Great Basin National Park vs Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

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Are you torn between visiting Great Basin National Park or Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve? Both parks offer unique experiences and breathtaking landscapes, but which one is right for you? In this article, we will explore the similarities and differences between these two national parks, helping you make an informed decision on your next adventure.

Great Basin National Park is located in Nevada and is famous for its ancient bristlecone pine trees, limestone caves, and stunning mountain views. On the other hand, Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve is located in Colorado and is a playground for sand enthusiasts with its towering sand dunes and scenic vistas. Whether you are a hiker, camper, or just looking for a peaceful escape, both parks have something to offer.

So, get ready to pack your bags and hit the road on a journey to discover the beauty and wonder of Great Basin and Great Sand Dunes National Parks. With their unique landscapes and endless opportunities for adventure, you are sure to have an unforgettable experience!

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

Great Basin National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve are both unique and stunning National Parks in the United States. Both parks offer a range of hiking trails, from easy walks to challenging backcountry hikes.

At Great Basin National Park, the easiest hike is the Bristlecone Pine Trail, which is a .5-mile loop that takes you through the ancient Bristlecone Pine forest. For a more challenging hike, try the Wheeler Peak Trail, a 13-mile round trip hike that takes you to the summit of the park’s highest peak.

At Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, the easiest hike is the Dunes Overlook Trail, a .6-mile round trip hike that takes you to a stunning view of the dunes. For a more challenging hike, try the Medano Pass Primitive Road, a 4.6-mile one-way hike that takes you through the heart of the dunes.

Both parks offer a diverse range of hiking trails, so no matter your fitness level or hiking experience, you’re bound to find a trail that suits you. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely walk or a challenging hike, both Great Basin National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve have something to offer.

Most Popular Hiking Trails in Great Basin National Park

Name Length Elevation Type Difficulty Visitor Ratings
Wheeler Peak Trail via Stella Lake Trail 8.18 mi 2,906.08 ft out and back Hard 5/5
Bristlecone Pine Glacier Trail 4.49 mi 1,059.44 ft out and back Moderate 4.5/5
Alpine Lakes Trail 2.69 mi 469.04 ft loop Easy 4.5/5
Lehman Cave 0.40 mi 45.92 ft loop Easy 4.5/5
Bristlecone and Alpine Lakes Loop 5.29 mi 1,013.52 ft loop Moderate 4.5/5
Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive 23.25 mi 3,857.28 ft out and back Easy 4.5/5
Baker Lake Trail 10.38 mi 2,669.92 ft out and back Hard 4.5/5
Teresa Lake 1.50 mi 305.04 ft out and back Moderate 5/5
Baker Lake-Johnson Lake Loop 12.87 mi 4,365.68 ft loop Hard 4.5/5
Lexington Arch Trail 2.89 mi 1,118.48 ft out and back Moderate 4/5

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 Great Basin National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

Great Basin National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve are two of the most popular national parks in the US, both offering unique and diverse wildlife experiences. In Great Basin National Park, visitors can expect to see a variety of wildlife, including black bears, mule deer, and pronghorns. The park is also home to several species of bats, including the Townsend’s big-eared bat, which is a threatened species in the US. In addition, the park is home to several species of birds, including the common raven, mountain bluebird, and Clark’s nutcracker.

At Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, visitors can expect to see a different variety of wildlife, including bison, coyotes, and pronghorns. The park is also home to several species of reptiles, including the western rattlesnake, desert iguana, and the Great Basin collared lizard. Additionally, the park is home to several species of birds, including the northern harrier, burrowing owl, and the great horned owl. The park is also home to a variety of plant life, including sagebrush and the sand verbena.

Both parks offer visitors the opportunity to see a diverse range of wildlife, from mammals and birds to reptiles and plant life. Whether you are interested in observing black bears in their natural habitat or spotting a desert iguana sunning itself on a rock, both parks offer unique and memorable wildlife experiences.

