Death Valley National Park vs Denali National Park & Preserve

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Death Valley and Denali are two vastly different parks that showcase the diversity of America’s natural beauty. While Death Valley boasts searing heat and the lowest point in North America, Denali features America’s tallest peak and some of its most rugged wilderness. Whether you’re seeking adventure or simply want to bask in the beauty of nature, these two parks offer a wealth of opportunities to explore and be amazed. So get ready for a wild ride as we compare and contrast these two American gems!

Hiking Trails in Death Valley National Park and Denali National Park & Preserve

Death Valley and Denali National Parks are popular destinations for hikers, but they offer vastly different experiences. In Death Valley, temperatures can soar making even easy hikes, like Badwater Basin Boardwalk and Natural Bridge Canyon, challenging. The toughest trail in Death Valley is Telescope Peak, a 14-mile round-trip hike with a 6,000 ft elevation gain. In contrast, Denali is known for its cold, rugged terrain with easier hikes like the park road and Savage River Loop. However, the most difficult hikes in Denali, like Mount Healy and Mount Margaret backcountry route, can be over 20 miles and require backcountry experience.

Most Popular Hiking Trails in Death Valley National Park

Name Length Elevation Type Difficulty Visitor Ratings
Badwater Basin Salt Flats Trail 1.80 mi 9.84 ft out and back Easy 4.5/5
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes Trail 2.79 mi 206.64 ft out and back Easy 4.5/5
Zabriskie Point 0.40 mi 52.48 ft out and back Easy 4.5/5
Dante’s View Trail 1.60 mi 360.80 ft out and back Easy 4.5/5
Telescope Peak Trail 11.97 mi 3,322.64 ft out and back Hard 4.5/5
Golden Canyon Trail to Red Cathedral 2.89 mi 574.00 ft out and back Moderate 4.5/5
Golden Canyon and Gower Gulch Loop via Zabriskie Point 5.79 mi 1,092.24 ft loop Moderate 4.5/5
Mosaic Canyon Trail 3.49 mi 1,066.00 ft out and back Easy 4/5
Death Valley Natural Bridge Road 4.29 mi 1,000.40 ft out and back Easy 4/5
Darwin Falls Trail via Old Toll Road 1.90 mi 226.32 ft out and back Easy 4/5

Most Popular Hiking Trails in Denali National Park & Preserve

Name Length Elevation Type Difficulty Visitor Ratings
Mount Healy Overlook Trail 4.29 mi 1,666.24 ft out and back Moderate 4.5/5
Horseshoe Lake Trail 2.10 mi 393.60 ft loop Easy 4.5/5
Triple Lakes Trail 18.46 mi 3,690.00 ft out and back Hard 4.5/5
Bison Gulch 6.98 mi 3,867.12 ft out and back Hard 4.5/5
Rock Creek Trail 4.39 mi 944.64 ft out and back Moderate 4/5
Taiga Trail 1.60 mi 206.64 ft loop Moderate 4/5
McKinley Station Trail 2.89 mi 373.92 ft loop Easy 4.5/5
Mount Thorofare Ridge Loop 4.09 mi 1,666.24 ft loop Hard 4.5/5
McKinley Bar Trail 4.59 mi 970.88 ft out and back Easy 4/5
Tiaga Loop and Horseshoe Lake Trail to Beaver Dam 2.99 mi 521.52 ft loop Moderate 4.5/5

Wildlife in Death Valley National Park and Denali National Park & Preserve

Death Valley NP in California is known for its desert wildlife, like bighorn sheep, coyotes, and kit foxes. Migratory birds like American White Pelican also visit. Denali NP & Preserve in Alaska is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including grizzly bears, caribou, moose, wolves, and Dall sheep. Denali also has birds of prey, like bald eagle and gyrfalcon, and a mix of habitats, tundra, forest, and wetland, with plants like willows, alders, and spruces.

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

Birds

Death Valley National Park Denali 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 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 Swainson’s Thrush

Mammals

Death Valley National Park Denali National Park & Preserve
Coyote Coyote
Muskrat American Beaver
Big Brown Bat Muskrat
Bobcat Little Brown Bat
Little Brown Bat Black Bear
Deer Mouse Porcupine
Raccoon Red Fox
Porcupine Mink
Silver-Haired Bat Wolf
Hoary Bat Short-Tailed Weasel
House Mouse Snowshoe Hare
Mountain Lion River Otter
Mule Deer Common Shrew
Gray Fox Water Shrew
Long-Legged Myotis Red Squirrel
Long-Eared Myotis Montane Shrew
Badger Lynx
Californian Myotis Wolverine
Fringed Myotis American Marten
Common Shrew Northern Flying Squirrel
Mexican Free-Tailed Bat Grizzly Bear
Townsend’s Big-Eared Bat Meadow Vole
Bushy-Tailed Woodrat Moose
Western Harvest Mouse Least Weasel
Western Small-Footed Myotis Pygmy Shrew

Fish

Death Valley National Park Denali National Park & Preserve
Largemouth Bass Longnose Sucker
Mosquitofish Lake Trout
Goldfish Northern Pike
Burbot
Coho Salmon
Chinook Salmon
Slimy Sculpin
Chum Salmon
Dolly Varden
Arctic Grayling

Amphibians

Death Valley National Park Denali National Park & Preserve
Woodhouse’s Toad Wood Frog
Canyon Treefrog

Beautiful Landscapes in Death Valley National Park and Denali National Park & Preserve

Death Valley NP boasts unique landscapes, including Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America, & Artist’s Drive with its vibrant rock formations. Denali NP & Preserve features North America’s tallest peak, Mount Denali (20,310 ft), with subarctic tundra, glaciers, and diverse wildlife.

Things To-Do and Activities in Death Valley National Park and Denali National Park & Preserve

Death Valley National Park and Denali National Park & Preserve both offer diverse experiences. Death Valley is famous for scenic drives, geology, camping, ranger activities, and picnics. Denali is best known for wildlife viewing, backcountry exploration, bus tours, and hiking. Both parks offer stargazing and cultural history, with Death Valley having a mining past and Denali being home to the Athabascan people.

Best Time to Visit Death Valley National Park and Denali National Park & Preserve

Death Valley NP in California is known for scorching summer temperatures, reaching over 100°F, while winter temps are mild with lows in the 40s°F. On the other hand, Denali NP in Alaska experiences long, harsh winters with average lows below 0°F and heavy snow from September to June, and cool summer days with average highs in the 60s°F. To best enjoy Death Valley, visit from Nov-Apr when the weather is mild for outdoor activities. To make the most of Denali, visit Jun-Sep when the snow melts, roads open and wildlife is more active.

Family Friendliness of Death Valley National Park and Denali National Park & Preserve

Denali is more family-friendly than Death Valley. Denali offers a variety of outdoor activities, including scenic drives, hiking, and wildlife viewing, while Death Valley is mainly known for its desert landscapes and scenic drives. Denali also features more amenities, such as campsites, lodges, and shuttle buses, making it easier for families to plan and enjoy their trip.

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