Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve vs Wrangell – St Elias National Park & Preserve

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Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve and Wrangell – St Elias National Park & Preserve are two of the United States’ most unique and magnificent national parks. Both offer breathtaking landscapes, diverse wildlife, and endless opportunities for adventure and exploration. But which one is the better choice for your next national park adventure?

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at each park and compare them in terms of their geography, historical significance, recreational opportunities, and much more. Whether you’re a seasoned national park explorer or a first-timer, this article will give you all the information you need to decide which park is right for you.

So, pack your bags and get ready for an epic adventure as we explore the Great Sand Dunes and Wrangell – St Elias, two of the most awe-inspiring national parks in the country.

Hiking Trails in Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve and Wrangell – St Elias National Park & Preserve

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve and Wrangell – St Elias National Park & Preserve both offer unique hiking experiences in different environments.

At Great Sand Dunes, visitors can explore the towering sand dunes on several trails, including the Dunes Overlook Trail, a 1-mile hike to a stunning view of the dunes, and the Medano Pass Primitive Road, a 4×4 road that provides access to several backcountry trails. For a more challenging hike, visitors can tackle the High Dune hike, a strenuous 3-mile hike to the top of the tallest dune in North America.

Wrangell – St Elias, on the other hand, is a vast wilderness area with opportunities for backpacking and mountaineering. The park features several multi-day backpacking trips, including the 75-mile long Stairway Icefield Trail, and the challenging 17-mile Mount Jarvis hike, which offers stunning views of glaciers and peaks.

Visitors to Wrangell – St Elias should be prepared for rugged and remote terrain, as well as unpredictable weather. In contrast, the hikes at Great Sand Dunes are relatively easy and accessible, with well-maintained trails and abundant sand for a unique hiking experience.

Most Popular Hiking Trails in Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

Name Length Elevation Type Difficulty Visitor Ratings
High Dune Trail 2.99 mi 629.76 ft out and back Hard 5/5
Mosca Pass Trail 6.39 mi 1,459.60 ft out and back Moderate 4.5/5
Dunes Trail from Pinyon Flats 4.49 mi 954.48 ft loop Hard 4.5/5
Sand Dunes Loop Trail 4.99 mi 741.28 ft loop Moderate 4.5/5
Upper Sand Creek Lake Trail 7.38 mi 1,964.72 ft out and back Very Hard 4.5/5
Medano Lake Trail 7.88 mi 2,289.44 ft out and back Moderate 4/5
Montville Nature Trail 0.50 mi 88.56 ft loop Easy 4/5
Dunes Overlook Sand Ramp Trail 1.50 mi 265.68 ft out and back Moderate 3.5/5
Little Medano Creek Trail to Medano Lake 25.04 mi 3,542.40 ft out and back Moderate 4/5
Wellington Ditch Trail 1.80 mi 157.44 ft out and back Easy 4/5

Most Popular Hiking Trails in Wrangell – St Elias National Park & Preserve

Name Length Elevation Type Difficulty Visitor Ratings
0.00 mi 0.00 ft /5

Wildlife in Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve and Wrangell – St Elias National Park & Preserve

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve and Wrangell – St Elias National Park & Preserve are two unique and beautiful national parks in the United States. They both offer a wealth of opportunities to see wildlife in their natural habitats.

At Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, visitors can expect to see a variety of animals including mule deer, pronghorns, coyotes, and mountain lions. There are also a variety of birds that can be seen including the American kestrel, the mountain bluebird, and the white-tailed ptarmigan. Some of the plants that can be found in the park include yucca, sagebrush, and prickly pear cactus.

Wrangell – St Elias National Park & Preserve is home to a diverse array of wildlife, including moose, caribou, brown bears, and wolves. There are also many different species of birds that can be seen in the park including the bald eagle, the golden eagle, and the gyrfalcon. Some of the plants that can be found in the park include willow, alder, and spruce trees.

These two national parks each offer unique experiences for visitors looking to see wildlife in their natural habitats. Both parks are worth visiting and offer opportunities to see a wide variety of animals, birds, and plants that are not commonly seen in other parts of the country.

Below are lists of the most commonly spotted wildlife at Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve and Wrangell – St Elias National Park & Preserve. However, you can see a full list of wildlife at each national park here.

Birds

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve Wrangell – St Elias National Park & Preserve
Peregrine Falcon Peregrine Falcon
Northern Harrier Northern Harrier
Sharp-Shinned Hawk Sharp-Shinned Hawk
Osprey Osprey
Tree Swallow Tree Swallow
Mallard Mallard
Canada Goose Canada Goose
Lincoln’s Sparrow Lincoln’s Sparrow
Ruby-Crowned Kinglet Ruby-Crowned Kinglet
American Robin American Robin
Great Horned Owl Great Horned Owl
Red-Tailed Hawk Red-Tailed Hawk
Northern Flicker Northern Flicker
Merlin Merlin
Barn Swallow Barn Swallow
Savannah Sparrow Savannah Sparrow
Great Blue Heron Great Blue Heron
Hermit Thrush Hermit Thrush
American Kestrel American Kestrel
Bald Eagle Bald Eagle
Song Sparrow Song Sparrow
European Starling European Starling
Northern Pintail Northern Pintail
American Wigeon American Wigeon
Green-Winged Teal Green-Winged Teal