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

Birds

Great Basin 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

Great Basin 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
Porcupine Black Bear
Silver-Haired Bat Porcupine
Hoary Bat Silver-Haired Bat
Red Fox Hoary Bat
Long-Tailed Weasel Red Fox
House Mouse Long-Tailed Weasel
Lion Mule Deer
Mink Gray Fox
Mule Deer Long-Legged Myotis
Gray Fox Long-Eared Bat
Gray Wolf Badger
Long-Legged Myotis Ermine
Long-Eared Myotis Snowshoe Hare
Badger Masked Shrew
Ermine Water Shrew
Californis Myotis Brazilian Free-Tailed Bat

Fish

Great Basin National Park Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve
Rainbow Trout Brook Trout
Brook Trout German Brown Trout
Brown Trout Cutthroat Trout
Mottled Sculpin
Speckled Dace
Cutthroat Trout

Amphibians

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

Reptiles

Great Basin National Park Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve
Racer Bull Snake
Greater Short-Horned Lizard Western Terrestrial Garter Snake
Rubber Boa Western Prairie Rattlesnake
Long-Nosed Leopard Lizard Greater Short-Horned Lizards
Eastern Collared Lizard Milksnake
Eastern Fence Lizard Eastern Fence Lizard
Long-Nosed Snake
Desert Spiny Lizard
Western Fence Lizard

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

Great Basin National Park, located in Nevada, is known for its unique landscapes and natural wonders. One of the park’s most famous features is Lehman Caves, a maze of limestone caverns filled with stunning formations of stalactites, stalagmites, and other mineral deposits. Another must-see attraction is the 13,063-foot Wheeler Peak, the highest mountain in Nevada and the centerpiece of the park’s scenic mountain range. Visitors can also enjoy scenic drives, hiking trails, and scenic overlooks offering panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, located in Colorado, is also known for its unique landscapes and natural wonders. The park’s most famous feature is the massive sand dunes, which rise up to 750 feet and are the tallest sand dunes in North America. Visitors can explore the dunes on foot, sandboard, or even sled down their slopes. The park also features a scenic mountain range, Medano Creek, and several hiking trails, offering opportunities to enjoy the park’s diverse landscapes. Additionally, the park is home to several hot springs, providing visitors with the chance to relax and soak in the warm waters.

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

Great Basin National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve both offer unique experiences and popular activities for visitors. Great Basin National Park is known for its diverse landscape, including the Lehman Caves, which offer guided tours that allow visitors to explore the intricate underground formations. Another popular activity is stargazing, as the park has some of the darkest skies in the country, making it an ideal location for viewing stars, planets, and other celestial bodies.

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, on the other hand, is famous for its massive sand dunes. Visitors can enjoy sand sledding, hiking, and backpacking in the dunes, as well as exploring the nearby wetlands, which are home to a variety of wildlife, including birds, amphibians, and reptiles. The park also has scenic drives, including the Medano Pass Primitive Road, which offers stunning views of the dunes and the surrounding mountains.

Both parks offer outdoor recreation and scenic beauty, making them popular destinations for nature lovers. Whether you are interested in exploring caves, stargazing, hiking, sand sledding, wildlife watching, or simply taking in stunning views, both Great Basin National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve have something to offer.

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

Great Basin National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve are two unique national parks located in the western United States. The seasonal weather at each park greatly affects the best time to visit.

Great Basin National Park, located in Nevada, experiences cold and snowy winters and mild summers. The park is known for its lush forests and high elevation, which results in average temperatures ranging from the low 30s to mid 60s in the summer months. Winters are harsh with snow and cold temperatures, making it difficult for visitors to explore the park. The best time to visit Great Basin National Park is during the summer months, from June to September.

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, located in Colorado, has a much different climate. The park experiences hot summers, with temperatures often reaching the high 90s, and mild winters with temperatures in the 40s. The park is known for its towering sand dunes and is a popular destination for sand-boarding and hiking. The best time to visit Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve is during the spring and fall months, from April to May and September to October, when temperatures are mild and more comfortable for outdoor activities.

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

Great Basin National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve are two unique and beautiful parks to visit with children. Both offer different experiences for families to enjoy, but there are a few differences that set them apart when it comes to being family-friendly.

Great Basin National Park is located in Nevada and is known for its beautiful landscapes and diverse wildlife. With numerous hiking trails, including the popular Wheeler Peak Trail, families can enjoy exploring the park’s stunning scenery and wildlife. Additionally, the park also offers ranger-led activities and programs, making it easier for families to learn more about the park and its history.

On the other hand, Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve is located in Colorado and is known for its towering sand dunes. The park offers a variety of activities for families to enjoy, including sand sledding and hiking. The park also has a visitors center with interactive exhibits, making it easier for families to learn about the unique sand dunes and the park’s ecosystem.

Overall, both parks offer unique experiences for families to enjoy, but Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve may be a better option for families traveling with children. With its interactive exhibits and fun activities like sand sledding, the park is sure to provide an unforgettable experience for children of all ages.

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