Great Smoky Mountains National Park vs. Crater Lake 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 Crater Lake 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!

Crater Lake National Park Overview

Crater Lake inspires awe. Native Americans witnessed its formation 7,700 years ago, when a violent eruption triggered the collapse of a tall peak. Scientists marvel at its purity—fed by rain and snow, it’s the deepest lake in the USA and one of the most pristine on Earth. Artists, photographers, and sightseers gaze in wonder at its blue water and stunning setting atop the Cascade Mountain Range.

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 Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park is home to some of the most beautiful hiking trails in the country. If you’re looking for an easy hike, the Rim Village Trail is a great option. This paved trail winds its way around Crater Lake, offering stunning views of the lake and mountaintops. For a more challenging hike, try the hike to Wizard Island. This strenuous 8-mile round-trip hike takes you to the top of Wizard Island, where you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of Crater Lake. No matter which trail you choose, Crater Lake National Park is sure to provide an unforgettable hiking experience.

Top 10 Hiking Trails at Crater Lake National Park

Hike Name Elevation Gain Difficulty Rating Type Average Rating
Godfrey Glen Trail 19.812 1 loop 4
Crater Peak Trail 360.8832 3 out and back 4.5
Annie Creek Canyon Trail 92.964 3 loop 4
Castle Crest Wildflower Garden Trail 36.8808 1 loop 4
Dutton Creek Trail 317.9064 3 out and back 4
Lightning Spring Trail 395.9352 3 out and back 4
Pacific Crest Trail and Alternate Loop 1211.8848 5 loop 4.5
Lady of the Woods Trail 33.8328 1 loop 3
Stuart Falls Trail 438.912 3 out and back 4
Union Peak Trail 512.9784 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 Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park is home to an amazing variety of wildlife. You can find everything from eagles and ospreys to elk and deer. The park also contains a number of sensitive plant species, including the western white pine and the Crater Lake lily. In addition, Crater Lake is an important stopover point for migrating birds. Every year, hundreds of thousands of birds use the lake as a resting place during their journey north. As a result, Crater Lake is teeming with life, and there is always something new to see.

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.

Crater Lake National Park Weather Considerations

Crater Lake National Park is a beautiful place to visit all year round. However, the weather can vary greatly depending on the time of year. The best time to visit Crater Lake National Park is from June to September. During these months, the weather is warm and sunny, making it perfect for hiking, swimming, and enjoying the views. However, Crater Lake National Park can also be crowded during this time of year. If you’re looking for a quieter experience, late September to early October is a great time to visit Crater Lake National Park. The weather is still pleasant, but the crowds have typically dispersed by this point. The worst time to visit Crater Lake National Park is from November to May. During these months, the weather is cold and often snowy, making it difficult to enjoy the park’s many activities. If you do decide to visit Crater Lake National Park during these months, be sure to dress warmly and bring plenty of supplies.