Canyonlands National Park vs Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

Feel Free To Share:

Canyonlands National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve are two of America’s most spectacular and diverse national parks. These two parks are located on opposite sides of the country, yet they offer a unique and unforgettable outdoor experience. Canyonlands National Park, located in Utah, is known for its rugged wilderness and red rock canyons, while Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, located in Colorado, is known for its vast dunes and alpine peaks. Both parks offer a wide range of activities for visitors to enjoy, from hiking and camping to stargazing and wildlife watching. Whether you’re an adventure seeker or nature lover, these two parks are sure to leave you in awe and create memories that will last a lifetime. Imagine the contrast of the red rock canyons and the golden sand dunes, it’s like travelling from Mars to a desert planet in a Star Wars movie, it’s something you don’t want to miss!

Hiking Trails in Canyonlands National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

Canyonlands National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve offer a variety of hiking trails for visitors to enjoy.

Canyonlands National Park is known for its challenging and strenuous hikes, such as the Chesler Park Loop Trail, the White Rim Trail, and the Island in the Sky Trail. These trails offer spectacular views of the park’s canyons, mesas, and buttes, but they can be quite strenuous and require a good level of physical fitness. For those looking for an easier hike, the park also offers several shorter, less strenuous trails such as the Upheaval Dome Trail, the Syncline Loop Trail, and the Grand View Point Trail.

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, on the other hand, is known for its unique landscape of sand dunes and its easy-to-moderate hikes. The park’s main attraction is the Medano Pass Primitive Road, which takes visitors to the base of the dunes. From there, visitors can hike to the top of the dunes, which offers spectacular views of the park and the surrounding mountains. The park also offers several shorter trails such as the Mosca Pass Trail, the Sand Ramp Trail, and the Montville Nature Trail.

Both parks offer great opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, but the main difference is that Canyonlands National Park offers more strenuous and challenging hikes, while Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve offers more easy-to-moderate hikes and unique landscapes.

Most Popular Hiking Trails in Canyonlands National Park

Name Length Elevation Type Difficulty Visitor Ratings
Mesa Arch Trail 0.60 mi 62.32 ft loop Easy 4.5/5
Grand View Point Trail 1.80 mi 173.84 ft out and back Easy 4.5/5
Chesler Park Loop Trail 11.57 mi 1,935.20 ft loop Moderate 5/5
False Kiva Trail 1.90 mi 449.36 ft out and back Moderate 4.5/5
Upheaval Dome via Crater View Trail 1.50 mi 301.76 ft out and back Moderate 4/5
Aztec Butte Trail 1.30 mi 219.76 ft out and back Moderate 4.5/5
Druid Arch Trail 9.48 mi 1,374.32 ft out and back Moderate 4.5/5
Shafer Trail 19.16 mi 3,116.00 ft point to point Moderate 4.5/5
White Rim Overlook Trail 1.80 mi 160.72 ft out and back Easy 4.5/5
Syncline Loop 8.58 mi 1,630.16 ft loop Very Hard 4.5/5

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 Canyonlands National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

Canyonlands National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve are home to a diverse array of wildlife, from small mammals and reptiles to large mammals and birds.

Canyonlands National Park, located in Utah, is home to a variety of desert animals such as bighorn sheep, desert bighorn sheep, mule deer, desert cottontail, and black-tailed jackrabbit. Coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions are also present but are less common to spot. The park is also home to many bird species such as golden eagles, peregrine falcons, and turkey vultures. The park’s riparian areas, such as the Green and Colorado Rivers, are great spots to see waterfowl and shorebirds.

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, located in Colorado, is home to a variety of animals that have adapted to live in the high-altitude desert environment. Elk, mule deer, and bighorn sheep are commonly seen in the park. Coyotes and foxes are also present. The park is also home to many bird species such as mountain bluebird, mountain plover, and horned lark. The park’s dunes are also home to a variety of insects, including beetles, ants, and grasshoppers, as well as a number of reptiles, including lizards, snakes, and the Great Basin rattlesnake.

Both parks are also home to a variety of plants that have adapted to the harsh desert environment. Canyonlands National Park is home to a variety of cacti, yucca, and Joshua trees, while Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve is home to a variety of shrubs and grasses, including sagebrush, yucca, and greasewood.

