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

Feel Free To Share:

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

Grand Canyon National Park Overview

Grand Canyon National Park, in northern Arizona, encompasses 278 miles (447 km) of the Colorado River and adjacent uplands. Located on the ancestral homeland of 11 Associated Tribes, Grand Canyon is one of the most spectacular examples of erosion anywhere in the world—unmatched in the incomparable vistas it offers visitors on the rim. South Rim and North Rim are open 24 hours. Daily updates >

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 Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most popular hiking destinations in the United States. With over 1,000 miles of trails, there is something for everyone. The Bright Angel Trail is one of the most popular trails in the park. It is a relatively easy hike with gentle grades and well-maintained trail. However, it should not be taken lightly as the descent into the canyon can be challenging. The South Kaibab Trail is another popular option. It is shorter than the Bright Angel Trail but much steeper. Hikers should be aware of the dangers of hiking in the heat and be sure to carry plenty of water. The North Rim Trail is less crowded than the other trails but is more difficult due to its higher elevation. Finally, the Hermit Trail is considered to be one of the most difficult trails in Grand Canyon National Park. It is longer and steeper than the Bright Angel Trail and has very little shade. Hikers should only attempt this trail if they are experienced and in good physical condition.

Top 10 Hiking Trails at Grand Canyon National Park

Hike Name Elevation Gain Difficulty Rating Type Average Rating
Grand Canyon Rim Village to Hermit’s Rest 424.8912 1 out and back 4.5
Desert View Visitor Center Trail 10.9728 1 loop 4
Coconino Overlook 141.732 1 out and back 4
Uncle Jim Trail 222.8088 1 loop 4
Dripping Springs via Dripping Springs and Hermit Trail 796.7472 5 out and back 4.5
North Kaibab Trail to Redwall Bridge 801.9288 5 out and back 5
Tanner Trail 1611.7824 7 out and back 5
South Kaibab, Tonto and Bright Angel Trail 1034.796 7 point to point 5
South to North Kaibab Trail 1966.8744 5 point to point 5
Point Imperial 6.7056 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 Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park is home to an incredible variety of plants and animals. Nearly 2,000 species of plants and more than 300 species of animals can be found within the park boundaries, making Grand Canyon one of the most biologically diverse regions in the world. Amongst the towering cliffs and raging rivers, you can find elk and mule deer roaming the forested plateaus, bighorn sheep climbing the rocky mountainsides, and pronghorn antelope running across the open grasslands. In the skies above, you may spot bald eagles soaring on updrafts or golden eagles hunting hares from a vantage point. In the depths of the canyon, you might see black bears foraging in riparian areas or cougars stalking their prey. Grand Canyon National Park is truly a wildlife paradise!

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.

Grand Canyon National Park Weather Considerations

Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States. And it’s no wonder, with its stunning views and rich history. But when is the best time to visit Grand Canyon National Park? The answer depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of the wildflowers that blanket the canyon floor each spring, then March or April is the best time to go. However, if you’re not a fan of crowds, you may want to avoid peak season (July and August), when the park is busiest. December through February is considered the off-season at Grand Canyon National Park, so you may find lower prices and fewer crowds during these months. But keep in mind that the weather can be cold and snowy at this time of year. So, when it comes to Grand Canyon National Park weather, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. It really depends on what you’re looking for in a vacation.