Bryce Canyon National Park vs Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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Bryce Canyon National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park are two of America’s most beloved natural wonders, each offering a unique and unforgettable experience for visitors. Both parks boast awe-inspiring landscapes, a diverse array of wildlife, and endless opportunities for outdoor adventure. But what sets these two parks apart and makes them so special? In this article, we’ll take a closer look at Bryce Canyon and Great Smoky Mountains, comparing and contrasting the two to help you decide which one to visit on your next trip. From towering hoodoos to cascading waterfalls, from hiking and camping to wildlife watching and stargazing, there’s something for everyone at Bryce Canyon and Great Smoky Mountains. So pack your bags and get ready for an adventure of a lifetime as we explore the best of these two national parks.

Hiking Trails in Bryce Canyon National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park both offer a diverse range of hiking trails for visitors to enjoy.

In Bryce Canyon, some of the easiest hikes include the Rim Trail, which offers scenic views of the hoodoos and the canyon, and the Queens Garden Trail, which is a 1.8-mile loop that leads to the iconic Queen Victoria hoodoo. For more adventurous hikers, the Fairyland Loop Trail is a 8-mile hike that offers views of the Fairyland Point and other hoodoos, and the Riggs Spring Loop Trail is a challenging 8.5-mile hike that passes through the Riggs Spring area.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers a wide range of hikes, from easy to strenuous. Some of the easiest hikes include the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, a 5.5-mile round-trip hike that takes visitors through the historic logging community of Roaring Fork, and the Grotto Falls Trail, a 2.6-mile round-trip hike that leads to a beautiful waterfall. For more challenging hikes, the Alum Cave Trail is a strenuous 5-mile hike that takes hikers to the base of Mount LeConte, and the Ramsey Cascades Trail is a 8-mile hike that leads to the park’s highest waterfall.

Both parks offer a variety of hiking trails to suit different skill levels and interests. Bryce Canyon National Park’s hikes are often more strenuous and longer, while Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers more easy hikes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fqLWndKNu0

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 Smoky Mountains National Park

Name Length Elevation Type Difficulty Visitor Ratings
Alum Cave Trail to Mount LeConte 10.68 mi 3,007.76 ft out and back Hard 5/5
Chimney Tops Trail 3.59 mi 1,289.04 ft out and back Hard 4.5/5
Rainbow Falls Trail 5.49 mi 1,653.12 ft out and back Moderate 4.5/5
Grotto Falls Trail 2.59 mi 534.64 ft out and back Moderate 4.5/5
Laurel Falls Trail 2.40 mi 396.88 ft out and back Easy 4/5
Abrams Falls Trail 4.89 mi 629.76 ft out and back Moderate 4.5/5
Clingmans Dome Observation Tower Trail 1.20 mi 331.28 ft out and back Easy 4.5/5
Charlies Bunion via Appalachian Trail 8.58 mi 1,981.12 ft out and back Moderate 4.5/5
Ramsey Cascades Trail 8.08 mi 2,223.84 ft out and back Hard 4.5/5
Peregrine Peak via Alum Cave Bluffs Trail 4.19 mi 1,059.44 ft out and back Moderate 5/5

Wildlife in Bryce Canyon National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park are both home to a diverse array of wildlife.

At Bryce Canyon, visitors may see animals such as mule deer, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, and elk, as well as a variety of birds such as the American pika, golden eagle, and peregrine falcon. Additionally, the park is home to a variety of plant life, including the iconic hoodoos, as well as ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, and quaking aspen trees.

In contrast, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is known for its rich biodiversity and is home to a wide range of animals and plants. Visitors may see black bears, white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, and elk, as well as a variety of birds such as the wood thrush, scarlet tanager, and Baltimore oriole. The park is also home to a diverse array of plant life, including the iconic Fraser fir, red spruce, and hemlock trees, as well as wildflowers such as trillium and lady’s slipper.

Overall, both parks offer visitors the opportunity to see a diverse array of wildlife and plant life, but in different settings and varieties.

