I LOVE Great Basin National Park and that is no secret around here. I’ve wanted to do some posts like this for a while because I love the one I did for Black Canyon of the Gunnison so today I’m going to share 8 reasons to visit Great Basin National Park next.
Great Basin is in the literal middle of nowhere Nevada. It’s actually on the Loneliest Road in America so I mean literal middle of nowhere. It’s an alpine paradise in the middle of the desert with so many unique features that are pretty hard to beat. I would definitely say it’s an underrated national park and absolutely deserves to be on your national park bucket list.
It’s one of the least visited national parks
As of 2019, it was the 10th least visited national park in the US with just 131,000 visitors that year. Granted, most of those visitors are there between June and September, but it still doesn’t feel busy when you’re there.
It has the only glacier in Nevada
That’s right. There’s a glacier in Nevada and it lives in Great Basin National Park! You can even hike up to the foot of the glacier and see two of the other awesome park features along the way.
The Wheeler Peak Glacier is an alpine glacier that sits right under Wheeler Peak, the second highest peak in Nevada but more on that in a minute. You can see some of the ice on the surface but most of it is covered by debris. The best place to view the glacier is from the Wheeler Peak Overlook along the road.
It has alpine lakes
That’s right, alpine lakes! Who doesn’t love a good alpine lake? There are two that are super easy to get to, Stella Lake and Teresa Lake are both along the Alpine Loop/Bristlecone trail, which is a moderate trail to see some of the park highlights. The Alpine Lake Loop without the Bristlecones is 2.7 miles with 600 feet of elevation gain.
There is also Johnson Lake and Baker Lake but these are going to be much longer and more strenuous. Someday I’d like to see them but they’re (the whole park, really) is a fairly high elevation, like 8,000 feet or more. You can see these two in an 11.2 mile loop but it has 3,200 feet of elevation gain.
It’s home to the second highest peak in Nevada
You heard it here, folks. Boundary Peak is just barely the highest peak in Nevada at 13,146 feet. Wheeler Peak comes in a close second at 13,056 feet and it’s home is in Great Basin National Park!
If you’re a peak bagger you can even hike to the Wheeler Peak summit. It’s 8.6 miles with 2,900 feet of elevation gain. I haven’t done this hike yet and, I won’t lie, I’m not in a huge rush to but might try someday.
It’s the perfect respite from the desert heat
It can be like, 20 degrees cooler in the Wheeler Peak area than down in the adorable town of Baker. Even just at the Upper Lehman Creek Campground can be a lot cooler.
It’s the perfect mountain getaway in the area where you won’t have to fight the crowds of other mountain parks like Rocky Mountain. If you’re there early enough in the season you might even still have snow on the Alpine Lake Loop/Bristlecone Trail.
The Wheeler Peak area is closed until Memorial Day, so even in June you could see snow up there which was pretty exciting the first time we went!
It has a cave
And who doesn’t love a cave!? Ok, a lot of people, but I love them and was so excited to see Lehman Cave. There are two cave tours (1 hour or 1.5 hours) that can be booked in advance which I would highly recommend.
You might be able to snag a walk-in spot but if there are more than two people in your group, it will be tough. There also is a pretty low chance of doing the longer tour as a walk-in. We did the short tour but I would love to do the longer one next time!
And somehow I just learned that there are actually 40 caves in the park! 40! There are seven that are open for exploration but I wouldn’t recommend that unless you have caving experience.
It’s one of the best national parks for stargazing
Great Basin National Park is an International Dark Sky Park meaning it’s one of the best places to go stargazing. Whether you’re staying down in Baker or camping in the park, make sure to set aside some time for stargazing.
Even after living in Bullfrog in the middle of nowhere for the majority of four years my mind is still blown at the number of stars you can see out here. While all of these things on the list are amazing, this is incredibly impressive, especially if you live in a city.
It’s home to some of the oldest living things on Earth
These are the longest living trees on Earth, known to live for 4,900 years. 4,900 YEARS!! They usually grow between 9,000 and 11,500 feet in elevation.
There are three groves in the park: the Wheeler Peak grove, the Mount Washington grove, and the Eagle Peak grove. The Wheeler Peak grove is the most easily accessible and the one you see on the Alpine Lake/Bristlecone Loop.
The mount Washington grove is the biggest in the park but this and the Eagle Peak grove aren’t accessible by trail so if you want to see these ancient beauties, the Wheeler Peak grove is the one.
Have you been to Great Basin National Park? What did you think of it? Do you want to go?