Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve vs. Denali National Park & Preserve

Feel Free To Share:

If you’re planning a vacation and would like a quick comparison of Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve and Denali 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 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!

Denali National Park & Preserve Overview

Denali National Park is an awe-inspiring natural haven located in Alaska. This vast expanse of seemingly untouched wilderness is home to wide-open tundra, rushing rivers and towering mountains. Denali is perhaps best known for its namesake peak, Denali, which at 20,310 feet is the highest mountain in North America. But despite Denali’s impressive stature, this national park covers more than 6 million acres of land, offering visitors plenty of opportunities for hiking, camping, and wildlife watching. Whether you are a seasoned adventurer looking for a challenge or just want to soak up the stunning scenery of Denali National Park, there is something for everyone at Denali. So why not pack your bags and experience this breathtaking corner of the world today? You won’t regret it!

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 Denali National Park & Preserve

Denali National Park is home to some of the best hiking trails in Alaska. The park features six different trails, ranging from easy to difficult. For those looking for an easy hike, the Denali Nature Trail is a great option. This one-mile loop takes hikers through a beautiful spruce forest and along the edge of a river. The more challenging Tanana Loop Trail is also a great option for those looking for a bit more of a workout. This four-mile trail takes hikers through several different ecosystems, including forests, meadows, and wetlands. For those looking for an even greater challenge, the Savage River Loop Trail is the most difficult trail in the park. This eight-mile trail gains almost 2,000 feet in elevation as it winds its way through subalpine meadows and alpine tundra. No matter what level of difficulty you are looking for, Denali National Park has a hiking trail that is perfect for you.

Top 10 Hiking Trails at Denali National Park & Preserve

Hike Name Elevation Gain Difficulty Rating Type Average Rating
Bison Gulch 1178.9664 5 out and back 4.5
Rock Creek Trail 287.7312 3 out and back 4
Taiga Trail 62.7888 3 loop 4
McKinley Station Trail 113.9952 1 loop 4.5
Mount Thorofare Ridge Loop 507.7968 5 loop 4.5
McKinley Bar Trail 295.9608 1 out and back 4
Tiaga Loop and Horseshoe Lake Trail to Beaver Dam 158.8008 3 loop 4.5
Blueberry Hill Trail 46.9392 3 out and back 4.5
Stampede Trail to Sushana River 1292.9616 5 out and back 4.5
Camp Ridge Trail 538.8864 5 out and back 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 Denali National Park & Preserve

Denali National Park is well known for its incredible biodiversity, with a wide range of plant and animal life. Whether you are interested in seeing majestic moose or soaring eagles, Denali is the place to be. Some of the other common species you can expect to find within the park include grizzly bears, caribou, lynx, peregrine falcons, wolves, and coyotes. Denali is also home to an incredible array of flora, from delicate alpine wildflowers to towering spruce trees and ancient coniferous forests. With so much wildlife and beauty packed into Denali National Park, it truly is a nature-lover’s paradise. So if you are looking for an unforgettable experience in the great outdoors, be sure to add Denali to your list of must-visit destinations.

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.

Denali National Park & Preserve Weather Considerations

Denali National Park is located in the heart of Alaska, and the weather conditions can be extreme. The best time to visit Denali National Park is during the summer months, when the weather is milder and there are more daylight hours. However, this is also the busiest time of year, so visitors should be prepared for crowds. The worst time to visit Denali National Park is during the winter, when temperatures can drop below zero and there is very little daylight. However, this is also the time of year when Denali National Park is at its most beautiful, with the snow-capped mountains providing a stunning backdrop.