Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve vs. Bryce Canyon National Park

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If you’re planning a vacation and would like a quick comparison of Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve and Bryce Canyon National Park, 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 Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve.

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!

Bryce Canyon National Park Overview

Hoodoos (irregular columns of rock) exist on every continent, but here is the largest concentration found anywhere on Earth. Situated along a high plateau at the top of the Grand Staircase, the park’s high elevations include numerous life communities, fantastic dark skies, and geological wonders that defy description.

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.

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve Hiking Trails

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.

Best Hikes At Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

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

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

Hiking Overview at Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park is a hiker’s paradise, offering trails of varying difficulty that wind through some of the most stunning landscapes in the world. For those looking for an easy hike, the Rim Trail provides panoramic views of Bryce Canyon without any significant elevation gain. For those looking for a more challenging hike, the Fairyland Loop descends nearly 800 feet into the canyon, passing by towering hoodoos and colorful rock formations. And for those looking for an even greater challenge, the Peekaboo Loop climbs to the top of Bryce Point, providing hikers with an breathtaking birds-eye view of Bryce Canyon. No matter what your hiking level, Bryce Canyon National Park has a trail that’s perfect for you.

Top 10 Hiking Trails at Bryce Canyon National Park

Hike Name Elevation Gain Difficulty Rating Type Average Rating
Peekaboo Loop, Wall Street, and Rim Trails 572.7192 5 out and back 4.5
Yovimpa Point 1.8288 1 out and back 4
Paria View 23.7744 1 out and back 4
Rainbow Point, Yovimpa Point, and Bristlecone Loop 36.8808 1 loop 4
Sheep Creek and Swamp Canyon Loop 243.84 3 loop 4
Hat Shop via Under the Rim Trail 294.7416 3 out and back 4.5
Piracy Point 17.9832 1 out and back 4
Navajo Loop and Queen’s Garden Trail 189.8904 3 loop 5
Under the Rim Trail: Bryce Point to Whiteman Bench 945.7944 7 point to point 4
Whiteman Bench to Mud Canyon Spring 128.9304 1 out and back 4

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.

Wildlife at Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park is home to a diverse array of wildlife, from the small and elusive Pika to the majestic elk. With over 150 species of animals, Bryce Canyon is a veritable paradise for wildlife enthusiasts. The park also boasts an impressive variety of plants, with over 1,000 different species. Whether you’re looking for a rare bird sighting or just want to enjoy the beauty of the natural world, Bryce Canyon National Park is sure to offer something for everyone.

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.

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.

Bryce Canyon National Park Weather Considerations

Bryce Canyon National Park is located in southwestern Utah, and it is known for its hoodoos. Hoodoos are formed when an area of rock is more resistant to erosion than the surrounding rock, and over time, the softer rock is worn away, leaving behind the more resistant rock. Bryce Canyon National Park has an average elevation of 8,000 feet, and as a result, the weather can vary considerably throughout the year. The park experiences cold winters with snowfall, and summers are typically hot and dry. Spring and fall are generally the best times to visit Bryce Canyon National Park because the weather is milder. Late summer and early fall can also be a good time to visit Bryce Canyon National Park because the hoodoos take on a reddish hue as the sun sets.