Crater Lake National Park vs Katmai National Park & Preserve

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Crater Lake National Park and Katmai National Park & Preserve offer vastly different experiences for visitors. While Crater Lake boasts a stunning blue lake surrounded by towering cliffs, Katmai showcases the rugged Alaskan wilderness with its large populations of brown bears and other wildlife. Whether you’re in the mood for a scenic hike or an up-close encounter with nature, these two national parks are sure to provide memories that will last a lifetime. So, pack your bags and get ready to choose between the still waters of Crater Lake and the wilds of Katmai!

Hiking Trails in Crater Lake National Park and Katmai National Park & Preserve

Crater Lake National Park and Katmai National Park & Preserve are two parks that offer contrasting hiking experiences. Crater Lake features several trails ranging from easy to strenuous, including the Rim Trail which provides breathtaking views of the lake and its surroundings. For those looking for a leisurely hike, the Garfield Peak Trail is a good option. This 3.4-mile hike leads to the summit and offers panoramic views of the park and the surrounding mountains. On the other hand, the Cleetwood Cove Trail is the most challenging hike in Crater Lake. This steep 2.2-mile trail descends to the lake’s shore and is considered strenuous.

Katmai National Park & Preserve, renowned for its bear viewing opportunities, also provides a range of hiking trails. The easiest trail is the Brooks Falls Trail, a 1.5-mile path that leads to Brooks Falls where visitors can observe brown bears fishing for salmon. The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, a 7-mile hike, is the most strenuous trail in Katmai. This trail takes visitors through an ash-filled valley created by the eruption of Novarupta in 1912 and offers views of steam vents and other volcanic features. Both parks offer unique and diverse hiking experiences, from easy nature walks to challenging backcountry treks.

Most Popular Hiking Trails in Crater Lake National Park

Name Length Elevation Type Difficulty Visitor Ratings
Garfield Peak Trail 3.39 mi 1,069.28 ft out and back Moderate 4.5/5
Cleetwood Cove Trail 2.10 mi 623.20 ft out and back Moderate 4.5/5
The Watchman Peak Trail 1.60 mi 387.04 ft out and back Moderate 4.5/5
Mount Scott Trail 4.19 mi 1,259.52 ft out and back Moderate 4.5/5
Discovery Point Trail 3.99 mi 915.12 ft out and back Easy 4.5/5
Plaikni Falls Trail 2.00 mi 134.48 ft out and back Easy 4/5
Wizard Island Trail 2.30 mi 751.12 ft loop Moderate 4.5/5
Sun Notch Trail 0.80 mi 127.92 ft loop Easy 4.5/5
Pinnacles Valley Trail 0.70 mi 39.36 ft out and back Easy 4/5
Mazama Village to Rim Village at Crater Lake 8.28 mi 1,741.68 ft out and back Moderate 4.5/5

Most Popular Hiking Trails in Katmai National Park & Preserve

Name Length Elevation Type Difficulty Visitor Ratings
Brooks Falls 2.89 mi 209.92 ft out and back Easy 4.5/5
Dumpling Mountain 2.99 mi 741.28 ft out and back Moderate 4/5

Wildlife in Crater Lake National Park and Katmai National Park & Preserve

Crater Lake NP is known for its lake & diverse forest habitats, home to animals like black bears, deer, & squirrels. The park also has a variety of bird species like bald eagles & ospreys. Katmai NP, on the other hand, is famous for its brown bears who gather to feast on salmon in Brooks River. Visitors may also spot moose, caribou, & sea birds like puffins & cormorants. Both parks offer unique views of wildlife, but the types of species found differ greatly between them.

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

Birds

Crater Lake National Park Katmai 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 Northern Flicker
Northern Flicker Merlin
Merlin Barn Swallow
Barn Swallow Savannah Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow Hermit Thrush
Great Blue Heron American Kestrel
Hermit Thrush Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle Song Sparrow
Song Sparrow European Starling
European Starling Northern Pintail
Northern Pintail American Wigeon
American Wigeon Green-Winged Teal
American Pipit American Pipit
Swainson’s Thrush Swainson’s Thrush

Mammals

Crater Lake National Park Katmai National Park & Preserve
Coyote Coyote
American Beaver American Beaver
Muskrat Muskrat
Big Brown Bat Little Brown Bat
Bobcat Black Bear
Striped Skunk Porcupine
Little Brown Bat Red Fox
Deer Mouse Mink
Raccoon Gray Wolf
Black Bear Short-Tailed Weasel
Porcupine Varying Hare
Silver-Haired Bat Northern River Otter
Hoary Bat Masked Shrew
Red Fox Red Squirrel
Long-Tailed Weasel Montane Shrew
House Mouse Lynx
Mountain Lion Wolverine
Mink American Marten
Mule Deer Or Black-Tailed Deer Grizzly Bear
Gray Fox Meadow Vole
Wolf Moose
Long-Legged Myotis Least Weasel
Long-Eared Myotis Pygmy Shrew
American Badger Meadow Jumping Mouse
Ermine Northern Bog Lemming

Fish

Crater Lake National Park Katmai National Park & Preserve
Rainbow Trout Redband Trout
Brook Trout Longnose Sucker
Brown Trout Lake Trout
Lake Trout Northern Pike
Silver Salmon Burbot
Kokanee Salmon Silver Salmon
Cutthroat Trout King Salmon
Slimy Sculpin
Threespine Stickleback
Sockeye Salmon
Pink Salmon
Chum Salmon
Dolly Varden
Arctic Grayling

Amphibians

Crater Lake National Park Katmai National Park & Preserve
Bullfrog Wood Frog

Beautiful Landscapes in Crater Lake National Park and Katmai National Park & Preserve

Crater Lake National Park is known for its stunning Crater Lake, surrounded by the caldera of an ancient volcano, with hikeable overlooks for panoramic views of the deep blue waters and surrounding cliffs. The park offers scenic drives, including Rim Drive, for views of the lake and nearby peaks.

Katmai National Park & Preserve features the unique Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, filled with steaming vents and fumaroles created by the eruption of Novarupta in 1912. Brooks Falls is famous for brown bear viewing and salmon fishing. The park also boasts rugged coastlines and glaciers in the Alaska Peninsula.

Things To-Do and Activities in Crater Lake National Park and Katmai National Park & Preserve

Crater Lake NP is famous for its deep blue lake, scenic drives, boating, fishing & hiking. Katmai NP, on the other hand, is a hub for bear watching, fishing, and rafting. Brooks River in the park is known for high concentration of Alaskan brown bears, providing opportunities for observing the creatures in their habitat. Both parks offer ranger-led programs, camping, and backcountry experiences. Crater Lake emphasizes scenic beauty & rec activities, while Katmai offers a unique wilderness & wildlife viewing experience.

Best Time to Visit Crater Lake National Park and Katmai National Park & Preserve

Crater Lake National Park in Oregon has a cool, wet climate with heavy snow in winter and frequent rain in summer. July and August are the best months to visit, with mild weather and peak scenic beauty.

Katmai National Park & Preserve in Alaska has long, harsh winters and cool, rainy summers. The park has a marine climate with high humidity and frequent rain in summer. June through September is the best time to visit, with mild weather and active brown bears.

Family Friendliness of Crater Lake National Park and Katmai National Park & Preserve

Crater Lake is recommended for families for its stunning views and short, easy hikes. Katmai, however, is more suited for adventure-seekers with its brown bears and volcanic activity. Crater Lake offers more family-friendly amenities and activities, making it the better choice for families traveling with kids.

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