Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve vs. New River Gorge National Park and Preserve

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

New River Gorge National Park and Preserve Overview

New River Gorge National Park and Preserve is a beautiful and diverse destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Located in West Virginia, this expansive park spans more than 1,700 square miles and features rugged mountain scenery, winding rivers, picturesque waterfalls, steep canyons, lush forests, and abundant wildlife. With so much to see and do, New River Gorge is the perfect choice for anyone looking to get outside and explore the great outdoors. Whether you’re interested in hiking or biking along scenic trails or rafting or kayaking down rushing rivers, New River Gorge has something to offer everyone. So why not plan your next trip today? Whether you’re looking for adventure or simply a relaxing respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, New River Gorge is the perfect place to reconnect with nature. Get outside and discover what New River Gorge has to offer!

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 New River Gorge National Park and Preserve

New River Gorge National Park is home to some of the best hiking trails in the country. The park, which is located in southern West Virginia, features more than 50 miles of trails that wind through a variety of terrains. While all of the trails offer stunning views of the New River Gorge, each one has its own unique challenges.

For those looking for an easy hike, the Fayetteville Trail is a great option. This two-mile trail winds through a forest and offers gentle elevation changes. The trail can be accessed from the Fayetteville Visitors Center and is perfect for families or those who are new to hiking.

For those looking for a more challenging hike, the New River Gorge Trail is the longest and most difficult trail in the park. This 31-mile trail follows the New River from one end of the gorge to the other. Along the way, hikers will need to navigate steep cliffs, narrow ledges, and deep ravines. The New River Gorge Trail is only recommended for experienced hikers who are properly prepared for a multi-day adventure.

Top 10 Hiking Trails at New River Gorge National Park and Preserve

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

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 New River Gorge National Park and Preserve

At New River Gorge National Park, you can expect to see a wide range of beautiful wildlife. Whether you’re gazing at towering trees or trekking through muddy marshes, you are sure to encounter an array of animals and plants along the way. Some of the most common species include deer, foxes, squirrels, turkeys, wild turkeys, salamanders, snakes, lizards, hawks, eagles, crows and blue jays. Additionally, New River Gorge is home to many different types of flora including ferns, mosses, conifers and deciduous trees. Whether you’re exploring on your own or partaking in one of the park’s many guided tours and hikes, New River Gorge has something to offer for all nature-lovers and wildlife enthusiasts alike!

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.

New River Gorge National Park and Preserve Weather Considerations

New River Gorge 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. For example, if you’re interested in hiking, the spring and fall are ideal because the temperatures are moderate and there’s less chance of rain. However, if you’re looking to whitewater raft, the summer is the best time to visit since that’s when the water level is at its highest. On the other hand, winter can be a magical time at New River Gorge National Park, especially if you’re hoping to see some snow. So whether you’re looking for adventure or peace and quiet, be sure to check the New River Gorge National Park weather forecast before planning your trip.