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

Birds

Canyonlands 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

Canyonlands 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
American Mink Long-Legged Myotis
Mule Deer Long-Eared Bat
Common Gray Fox Badger
Long-Legged Myotis Ermine
Long-Eared Myotis Snowshoe Hare
American Badger Masked Shrew
Ermine Water Shrew
California Myotis Brazilian Free-Tailed Bat

Fish

Canyonlands National Park Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve
Rainbow Trout Brook Trout
Brown Trout German Brown Trout
Largemouth Bass Cutthroat Trout
Green Sunfish
Bluegill
Fathead Minnow
Common Carp
Northern Pike
Speckled Dace
Yellow Bullhead
Channel Catfish
Kokanee Salmon
Black Crappie
Black Bullhead
Mosquitofish
Smallmouth Bass

Reptiles

Canyonlands National Park Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve
Gophersnake Bull Snake
Terrestrial Gartersnake Western Terrestrial Garter Snake
Eastern Racer Western Prairie Rattlesnake
Prairie Rattlesnake Greater Short-Horned Lizards
Common Sagebrush Lizard Milksnake
Greater Short-Horned Lizard Eastern Fence Lizard
Side-Blotched Lizard
Common Kingsnake
Nightsnake
Long-Nosed Leopard Lizard
Striped Whipsnake
Smith’s Black-Headed Snake
Tree Lizard
Western Whiptail
Eastern Collared Lizard
Desert Spiny Lizard

Amphibians

Canyonlands National Park Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve
Northern Leopard Frog Northern Leopard Frog
Tiger Salamander Tiger Salamander
American Bullfrog Woodhouse’s Toad
Woodhouse’s Toad Plains Spadefoot
Red-Spotted Toad
Canyon Treefrog

Beautiful Landscapes in Canyonlands National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

Canyonlands National Park is known for its spectacular canyons, mesas, and buttes carved by the Colorado and Green Rivers. The park is divided into four distinct districts: the Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze, and the rivers themselves. Some of the most famous landscapes in the park include the Mesa Arch, Upheaval Dome, and the White Rim Trail.

On the other hand, Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve is famous for its massive sand dunes, which are the tallest in North America. The park also features a diverse landscape that includes alpine lakes, forests, and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Some of the most famous landscapes in the park include the Star Dune, the Medano Creek, and the High Dune. The park also offers opportunities for hiking, camping, and sandboarding.

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

Canyonlands National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve offer a wide range of activities for visitors to enjoy.

Canyonlands National Park, located in Utah, is a popular destination for hiking and backpacking. The park has several trails that vary in difficulty, including the famous “Mesa Arch Trail” and “Upheaval Dome Trail” which offer spectacular views of the park’s canyons and rock formations. The park is also popular for mountain biking, with several trails to choose from. The park’s rivers, such as the Green and Colorado Rivers, are also popular spots for rafting and kayaking.

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, located in Colorado, is a popular destination for sandboarding and sand-sledding on the park’s dunes. The park also offers several trails for hiking and backpacking, including the popular “High Dune” and “Star Dune” trails which offer great views of the park’s dunes and surrounding mountains. The park is also popular for stargazing, and the park’s “Medano Pass Primitive Road” offers a great spot to see the stars at night.

Both parks are also popular for wildlife watching, camping, and photography. Both also offer ranger-led educational programs for visitors to learn about the park’s history, geology, and wildlife.

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

Canyonlands National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve are located in very different regions of the United States, and as a result, they have very different seasonal weather patterns.

Canyonlands National Park is located in the desert region of southern Utah. The park has hot summers, with temperatures reaching over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and mild winters, with temperatures usually ranging from 40-60 degrees Fahrenheit. The park receives very little precipitation, with most of it falling in the form of flash floods during the summer monsoon season. The best time to visit Canyonlands National Park is during the spring or fall when temperatures are more moderate.

On the other hand, Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve is located in the southern Rocky Mountains of Colorado. The park has warm summers, with temperatures usually ranging from 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit, and cold winters, with temperatures often dropping below freezing. The park receives significant snowfall during the winter, and the dunes themselves are often covered in snow. The best time to visit Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve is during the summer, when the snow has melted and the dunes are accessible.

In summary, Canyonlands National Park is best visited in spring or fall, when temperatures are more moderate. Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve is best visited in summer, when the snow has melted and the dunes are accessible.

Family Friendliness of Canyonlands National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

Canyonlands National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve are both great for families to visit, but each park offers different experiences. Canyonlands National Park offers a wide variety of activities for families, including hiking, camping, and ranger-led programs. It also has several easy trails that are suitable for children, such as the scenic drive and the Island in the Sky Visitor Center. However, the park is vast and some parts are rugged and remote, so it may not be the best choice for very young children.

On the other hand, Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve offers a unique experience of sand dunes that is perfect for children to explore and play on. The park also has a visitors center with interactive exhibits, a playground, and ranger-led programs. The park’s main attraction, the sand dunes, are easy to access and the park offers a variety of recreational activities like sand sledding, hiking, and ranger-led programs that are suitable for children.

Overall, both parks offer a great family-friendly experience, but if you’re traveling with children, Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve might be a better choice for the unique and fun experience it offers.

Leave a Comment