Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve vs. Canyonlands 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 Canyonlands 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!

Canyonlands National Park Overview

Canyonlands invites you to explore a wilderness of countless canyons and fantastically formed buttes carved by the Colorado River and its tributaries. Rivers divide the park into four districts: Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and the rivers themselves. These areas share a primitive desert atmosphere, but each offers different opportunities for sightseeing and adventure.

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 Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park is a hiker’s paradise, with plenty of trails to suit all levels of ability. For those who are looking for an easy hike, the Canyon Overlook Trail is a great option. It’s only 0.5 miles long and takes around 30 minutes to complete. The trailhead is located near the Canyonlands Visitor Center, making it easy to find. For those who are looking for a more challenging hike, the Mesa Arch Trail is a great option. It’s 1.2 miles long and takes around 90 minutes to complete. The trailhead is located near the Grand View Point Overlook, making it easy to find. However, be aware that the last part of the hike involves scrambling over rocks, so it’s not suitable for everyone.

Top 10 Hiking Trails at Canyonlands National Park

Hike Name Elevation Gain Difficulty Rating Type Average Rating
Confluence Overlook Trail 409.956 3 loop 4.5
Maze Overlook Trail 293.8272 3 out and back 5
Lost Canyon 238.9632 3 loop 4.5
Shafer Canyon Overlook 13.716 1 out and back 4.5
Cave Spring Trail 11.8872 3 loop 4
Squawflat Trail to Lost Canyon Peekaboo Trail 453.8472 5 out and back 4.5
Murphy Trail Loop 491.9472 5 loop 4.5
Salt Creek and Horse Canyon OHV Trail 279.8064 3 out and back 4.5
Devils Pocket Loop 511.7592 3 loop 5
Elephant Hill Trail 221.8944 1 out and back 4.5

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 Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park is home to a wide variety of plants and animals. Canyonlands is divided into three major ecosystems: desert, riparian, and canyon. The desert ecosystem is the most widespread, covering 60% of the park. In this arid environment, you can find plants such as cacti and Joshua trees. Animals that call the desert home include lizards, snakes, rabbits, and mice. The riparian ecosystem can be found near rivers and streams. Here you will find cottonwoods and willows as well as animals such as beavers, otters, and fish. The canyon ecosystem is the most diverse, with a variety of plant life including ferns, mosses, and wildflowers. Canyon animals include birds of prey, bats, and small rodents. No matter where you explore in Canyonlands National Park, you are sure to see a wide variety of plants and animals.

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.

Canyonlands National Park Weather Considerations

Canyonlands National Park is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States. The park is known for its stunning views of canyons, red rock formations, and desert landscapes. Canyonlands National Park is located in Utah, and its weather varies greatly depending on the time of year. The best time to visit Canyonlands National Park is during the spring or fall. During these months, the weather is mild and the landscapes are beautiful. However, Canyonlands National Park can be extremely hot during the summer, and winter can bring cold temperatures and snow. As a result, Canyonlands National Park can be a great destination for all types of travelers.