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

Birds

Bryce Canyon National Park Great Smoky Mountains 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

Bryce Canyon National Park Great Smoky Mountains National Park
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 House Mouse
Mountain Lion Panther (Mountain Lion)
Mule Deer Mink
Common Gray Fox Gray Fox
Long-Legged Myotis Gray Wolf
Long-Eared Myotis Snowshoe Hare
American Badger River Otter
Ermine Masked Shrew
California Myotis Water Shrew
Snowshoe Hare Red Squirrel

Fish

Bryce Canyon National Park Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Brook Trout Rainbow Trout
Brook Trout
Brown Trout
Largemouth Bass
Green Sunfish
Bluegill
Common Carp
Longnose Dace
Yellow Bullhead
Channel Catfish
Black Crappie
Black Bullhead
Mosquitofish
Creek Chub
Goldfish
Smallmouth Bass

Amphibians

Bryce Canyon National Park Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Northern Leopard Frog Northern Leopard Frog
Tiger Salamander American Bullfrog
Wood Frog

Beautiful Landscapes in Bryce Canyon National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park is renowned for its stunning hoodoos – tall, thin spires of rock that rise from the canyon floor. These unique rock formations are the result of millions of years of erosion and can be seen from various viewpoints throughout the park, including Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, and Inspiration Point. In contrast, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is known for its rolling mountains, lush forests, and cascading waterfalls. The park’s most famous landscape is probably Cades Cove – an idyllic valley surrounded by towering peaks that is home to a variety of wildlife, including black bears and white-tailed deer. Visitors can also take a scenic drive along the Newfound Gap Road and enjoy panoramic views of the park’s vast expanse. Additionally, the park is home to many waterfalls like Laurel Falls, Grotto Falls and Rainbow Falls and the highest point in the park Clingmans Dome.

Things To-Do and Activities in Bryce Canyon National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park offer visitors a unique experience with different types of activities.

At Bryce Canyon National Park, the most popular activities include hiking, stargazing, and photography. Hiking is the most popular activity in the park, and visitors can explore the park’s many trails and explore the hoodoos (tall, thin spires of rock) that are unique to the park. Bryce Canyon is also a great place for stargazing, with its clear night skies and minimal light pollution. Photography is also popular, as visitors can capture the park’s stunning vistas and unique rock formations.

At Great Smoky Mountains National Park, hiking is also popular, with over 800 miles of trails winding through the park. Visitors can explore the park’s many waterfalls, wildflowers, and historic sites. Fishing, camping, and picnicking are also popular activities in the park. The park is also home to the most diverse array of plant and animal life in the East, including the famous synchronous fireflies.

Additionally, visitors can also enjoy horseback riding, biking, and even skiing in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The park also offers a variety of ranger-led programs, including guided hikes, campfire talks, and nature walks, which provide visitors with an opportunity to learn more about the park’s natural and cultural history.

Overall, both Bryce Canyon National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park offer a wide range of activities for visitors to enjoy, from hiking and wildlife viewing to photography and stargazing. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful, natural experience or a more action-packed adventure, these parks have something to offer for everyone.

Best Time to Visit Bryce Canyon National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park have vastly different seasonal weather patterns. Bryce Canyon, located in southern Utah, has a semi-arid climate with hot summers and mild winters. The best time to visit is in the spring and fall when temperatures are milder and the park’s famous hoodoos are at their most colorful. Summer can be very hot, with temperatures reaching into the 90s and 100s, making hiking and outdoor activities more difficult. Winter can bring snow, but the park is open year-round and the snow can create a picturesque setting for the hoodoos.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, located in the southern Appalachians on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, has a humid subtropical climate with mild winters and hot summers. The park is known for its beautiful fall foliage, and the peak time for leaf-peeping is usually in mid-October. Spring and summer are also popular seasons to visit, with wildflowers blooming in the spring and mild weather for hiking and camping in the summer. Winter can bring snow and cold temperatures, but the park remains open and offers opportunities for snow sports like cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

Family Friendliness of Bryce Canyon National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park are both family-friendly destinations, but each offers a different type of experience.

Bryce Canyon National Park is known for its spectacular hoodoos, which are tall, thin spires of rock that are formed by erosion. The park offers a variety of hiking trails, including some that are easy and accessible for families with young children. The park also offers ranger-led programs, such as guided hikes and stargazing events, which can be a fun and educational experience for families.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, on the other hand, offers a more traditional outdoor experience. The park is home to a wide variety of plant and animal life, including black bears, elk, and over 1,500 species of wildflowers. The park also has a number of hiking trails, some of which are suitable for families with young children, such as the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. Additionally, the park offers a number of historic buildings and structures, such as the Mingus Mill and the Elijah Oliver Place, which can be a fun and interesting experience for families.

Both parks are great options for families, but if you’re looking for a more traditional outdoor experience with a variety of plant and animal life, Great Smoky Mountains National Park might be a better choice. If you’re looking for a more unique experience and more educational opportunities, Bryce Canyon National Park might be the better option.

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