Great Smoky Mountains National Park vs. Capitol Reef National Park

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If you’re planning a vacation and would like a quick comparison of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Capitol Reef 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 Smoky Mountains National Park.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Overview

Ridge upon ridge of forest straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. World renowned for its diversity of plant and animal life, the beauty of its ancient mountains, and the quality of its remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture, this is America’s most visited national park. Plan your visit today!

Capitol Reef National Park Overview

Located in south-central Utah in the heart of red rock country, Capitol Reef National Park is a hidden treasure filled with cliffs, canyons, domes, and bridges in the Waterpocket Fold, a geologic monocline (a wrinkle on the earth) extending almost 100 miles.

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 Smoky Mountains National Park Hiking Trails

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the best places to hike in the United States. The park has over 800 miles of trails, ranging from easy to difficult. For hikers who are looking for an easy hike, the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a great option. This 5-mile roundtrip hike winds through a beautiful forest and is mostly flat. For those looking for a more challenging hike, the 210-mile Appalachian Trail runs through Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This hike is not for the faint of heart, but those who complete it are rewarded with stunning views of the mountains. No matter what your hiking level, Great Smoky Mountains National Park has a trail for you.

Best Hikes At Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The ratings below are based on user-submitted data at AllTrails.com

Hike Name Elevation Gain Difficulty Rating Type Average Rating
Jakes Creek Trail to Avent Cabin 146.9136 1 out and back 4.5
Mount Le Conte 993.9528 5 out and back 5
Gregory Bald via Twentymile 1145.7432 7 loop 4.5
Smokemont Loop Trail 428.8536 3 loop 4
Chestnut Branch Trail to Mount Cammerer 1005.84 5 out and back 4.5
Silers Bald and Forney Creek Loop Trail 1589.8368 7 loop 4.5
Cataloochee Divide Trail 850.6968 5 out and back 4.5
Chestnut Top Trail to Whiteoak Sink 602.8944 3 out and back 4
Brushy Mountain 528.828 5 out and back 4
Noland Divide Trail 1457.8584 5 point to point 4

Hiking Overview at Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park is a hiker’s paradise, offering a wide variety of trails to suit all levels of ability. For those looking for a relatively easy hike, the Capitol Gorge Trail is an excellent option. This 3-mile round-trip hike takes you through a narrow canyon with towering walls, and can be completed in a few hours. For something a bit more challenging, the Frying Pan Trail is a 9.5-mile loop that takes you up into the foothills of thepark. Along the way, you’ll enjoy stunning views of the surrounding scenery. Finally, for experienced hikers looking for a real test, the Hailstone Trail is a strenuous 16-mile trek that summits several peaks along the way. Whichever trail you choose, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience at Capitol Reef National Park.

Top 10 Hiking Trails at Capitol Reef National Park

Hike Name Elevation Gain Difficulty Rating Type Average Rating
Fremont River Trail 124.968 3 out and back 4.5
Upper Muley Twist 412.6992 3 loop 4.5
Cohab Canyon – Cassidy Arch Trail 728.7768 3 out and back 4.5
Panorama Point 2.7432 1 out and back 4
Frying Pan Trail 797.9664 3 out and back 4.5
Grand Wash Trail via Capitol Reef Scenic Dr. 169.7736 3 out and back 4.5
Burro Wash Trail 302.9712 3 out and back 4.5
Sulphur Creek Waterfall Hike 54.864 1 out and back 4.5
Cottonwood Wash 367.8936 3 out and back 4.5
Fremont Gorge Trail 310.896 3 out and back 4.5

Wildlife at Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to an incredible diversity of plant and animal life. Over 10,000 species of plants and animals can be found throughout the park, making it one of the most biologically diverse areas in the world. Among the most popular animals in the park are black bears, white-tailed deer, elk, coyotes, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park bees. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is also home to a wide variety of bird species, including sandpipers, herons, woodpeckers, and red-tailed hawks. In addition to its abundance of wildlife, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is also home to some of the tallest trees in the eastern United States. The park’s forests are dominated by fir and hemlock trees, but you can also find maple, oak, and poplar trees throughout the park. No matter what time of year you visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there’s sure to be something new and exciting to see.

Wildlife at Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park is home to a wide variety of plant and animal life. The park’s diverse ecosystem includes desert, mountain, and river habitats, providing a home for many different species of creatures. Visitors to the park can expect to see desert bighorn sheep, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, and coyotes. There are also several species of reptiles, including the Gila monster and desert tortoise. In addition to its furry and scaly residents, Capitol Reef National Park is also home to a variety of birds, includinghawks, eagles, and owls. Flowers bloom throughout the year in the park, attracting bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. Capitol Reef 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 Smoky Mountains National Park Weather Considerations

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a beautiful place to visit any time of year. However, the weather can vary significantly depending on the season. In the winter, the temperatures can dip well below freezing, and the roads may be covered in ice and snow. Spring is a great time to visit, as the temperatures are milder and the flowers are in bloom. However, visitors should be aware that thunderstorms are common in the spring. Summer is the busiest time of year at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, as the weather is warm and sunny. However, visitors should be prepared for occasional afternoon showers. Fall is another great time to visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park, as the leaves change color and the crowds thin out. However, visitors should be aware that cold weather can arrive early in the fall, so it’s important to pack a jacket.

Capitol Reef National Park Weather Considerations

Capitol Reef National Park is located in southern Utah, and the weather there can vary greatly depending on the time of year. The summers are hot, with average highs in July and August exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the dry heat means that the temperatures are not as oppressive as they might be in other parts of the country. The winters are cool, with average lows in January and February below freezing. However, Capitol Reef National Park is a popular destination for winter sports, and the snow-covered landscape is truly breathtaking. Spring and fall are generally considered to be the best times to visit Capitol Reef National Park, as the temperatures are mild and the crowds are relatively thin. Regardless of when you visit, Capitol Reef National Park is sure to leave a lasting impression.