Mammals

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve Wrangell – St Elias National Park & Preserve
Coyote Coyote
American Beaver American Beaver
Muskrat Muskrat
Big Brown Bat Little Brown Bat
Bobcat Black Bear
Striped Skunk Porcupine
Little Brown Bat Red Fox
Deer Mouse Puma
Raccoon Mink
Black Bear Mule Deer
Porcupine Wolf
Silver-Haired Bat Short-Tailed Weasel
Hoary Bat Snowshoe Hare
Red Fox Land Otter
Long-Tailed Weasel Common Shrew
Mule Deer Water Shrew
Gray Fox Red Squirrel
Long-Legged Myotis Montane Shrew
Long-Eared Bat Long-Tailed Vole
Badger Lynx
Ermine Wolverine
Snowshoe Hare American Marten
Masked Shrew Northern Flying Squirrel
Water Shrew Grizzly Bear
Brazilian Free-Tailed Bat Meadow Vole

Fish

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve Wrangell – St Elias National Park & Preserve
Brook Trout Steelhead
German Brown Trout Longnose Sucker
Cutthroat Trout Lake Trout
Northern Pike
Burbot
Silver Salmon
King Salmon
Slimy Sculpin
Threespine Stickleback
Sockeye Salmon
Pink Salmon
Chum Salmon
Dolly Varden
Cutthroat Trout
Arctic Grayling

Amphibians

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve Wrangell – St Elias National Park & Preserve
Northern Leopard Frog Wood Frog
Tiger Salamander
Woodhouse’s Toad
Plains Spadefoot

Beautiful Landscapes in Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve and Wrangell – St Elias National Park & Preserve

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve and Wrangell – St Elias National Park & Preserve are two of the largest and most diverse national parks in the United States. Both parks are known for their unique landscapes and natural wonders that draw visitors from around the world.

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve is famous for its towering sand dunes, which are the tallest in North America. These dunes are surrounded by mountains and offer a unique contrast of sand and snow. Visitors can hike to the top of the dunes for panoramic views, or take a scenic drive through the park to view the dunes from different angles.

Wrangell – St Elias National Park & Preserve, on the other hand, is known for its vast wilderness and towering mountain ranges. The park is home to Mount St. Elias, which is the second tallest peak in the United States and Canada. Visitors can hike through the park’s glaciers, take a scenic flight over the peaks, or drive to the top of the mount for breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. The park also features numerous waterfalls, glaciers, and alpine lakes, making it a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.

Things To-Do and Activities in Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve and Wrangell – St Elias National Park & Preserve

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve and Wrangell – St Elias National Park & Preserve are two unique national parks with different landscapes and activities. Great Sand Dunes is known for its towering sand dunes that can reach up to 750 feet in height, making it a popular destination for sandboarding and sledding. Visitors can also hike to the top of the dunes for panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valley. In addition to sand activities, Great Sand Dunes also offers opportunities for star-gazing, camping, and scenic drives.

Wrangell – St Elias National Park & Preserve, on the other hand, offers a vastly different experience with its glaciers, mountains, and wild rivers. This park is a popular destination for backpacking, fishing, and kayaking. Visitors can also take a scenic flight to see the park from above or hike to the top of one of the many glaciers for a panoramic view of the surrounding wilderness. Wrangell – St Elias is also home to a variety of wildlife including bears, moose, and caribou, making it a popular destination for wildlife viewing.

In conclusion, both Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve and Wrangell – St Elias National Park & Preserve offer unique outdoor experiences for visitors. Whether you’re looking for sand activities, backpacking, or wildlife viewing, both parks have something to offer.

Best Time to Visit Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve and Wrangell – St Elias National Park & Preserve

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve and Wrangell – St Elias National Park & Preserve are two of the United States’ most beautiful national parks. They offer stunning natural beauty and a wealth of outdoor activities, but the seasonal weather at each park is different.

The Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve is located in the San Luis Valley of Colorado, and experiences warm summers and cool to cold winters. Summer temperatures average in the 80s, making it a great time to visit for hiking, sand sledding, and other outdoor activities. Winter temperatures can drop below freezing, but the park remains open for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

Wrangell – St. Elias National Park & Preserve, on the other hand, is located in Alaska and experiences cool summers and cold winters. Summer temperatures average in the 60s, making it a great time to visit for hiking, fishing, and wildlife viewing. Winter temperatures can drop well below freezing, but the park remains open for backcountry skiing and snowshoeing.

Both parks offer unique experiences, and the best time to visit depends on what you are looking to do. If you are interested in warm weather activities, the Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve is the better choice, while if you are looking for a winter wonderland experience, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park & Preserve is the way to go.

Family Friendliness of Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve and Wrangell – St Elias National Park & Preserve

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve and Wrangell – St Elias National Park & Preserve are two unique and beautiful national parks in the United States. Both parks offer a range of outdoor activities, but they differ significantly in terms of their family-friendliness.

Great Sand Dunes is a smaller park, but it has a lot of fun activities for families. For example, there are sand sledding, sandboarding, and hiking trails, as well as ranger-led programs for kids. Additionally, the park is located near the town of Alamosa, which offers a variety of dining, shopping, and other amenities.

Wrangell – St Elias, on the other hand, is a much larger park and covers a vast area of wilderness. While it’s great for experienced hikers and backpackers, it may not be as suitable for families with young children. The park is more remote and there are fewer amenities, so it may not be as convenient for families. Additionally, some of the trails in the park are more strenuous and may not be suitable for children.

Overall, Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve is a better option for families with young children. It’s smaller, more accessible, and has a wider range of activities and amenities that are suitable for families. Wrangell – St Elias, while beautiful and ideal for experienced hikers, may not be as family-friendly as Great Sand Dunes.

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