Capitol Reef National Park vs Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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Capitol Reef National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park are two of the most breathtaking and diverse national parks in the United States. These two parks offer a world of adventure and natural beauty, from towering peaks to rolling hills, and from crystal-clear streams to mist-covered valleys. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just looking for a scenic drive, these two parks are sure to captivate you with their stunning landscapes and rich cultural history. So, buckle up, grab your hiking boots, and get ready to explore two of America’s most beloved national parks. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at Capitol Reef National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, comparing and contrasting their unique features, natural wonders, and recreational opportunities, to help you decide which park is the perfect destination for your next adventure.

Hiking Trails in Capitol Reef National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Capitol Reef National Park:
– Easy hikes: The Capitol Gorge Trail, a 2-mile round trip hike through a narrow canyon, is a popular and easy hike in the park. The Rim Overlook Trail, a 1-mile hike to a scenic overlook, is another easy hike in the park.
– Hard hikes: The Grand Wash Trail, a 6-mile round trip hike through a narrow canyon, is a challenging hike in the park. The Cassidy Arch Trail, a 3-mile round trip hike to a scenic arch, is another strenuous hike in the park.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
– Easy hikes: The Laurel Falls Trail, a 2.6-mile round trip hike to a scenic waterfall, is a popular and easy hike in the park. The Grotto Falls Trail, a 2.6-mile round trip hike to a waterfall, is another easy hike in the park.
– Hard hikes: The Alum Cave Trail, a 5-mile round trip hike to a scenic cave, is a strenuous hike in the park. The Chimney Tops Trail, a 4-mile round trip hike to a scenic peak, is another challenging hike in the park.

Both parks offer a variety of hiking trails for visitors of all skill levels, with each park offering unique experiences that reflect its environment and natural features. Whether it’s exploring the narrow canyons of Capitol Reef, or hiking to scenic waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountains, visitors are sure to find plenty of exciting hikes to enjoy.

Most Popular Hiking Trails in Capitol Reef National Park

Name Length Elevation Type Difficulty Visitor Ratings
Hickman Bridge Trail 1.70 mi 426.40 ft out and back Moderate 4.5/5
Cassidy Arch Trail 2.89 mi 701.92 ft out and back Moderate 4.5/5
Grand Wash Trail via Northeast Trailhead 4.39 mi 400.16 ft out and back Easy 4.5/5
Chimney Rock Loop Trail 3.29 mi 793.76 ft loop Moderate 4.5/5
Cohab Canyon Trail 2.99 mi 793.76 ft out and back Moderate 4.5/5
Navajo Knobs Trail 8.68 mi 2,135.28 ft out and back Hard 4.5/5
Goosenecks & Sunset Point 2.49 mi 544.48 ft out and back Easy 4.5/5
Capitol Gorge Trail 4.49 mi 373.92 ft out and back Moderate 4/5
Sulphur Creek Route 11.47 mi 1,403.84 ft out and back Easy 4.5/5
Rim Overlook Trail 4.09 mi 1,052.88 ft out and back Hard 4.5/5

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 Capitol Reef National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Capitol Reef National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park are both known for their rich and diverse wildlife. Both parks offer a range of animals, birds, and plants that are sure to delight visitors.

At Capitol Reef National Park, visitors can expect to see a range of wildlife, including mule deer, desert bighorn sheep, coyotes, and mountain lions. The park is also home to a number of bird species, including turkey vultures, ravens, and red-tailed hawks. In addition to these animals, visitors can also admire the park’s unique and diverse plant life, which includes cacti, yucca, and Joshua trees.

At Great Smoky Mountains National Park, visitors can expect to see a range of wildlife, including black bears, white-tailed deer, and elk. The park is also home to a number of bird species, including turkeys, woodpeckers, and warblers. In addition to these animals, visitors can also admire the park’s rich and diverse plant life, which includes a range of deciduous trees, wildflowers, and ferns.

In conclusion, both Capitol Reef National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park are known for their rich and diverse wildlife. Whether you’re admiring desert bighorn sheep and cacti or black bears and deciduous trees, these two parks are sure to provide an unforgettable wildlife experience.

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

Birds

Capitol Reef 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

Capitol Reef 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)
American Mink Mink
Mule Deer Gray Fox
Common Gray Fox Gray Wolf
Long-Legged Myotis Snowshoe Hare
Long-Eared Myotis River Otter
American Badger Masked Shrew
Ermine Water Shrew
California Myotis Red Squirrel

Fish

Capitol Reef National Park Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Rainbow Trout Rainbow Trout
Brown Trout Brook Trout
Bluegill Brown Trout
Mottled Sculpin Largemouth Bass
Speckled Dace Green Sunfish
Black Bullhead Bluegill
Cutthroat Trout Common Carp
Longnose Dace
Yellow Bullhead
Channel Catfish
Black Crappie
Black Bullhead
Mosquitofish
Creek Chub
Goldfish
Smallmouth Bass

Amphibians

Capitol Reef National Park Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Northern Leopard Frog Northern Leopard Frog
Tiger Salamander American Bullfrog
Woodhouse’s Toad Wood Frog
Red-Spotted Toad
Canyon Treefrog

Beautiful Landscapes in Capitol Reef National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Capitol Reef National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park are both renowned for their breathtaking landscapes and natural wonders. Here are some of the most famous landscapes and natural features you can see at each park:

At Capitol Reef National Park, visitors can admire the park’s unique geologic formations, including the towering Waterpocket Fold, a 100-mile-long wrinkle in the earth’s crust, and the colorful sandstone cliffs of the Capitol Reef. Visitors can also explore the park’s scenic canyons, such as Cathedral Valley and Capitol Gorge, where they can see towering rock formations and crystal-clear streams.

