Dry Tortugas National Park vs. Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

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If you’re planning a vacation and would like a quick comparison of Dry Tortugas National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, we’ve got you covered.

We’ll take a look at what they have to offer in terms of hiking and wildlife, plus what the best time of year to visit might be.

Let’s get started with an overview of Dry Tortugas National Park.

Dry Tortugas National Park Overview

Almost 70 miles (113 km) west of Key West lies the remote Dry Tortugas National Park. This 100-square mile park is mostly open water with seven small islands. Accessible only by boat or seaplane, the park is known the world over as the home of magnificent Fort Jefferson, picturesque blue waters, superlative coral reefs and marine life, and the vast assortment of bird life that frequents the area.

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve Overview

Open 24/7 year round! There are no limitations or reservations to visit, but there is currently limited capacity in the visitor center. The tallest dunes in North America are the centerpiece in a diverse landscape of grasslands, wetlands, forests, alpine lakes, and tundra. Stay on a moonless night to experience this International Dark Sky Park’s starry skies!

Hiking At National Parks

Most national parks have some of the best hiking trails you’ll find anywhere in the US.

If you’re planning to take along your furry friend, double-check the rules before you go – as many of the parks have different rules about bringing animals along with you.

Dry Tortugas National Park Hiking Trails

Dry Tortugas National Park is home to some of the best hiking trails in the country. The easiest trail is the Garden Key Trail, which winds through botanical gardens and offers stunning views of the Gulf of Mexico. For a more challenging hike, try the Fort Hill Trail, which climbs to the top of a 19th-century fortress for sweeping panoramas of the island. Dry Tortugas is also home to the longest hiking trail in the park system, the Loggerhead Key Nature Trail. This 10-mile round-trip trek takes hikers through mangrove forests and tidal lagoons in search of wildlife. No matter what your level of experience, Dry Tortugas National Park has a hiking trail that’s perfect for you.

Best Hikes At Dry Tortugas National Park

The ratings below are based on user-submitted data at AllTrails.com

Hike Name Elevation Gain Difficulty Rating Type Average Rating
Fort Jefferson Loop 0.9144 1 loop 4.5

Hiking Overview at Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

Great Sand Dunes National Park is home to some of the most beautiful hiking trails in the country. The park offers a variety of trails for all levels of hikers, from easy strolls to challenging treks. The easiest trail is the Dunes View Trail, which is a short, 0.5-mile loop that provides stunning views of the dunes. For a more challenging hike, try the Alkali Flat Trail, a 4-mile loop that takes you through a variety of terrain, including dunes, meadows, and forests. For the most experienced hikers, the Sandwich Peak Trail is a strenuous 11-mile round-trip hike that culminates in stunning views from the summit of Sandwich Peak. No matter what your level of experience, Great Sand Dunes National Park has a hiking trail for you.

Top 10 Hiking Trails at Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

Hike Name Elevation Gain Difficulty Rating Type Average Rating
Upper Sand Creek Lake Trail 598.932 7 out and back 4.5
Medano Lake Trail 697.992 3 out and back 4
Montville Nature Trail 26.8224 1 loop 4
Dunes Overlook Sand Ramp Trail 80.772 3 out and back 3.5
Little Medano Creek Trail to Medano Lake 1079.9064 3 out and back 4
Wellington Ditch Trail 47.8536 1 out and back 4
Dunes Overlook Trail 143.8656 3 out and back 4
Pinion Flats Campground Trail 26.8224 1 loop 4
High Dune Trail 191.7192 5 out and back 5
High and Star Dune Loop 403.86 3 loop 4.5

Wildlife at Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park is home to a variety of plant and animal life. The park’s diverse habitats – including beaches, mangroves, seagrass beds, and coral reefs – provide shelter and food for a wide range of species. Among the most common animals you’ll see in the park are birds; Dry Tortugas is home to over 320 species of birds, including pelicans, herons, egrets, and roseate spoonbills. The waters around the park are also teeming with marine life; snorkeling and diving are popular activities for visitors, and you can expect to see a variety of colorful fish, turtles, and coral. Dry Tortugas National Park is an important stopover for migratory birds, and it’s also home to several endangered species, such as the Key deer and the Dry Tortugas pink shrimp. Whether you’re exploring the park by land or by sea, you’re sure to see an amazing array of plant and animal life.

Wildlife at Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

Great Sand Dunes National Park is home to a diverse array of wildlife, from small insects to large mammals. The most common animals you’re likely to see in the park are mule deer, elk, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep. Other smaller mammals include squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, and mice. You may also see reptiles such as lizards and snakes, as well as a variety of birds, including hawks, eagles, and quail. In addition to its many animal residents, Great Sand Dunes National Park is also home to a wide variety of plants, including grasses, shrubs, and trees. The park’s diverse ecosystem provides habitat for many different species of wildlife, making it a great place to explore the natural world.

What’s the best time to visit?

A lot of times, weather can dictate when it makes the most sense to visit a particular national park.

Plus, depending on the types of activities you’re hoping to take part in, seasonality will be a huge factor in whether those things are even available.

Dry Tortugas National Park Weather Considerations

Dry Tortugas National Park is located in the Gulf of Mexico, about 70 miles west of Key West, Florida. The park has a tropical climate with warm weather year-round. However, there can be some variation in temperature and rainfall between the different seasons. The best time to visit Dry Tortugas National Park is from December to April. This is the dry season, with average temperatures ranging from 73-81 degrees Fahrenheit. There is also less chance of hurricanes during this time of year. The worst time to visit Dry Tortugas National Park is from May to November. This is the wet season, when average temperatures are slightly higher (78-86 degrees Fahrenheit) and chances of rainfall are increased. Hurricanes are also more likely to occur during this time of year.

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve Weather Considerations

Great Sand Dunes National Park is a great place to visit any time of year, but the best time to go depends on what you’re looking for. If you want to experience the park’s namesake dunes, the best time to visit is during the spring or fall, when the temperatures are cooler and the sand isn’t as hot. However, if you’re more interested in hiking or other outdoor activities, the summer months are generally the best time to go, as there is less chance of rain. Winter can also be a good time to visit Great Sand Dunes National Park, as long as you’re prepared for colder weather and possible snow. So whatever your interests, there’s a perfect time of year for you to explore Great Sand Dunes National Park.