Great Smoky Mountains National Park vs. Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Feel Free To Share:

If you’re planning a vacation and would like a quick comparison of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Carlsbad Caverns 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!

Carlsbad Caverns National Park Overview

High ancient sea ledges, deep rocky canyons, flowering cactus, and desert wildlife—treasures above the ground in the Chihuahuan Desert. Hidden beneath the surface are more than 119 caves—formed when sulfuric acid dissolved limestone leaving behind caverns of all sizes.

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 Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Carlsbad Caverns National Park offers a variety of hiking trails for visitors to explore. The easiest trail is the Natural Entrance Trail, which is just over a mile long and relatively flat. For those looking for a more challenging hike, the Big Room Guided Tour takes hikers through some of the largest rooms in the cavern, including the Carlsbad Room and the Temple of the Sun. This trail is over two miles long and includes some steep sections. The most difficult trail at Carlsbad Caverns National Park is the Rattlesnake Canyon Trail. This trail is only accessible with a ranger-guided tour and includes several strenuous sections. However, it also rewards hikers with stunning views of the surrounding desert landscape. Regardless of which trail you choose, Carlsbad Caverns National Park is sure to offer an unforgettable hiking experience.

Top 10 Hiking Trails at Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Hike Name Elevation Gain Difficulty Rating Type Average Rating
North Slaughter Canyon Trail 469.6968 3 out and back 4
Carlsbad Caverns Highway to Carlsbad Caverns National Park 309.9816 1 out and back 4
Juniper Ridge Trail 140.8176 1 out and back 3.5
Yucca Canyon Trail 443.7888 3 out and back 4
Slaughter Canyon Cave Trail 140.8176 3 out and back 5
Rattlesnake Canyon 207.8736 3 out and back 4
Walnut Canyon Trail 7.9248 1 out and back 2.5
Carlsbad Caverns National Park Trail 13.716 1 loop 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 Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Carlsbad Caverns National Park is home to a diverse array of wildlife. Visitors can expect to see everything from bats and birds to small mammals and lizards. The park also boasts a variety of plant life, including cacti, yucca, and ocotillo. In addition, Carlsbad Caverns is home to several endangered species, such as the Mexican long-nosed bat and the Carlsbad talus snail. With over 1,300 species of plants and animals, Carlsbad Caverns National Park is truly a nature lover’s 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.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park Weather Considerations

Carlsbad Caverns National Park regulates its temperature at a cool 60 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. This makes it a great destination for those who want to escape the heat of summer or the cold of winter. However, the park does experience a wide range of weather conditions throughout the year, and some times of year are better suited for visiting than others. The spring and fall months are typically the best times to visit Carlsbad Caverns National Park. The weather is milder during these months, and there are often fewer crowds. However, the park is also beautiful during the winter, when it sometimes snows at the higher elevations. And although summer can be hot, it is also a great time to explore the caverns, which stay cool even on the hottest days. So whether you’re looking for mild weather or cooler temperatures, Carlsbad Caverns National Park has something to offer visitors all year round.