At Great Smoky Mountains National Park, visitors can admire the park’s rolling hills, lush forests, and mist-covered valleys. The park is home to some of the tallest peaks in the eastern United States, including Clingmans Dome, which offers panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. Visitors can also explore the park’s numerous waterfalls, including Grotto Falls, Laurel Falls, and Rainbow Falls, which cascade down the sides of the park’s towering peaks.

In conclusion, both Capitol Reef National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park offer a diverse range of landscapes and natural wonders, from towering peaks to rolling hills, and from crystal-clear streams to mist-covered valleys. Whether you’re seeking a scenic drive or an adventurous hike, these two parks are sure to captivate you with their stunning landscapes and natural beauty.

Things To-Do and Activities in Capitol Reef National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Capitol Reef National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park are both popular destinations that offer a range of activities for visitors to enjoy. From scenic drives and hikes to educational programs and ranger-led activities, these two parks offer something for everyone.

At Capitol Reef National Park, popular activities include scenic drives, hiking, rock climbing, and wildlife viewing. The park’s well-marked trails and easy-to-navigate roads make it a great choice for visitors who enjoy scenic drives and hikes. The park also offers a range of educational programs and ranger-led activities that are designed to engage visitors and help them learn about the park’s unique landscape and history.

At Great Smoky Mountains National Park, popular activities include hiking, wildlife viewing, fishing, and scenic drives. The park’s well-marked trails and easy-to-navigate roads make it a great choice for visitors who enjoy scenic drives and hikes. The park also offers a range of ranger-led activities and educational programs that are designed to engage visitors and help them learn about the park’s rich and diverse wildlife and plant life.

In conclusion, both Capitol Reef National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park offer a range of activities for visitors to enjoy. Whether you’re looking for scenic drives and hikes or educational programs and ranger-led activities, these two parks are sure to provide an enjoyable and memorable experience for visitors of all ages.

Best Time to Visit Capitol Reef National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Capitol Reef National Park:
– Summer: Temperatures in the summer can reach up to 90°F or higher, making it a popular time for outdoor activities such as hiking and camping. However, the intense heat can make some trails and outdoor activities difficult.
– Winter: Winter temperatures can drop to freezing or below, making it a less popular time to visit the park. Snow and ice can make some trails and roads impassable.
– Spring and fall: Spring and fall temperatures are mild, making it a popular time to visit the park for outdoor activities such as hiking and camping.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
– Summer: Temperatures in the summer can reach up to 80°F or higher, making it a popular time for outdoor activities such as hiking and camping. However, the park can become crowded during the peak summer months.
– Winter: Winter temperatures can drop to freezing or below, and snow and ice can make some trails and roads impassable. Winter is a less popular time to visit the park.
– Spring and fall: Spring and fall temperatures are mild, and the park is known for its spectacular fall foliage. This makes it a popular time to visit the park for outdoor activities and scenic drives.

Both parks offer unique experiences throughout the year, with each park offering its own seasonal weather patterns that can affect when is the best time to visit. Whether it’s experiencing the intense heat of Capitol Reef in the summer, or enjoying the mild temperatures and fall foliage of Great Smoky Mountains in the spring and fall, visitors are sure to find plenty of opportunities to enjoy each park.

Family Friendliness of Capitol Reef National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Both Capitol Reef National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park are great choices for families looking for a fun and educational outdoor adventure. However, each park offers a different set of recreational opportunities and family-friendly experiences. Here’s a comparison of how family-friendly these two parks are:

Capitol Reef National Park offers a range of family-friendly activities, including scenic drives, short hikes, and ranger-led programs. The park’s easy-to-follow trails and well-maintained roads make it easy for families with young children to explore the park’s unique geologic formations and scenic canyons. The park’s ranger-led programs, such as guided hikes and campfire talks, offer fun and educational experiences for families.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is also a great choice for families, offering a wide range of recreational opportunities, including hiking, camping, fishing, and wildlife viewing. The park’s numerous trails, ranging from easy to strenuous, offer a range of hiking experiences for families with children of all ages. The park’s scenic drives, such as the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, offer breathtaking views of the park’s rolling hills, lush forests, and mist-covered valleys.

In conclusion, both Capitol Reef National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park offer a range of family-friendly activities and experiences. If you’re traveling with young children, Capitol Reef National Park may be a better choice, with its easy-to-follow trails and ranger-led programs. If you’re seeking a more adventurous family vacation, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with its diverse range of recreational opportunities, may be the better choice.

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