PeaceJoyAustin

Cheap, free, and local-endorsed things to do in beautiful places

Great Basin National Park

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  • A unique group of mountains surrounded by desert
  • A microcosm of the huge Great Basin area that makes up much of Nevada & Utah
  • Hosts one of the country’s most beautiful cave tours

When To Visit: June-September

Climate: Dry year round. Cold with some snow in winter, hot in summer, moderate in shoulder seasons.

Location: Eastern Nevada 3.5 hours from Salt Lake City

Situated in an extremely remote corner of Nevada, Great Basin is about as close to the middle of nowhere as you get. This quiet park protects a wonderfully unique set of mountains that is surrounded by the huge Great Basin desert. A drive on the Wheeler Scenic Road with lots of stops at viewpoints, a hike or two, and a tour of the Lehman Caves are all must-dos.

Photo: Glacier Trail

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Bristlecone Trail

What To See & Do in Great Basin

Great Basin Hikes

I’ve ranked Great Basin’s best trails in order of scenery.

  1. Bristlecone & Glacier Trails

    • 4.6 miles round trip, out & back, 1,100 foot elevation gain, 2-4 hours, moderately strenuous
    • Combines these two trails for an amazing hike to a panoramic view of the park and Nevada’s only glacier
    • Passes an ancient bristlecone pine grove, showcasing these trees which are the oldest living species on earth. You’ll see some that have been around since 1500BC!
  2. Alpine Lakes Trail
    • 2.7 mile loop, 600 foot elevation gain, 1-2 hours, moderately strenuous
    • Passes Stella and Teresa Lakes
    • Close-up views of Wheeler Peak, Nevada’s 2nd highest mountain
    • Can be combined with the Bristlecone & Glacier Trails
    • For slightly better views, go counter-clockwise; for less elevation gain, go clockwise
  3. Lexington Arch Trail
    • 3.4 miles round trip, out & back, 820 foot elevation gain, 2-3 hours, moderately strenuous to strenuous
    • Takes you to a remarkable limestone arch
    • Accessed from an unpaved road that you enter 25 miles south of the main park entrance
  4. Sky Islands Forest Trail
    • 0.4 mile loop, no elevation gain, 15-45 minutes, easy
    • A quiet walk through a forest with signs that educate on the area’s history and botany
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Stella Lake & Wheeler Peak on Alpine Lakes Trail

Lehman Cave Tours

Great Basin’s Lehman Caves can only be entered as part of a guided tour. There are two tour options – do the longer Grand Palace tour if you have time.

  1. Grand Palace Tour
    • 90 minutes, 0.6 miles, $10
    • Goes through 5 stunning cave rooms and by the Parachute Shield rock formation
    • Includes everything seen on the Lodge Room tour and more
  2. Lodge Room Tour
    • 1 hour, 0.4 miles, $8
    • Passes 3 beautiful cave rooms

Where To Stay & Eat in Great Basin

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Wheeler Peak Glacier, Nevada’s only glacier

Great Basin has more limited visitor services than most national parks – no lodging and only a tiny selection of snacks at the Visitor Center. However, the town of Baker just outside the park has a few food and accommodation options.

There are five campgrounds, four of which are open May-October while Lower Lehman Creek remains open year-round. Most are first-come, first-serve, but Grey Cliffs campground does accept some reservations.

Nearby Side Trips from Great Basin

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Angels Landing at Zion National Park

Zion National Park: Centered around incredible Zion Canyon 3 hours from Great Basin, this popular national park lies at the junction of three ecological regions, allowing for a unique array of animal and plant life. Read more.

Bryce Canyon National Park: The largest number of hoodoo rock formations in the world are found in this park 3 hours away and they create a stunning canyon view you’ll never forget. Read more.

 

 

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