyon National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

Bryce Canyon National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve are both home to a diverse array of wildlife, but the types of animals, birds, and plants you’ll see at each park are quite different.

At Bryce Canyon National Park, visitors can expect to see a variety of mammals, including mule deer, elk, bighorn sheep, and mountain lions. Birds such as the peregrine falcon, red-tailed hawk, and great horned owl can also be found in the park, as well as a number of reptile and amphibian species. Plants that are commonly seen at Bryce Canyon National Park include juniper, pinyon pine, and sagebrush.

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, on the other hand, is home to a different set of animals, birds, and plants. Visitors can expect to see a variety of mammals such as mule deer, coyotes, and black bears. Birds that can be found in the park include the mountain plover, burrowing owl, and golden eagle. The park is also home to a variety of reptiles and amphibians, including the Great Basin Spadefoot and the Great Basin Gophersnake. Plants commonly seen at Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve include sagebrush, piñon pine, and juniper.

Overall, Bryce Canyon National Park is known for its diverse array of wildlife and plants, while Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve is primarily known for its sand dunes and desert ecosystem.

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

Birds

Bryce Canyon National Park Great Sand Dunes 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 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

Bryce Canyon National Park Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve
Coyote Coyote
American Beaver American Beaver
Muskrat Muskrat
Big Brown Bat Big Brown Bat
Bobcat Bobcat
Striped Skunk Striped Skunk
Little Brown Bat Little Brown Bat
Deer Mouse Deer Mouse
Raccoon Raccoon
Black Bear Black Bear
Porcupine Porcupine
Silver-Haired Bat Silver-Haired Bat
Hoary Bat Hoary Bat
Red Fox Red Fox
Long-Tailed Weasel Long-Tailed Weasel
House Mouse Mule Deer
Mountain Lion Gray Fox
Mule Deer Long-Legged Myotis
Common Gray Fox Long-Eared Bat
Long-Legged Myotis Badger
Long-Eared Myotis Ermine
American Badger Snowshoe Hare
Ermine Masked Shrew
California Myotis Water Shrew
Snowshoe Hare Brazilian Free-Tailed Bat

Reptiles

Bryce Canyon National Park Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve
Gophersnake Bull Snake
Terrestrial Gartersnake Western Terrestrial Garter Snake
Prairie Rattlesnake Western Prairie Rattlesnake
Common Sagebrush Lizard Greater Short-Horned Lizards
Greater Short-Horned Lizard Milksnake
Side-Blotched Lizard Eastern Fence Lizard
Nightsnake
Striped Whipsnake
Tree Lizard
Western Whiptail
Western Skink

Fish

Bryce Canyon National Park Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve
Brook Trout Brook Trout
German Brown Trout
Cutthroat Trout

Amphibians

Bryce Canyon National Park Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve
Northern Leopard Frog Northern Leopard Frog
Tiger Salamander Tiger Salamander
Woodhouse’s Toad
Plains Spadefoot

Beautiful Landscapes in Bryce Canyon National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

Bryce Canyon National Park is famous for its hoodoos, which are spire-shaped rock formations created by the erosion of limestone. The park’s main attraction is the Bryce Amphitheater, a natural amphitheater filled with thousands of hoodoos. The park also offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape including the Paunsaugunt Plateau, the Aquarius Plateau, and the Kaiparowits Plateau.

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, on the other hand, is famous for its giant sand dunes, which are the tallest in North America. The park’s main attraction is the dunes themselves, which can reach up to 750 feet in height. Visitors can enjoy a variety of activities such as sandboarding, hiking, and camping. The park also offers a glimpse of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Medano Creek, and the wetlands of Zapata Ranch.

Things To-Do and Activities in Bryce Canyon National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

Bryce Canyon National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve offer very different experiences for visitors. Bryce Canyon is known for its unique geologic formations, including the colorful hoodoos that give the park its name. Visitors to Bryce Canyon can enjoy hiking and sightseeing on the park’s many trails, as well as ranger-led programs and stargazing.

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, on the other hand, is known for its vast expanse of sand dunes, some of the tallest in North America. The park offers a variety of activities for visitors, including hiking, sandboarding, and sand sledding on the dunes, as well as camping, picnicking, and wildlife viewing. The park also has a visitor center and a number of ranger-led programs, including guided hikes and Junior Ranger activities.

In terms of family-friendly activities, both parks offer a variety of options for families. Bryce Canyon has easy and moderate hiking trails, as well as ranger-led programs for children and stargazing programs. Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve also has easy and moderate hiking trails, as well as the sand dunes which can be fun for kids to play on and explore. Both parks have picnic areas, campground and visitor centers. Overall, both parks offer unique and exciting experiences for visitors, and families can have fun and enjoy the nature at both parks depending on their interests and preferences.

Best Time to Visit Bryce Canyon National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

Bryce Canyon National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve are both located in the western United States and offer visitors a wide range of outdoor activities. However, the seasonal weather at each park is quite different, which can affect when is the best time of year to visit.

Bryce Canyon National Park is located in southern Utah and has a semi-arid climate with hot summers and cold winters. The park is open year-round but the best time to visit is during the spring and fall when the temperatures are milder. Summer can be hot, with temperatures reaching into the 90s, which can make hiking and other outdoor activities uncomfortable. Winter can be very cold, with snow and ice on the trails, making them difficult to navigate.

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve is located in southern Colorado and has a semi-arid climate with hot summers and cold winters. The park is open year-round but the best time to visit is during the spring, summer and fall when the temperatures are milder. It is not recommended to visit during the winter as the park is covered in snow and the weather can be harsh.

In summary, the best time to visit Bryce Canyon National Park is during the spring and fall, while the best time to visit Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve is during the spring, summer and fall.

Family Friendliness of Bryce Canyon National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

Bryce Canyon National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve offer unique outdoor experiences for families. Bryce Canyon is known for its hoodoo rock formations, which can be viewed from various hiking trails and scenic drives. The park also offers ranger-led programs and a Junior Ranger program for children. Great Sand Dunes, on the other hand, is home to the tallest sand dunes in North America and offers opportunities for sand sledding, sandboarding, and hiking. Both parks offer a variety of activities for families to enjoy, but Bryce Canyon may be more suitable for families with younger children, as the park has paved trails and accessible viewpoints, while Great Sand Dunes has more strenuous activities such as sand dune climbing and backcountry camping.

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