Many people have different travel preferences, so I wanted to highlight some differences I have noticed that may help you decide which park to visit. I normally do not compare my trips, but I figured these would be helpful for anyone who loves national parks as much as I do.
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Teddy Roosevelt
Landscape / Terrain
Denali: Denali has a massive landscape. It is one of the largest national parks, ranking in at number three. The landscape includes tundra and Denali, along with its foothills. There are very few trees due to the temperate winters and permafrost grounds. Instead, the ground consists of low brush and crumbling rocky mountains. Depending on time of visit, you can see the top of Denali with autumn colors dusting the tundra ground.
Yellowstone: Covered with mainly Lodgepole Pine, geothermic springs, or the riverbed of Yellowstone River, Yellowstone has many landscape features. It has a variety of colors from rainbow colored springs to magnificent waterfalls dropping into the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone to snow-capped mountains on the horizon above the green, regrowing forests.
Lamar Valley Landscape in Yellowstone
Roads / Transportation
Denali: Park Road is the main road through the park. However, most visitors are not permitted to drive the road past Savage River. The furthest visitors can drive on Park Road without taking the bus is Teklanika Campground, but you must be camping there for a minimum of 3 nights. Instead, visitors are shuttled through the park via school bus with designated stopping points along the way, along with impromptu stops for wildlife at a safe distance. You can get off the bus at any time. Make sure to tell the bus driver where you would like to be dropped off.
Yellowstone: Yellowstone has basically a figure eight road that goes through the park with few extension roads to get to the different directional entrances. It has little pull offs to spot wildlife or take in the beautiful landscape. Visitors are permitted to drive their vehicles through the park at their own pace.
I am not a wildlife expert by any means, but I do like photographing them. I will share what I saw during my visits, but it is very circumstantial based on the time and place and season. For a complete list of wildlife at either of the parks click here: Denali Wildlife or Yellowstone Wildlife. Make sure to check in with the visitor’s centers and ask rangers where the best places are to view wildlife to get the most up to date activity.
Depending on the park, depends on the animal. For example, you are not going to see Dall Sheep or caribou in Yellowstone. Out of the two parks, I enjoyed the wildlife in Denali more due to the frequency of animal sightings. Here is a short list of some of the animals I have seen during my visits: Bears (Black and Brown/Grizzly), Wolves, Coyotes, Foxes, Elk, Moose, Deer, Sheep, Birds, etc.
Caribou in Denali
Fox in Yellowstone
Denali: Eielson Visitor Center is within the park and has great views of Denali on a clear day. The Denali Visitor Center is located at the entrance of the park and is a great starting point to know what the park has to offer. The Wilderness Access Center is where you can purchase tickets or arrange campground accommodations.
Views of Denali from Eielson Visitor Center
Yellowstone: There are several visitor centers to choose from. We received great information from the park ranger at Old Faithful Visitor Education Center. We also spend some time in the Canyon Visitor Education Center. With so many to choose from, you can gather ample amounts of history and information depending on the different section you are visiting.
Old Faithful Visitor Area
Denali Trails: I highly recommend hiking in Denali. However, be prepared with bear spray and the right hiking gear and topographic maps. There are very few mapped trails in Denali, which can be intimidating. Ike Waits does an excellent job sharing hikes within the park in his book: Denali National Park Alaska Guide to: Hiking, Photography, and Camping. The hikes are usually loops that always connect to Park Road, where you can hitch a ride back from any of the passing buses that have available seats.
Polychrome Ridge Hike in Denali
Yellowstone Trails: Yellowstone has hiking trails as well. These hikes are marked trails unless you are backcountry hiking with a permit. The map that the park gives you upon arrival gives you some options. Also, all the visitor’s centers have rangers with informational sheets of paper with a variety of hikes. Keep in mind that Yellowstone is at a higher elevation, which may cause shortness of breath if not properly acclimated.
Mt Washburn Hike in Yellowstone
Denali: There are six campgrounds within the park system. Make sure you have reservations ahead of time. For more information visit Campground Fees & Reservations. We stayed at Teklanika Campground, which was an excellent choice because it minimizes time riding the bus.
Teklanika Campground at Denali
Yellowstone: There are twelve campgrounds within the park. For more information visit Campgrounds in Yellowstone. Some of the campgrounds are operated by Xanterra Parks & Resorts. Some campgrounds share tents and RVs, so make sure to take ear plugs because the campsites are close together.
Bridge Bay Campground at Yellowstone
What was your favorite part of either parks?
TIPS TO PRESERVE PARKS FOR YEARS:
I have visited a few National Parks during my travels. I did want to write about some observations when exploring these natural treasures.
Be mindful of sign postings. I am sure many people are visiting the park to experience its natural beauty. The signs stating not to go off the path are there for a reason. It is to maintain the ecosystem of the park you are visiting to ensure future tourists will be able to experience the same.
Let wildlife be wild. One of my most favorite parts of being at some of the parks is to view wildlife in their natural habitat. However, with the increasing number of tourists stopping to see what others see by running towards the animal(s) is dangerous. It is important to be quiet and not approach them. If you want great wildlife pictures, get a large lens. This will minimize the impact to nature by distancing yourself from animals and preserving the land.
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