Home to Nevada’s tallest peak, alpine forests, and stunning hiking trails, Great Basin National Park is a hidden gem worth a visit if you can manage it.
In this article, we’ll share top things to do in Great Basin National Park, best places to visit, ideal time, etc. Let’s begin!
|Park||Great Basin National Park|
|Things To Do||Touring, Hiking, Star Gazing and many more|
|Hotels Near Biscayne National Park||Star Gazer Inn Nevada, Border Inn and many more|
|Price||No Entry Charge|
|Camping Location||Multiple Locations|
Where Is Great Basin National Park?
Great Basin National Park is located in Nevada, Western Utah, to the west of Baker and to the southeast of Ely. You can reach the park by driving on the scenic path of Nevada Highway 488.
And the nearest airports from Great Basin National Park are St. George, Utah, and Cedar City, Utah, which are 207 miles and 142 miles away from the park, respectively.
Great Basin National Park is the most crowd-free national Park in the United States.
It boasts stunningly decorated caves, ancient trees, astonishing mountainous scenery, and an abundance of other scenic features that are hard to find these days.
Great Basin National Park is home to the only glacier in Nevada and one of the tallest glaciers in the country.
Though it receives just 90 000 people each year, that doesn’t mean it lacks in beauty or other features.
Here you’ll find everything from deserts, mountains, fossils to glaciers, springs, and caves.
The Park is also home to more than 200 bird species, 73 mammals, and more than 800 plant species.
If you want to enjoy challenging hikes, great views, and unforgettable stargazing experiences, Great Basin National Park is the place to go.
A Brief History
For thousands of years, the Great Basin region has been home to American Indians and several distinct tribes.
Aspen trees throughout the Park bear the marks of who came here before and provide an excellent record of history from the early 1900s.
In the most recent times, Mormons, farmers, ranchers, and Sheepherders. Much of the landscape of the Park was carved by the glaciers around 10,000 years ago.
The only remainder of the actual ice glaciers behind the formation of the Park is located in Lehman Cirque, just above the Lehman Rock Glacier.
On January 24, 1922, President Warren G. Harding declared the “Lehman Caves” a national monument administered by U.S Forest Service.
The Great Basin National Park was established on October 27, 1986, by President Ronald Regan, and Leman Caves Monument was incorporated into the Park on the same day.
Things to do in the Park
Here are some absolute must-do things for first-timers to the Great Basin National Park:
Take a Tour of Lehman Caves
No visit to the Great Basin National Park could be complete without visiting the Lehman Caves, an underground cave system 2.5 million years old.
This limestone and marble cave system have more than 300 unique shielded formations, stalactites, flowstone, stalagmites, and even cave bacon.
The cave system also has its unique design, home to some of the rarest creatures found nowhere on earth, such as ten endemic bat species.
Explore the Park’s Stunning Hiking Trails
The Park offers excellent hikes with varying lengths and difficulty levels.
Some of the most scenic hikes are located along the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive, including Alpine Lakes Loop, Bristlecone trail, Sky Island Forest Trail, Glacier trail, and many more.
Scattered through the Park, these trails provide various opportunities to challenge yourself to summit a mountain or take a stroll among the ancient trees.
Most of the trails are wheelchair accessible to give people of all abilities access to an excellent hiking experience.
Drive to the Wheeler Peak Area
Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive is one of the best ways to experience the diversity of the Park.
This mountainous road hugs the South Snake Range, slowly winding up to the point where beautiful vistas reach the horizon, and you’ll get to witness the pristine view of the rugged Great Basin Desert.
The drive crosses through several ecological zones, and you’ll be amazed to see the diversity of life living just feet above the barren desert.
Be sure to stop at the overlooks along the route to enjoy spectacular views that stretch for 100 miles and beyond.
Stargaze under One of the Darkest Skies
The Park has one of the darkest skies in the United States due to its remote location, high elevation, and desert air.
In 2015, it was designated as Gold Tier Dark Sky Park by the “International Dark-Sky Association.” One can easily see thousands of stars, meteors, five planets, and the Milky Way galaxy with a naked eye on a clear day.
The Park also has its research-grade observatory and Astronomy Amphitheater, where astronomy programs are held regularly.
You can also go on a guided full moon hike during summer and fall and enjoy stargazing on a telescope.
Best Time to Visit
There’s no perfect answer to this question because every season has its own merits.
Summer and fall are lovely, with mild temperatures and blooming wildflowers. During Spring, Great Basin burbles with waterfalls after the snowmelt.
For adventurous souls interested in wintertime activities and willing to brave the harsh weather conditions, November through March are the great times to visit.
This Park is located in a remote area with limited services, so make sure to download the Park’s Map to plan your trip ahead.
Visit the NPS Map Website to get the most up-to-date park map.
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This Park offers several options for camping. There are five developed campgrounds and a few backcountries primitive sites that can be found along Snake Creek Road.
All camping grounds are open from May through October, except Lower Lehman Creek, which is open all year round.
Campers must make reservations during the peak season on Recreation.gov handles. Tent camping reservations can be made at the Grey Cliffs Campground.
This Park is a relatively arid region with most precipitation during winter snows or summer thunderstorms.
Summer is mild, and winters are cool, but weather can change quickly, especially at higher elevations.
The daytime temperatures are hot in late spring and early summer, while the higher elevations are covered with snow.
Lehman Caves maintains a relatively constant temperature of 50 degrees with 90% humidity all around the year.
Make sure to check the current weather before visiting.
Hotels to Stay Near Great Basin National Park
The only lodging option with the Park is a tent campground, but quite a few lodging options are available in the nearest cities, including Baker, Ely, and Utah. Here are some hotels to stay near this park:
- Border Inn
- Stargazer Inn Nevada
- Holiday Inn Express & Suites- Ely
- Hidden Canyon Retreat
- Prospector Hotel & Casino
Entry Fees and Passes
The Park doesn’t charge any entry fee, but you have to pay the price to take Lehman Cave Tours.
There’s a fee charged person and duration for all visitors. Holders of Senior and Golden Access cards aren’t exempt from the costs, but they are eligible for discounts.
Lehman Cave tours are conducted daily in the presence of a guide. For more information about tours, charges and schedules, visit the NPS Website.
Checklist for Things to Pack
Here’s are some camping and hiking essentials you need to pack for a safe and secure trip:
- Sleeping bag
- Hiking boots
- Rain Jacket
- Portable water source
- Ready to eat food
- Sunscreen, Sunglasses, and hat
- Pocket knife
- Headlamp/ flashlight
- Bug Spray
- First-aid kit
- Park’s Map & compass
How many days do I need to explore Great Basin National Park?
Ideally, two days would be enough to enjoy a few hikes, take a Lehman Cave tour, and camp under the stars.
Are there bears in Great Basin National Park?
The Park is home to more than 500 bears, about 50-60% of which can be found in Tahoe Basin or the Carson and Pine Nut ranges.
How to beat the crowd at Great Basin National Park?
The Park has a minimum number of visitors in January and February and at the end of September, making it an ideal time to enjoy some solitude along with beautiful weather.
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