Great Basin National Park
When you think about Nevada, a long dusty road with majestic desert mountains in the background comes to mind, and for good reason! Established on the 27th of October, 1986, the National Park landscape rises up from the desert basin floor, and includes stunning cave formations, a towering mountain more than 13,000 feet high, and some of the oldest living trees on the planet. The name of the park has been taken from the vast region that sits between Utah’s Wasatch Range and California’s Sierra Nevada, encompassing most of western Utah and Nevada, along with a portion of southern Oregon.
Christened the Great Basin — by the famous explorer John C. Fremont in the mid 1800s, the entire area is comprised of over 90 basins and valleys, and all the rivers of the area flow inland instead of into an ocean. The National Park occupies around 77,180 acres of the Great Basin with many breathtaking views.
The park is comprised of roughly 65 miles of trails, which offer access to the hills, alpine lakes, glacial moraines, and highly spectacular views of the surrounding country. The road which winds though the park takes visitors to Wheeler Peak, the second tallest mountain in Nevada. Nearby, the Bristlecone/Glacier Trail weaves through an ancient forest of Bristlecone Pines to the only glacier in the region. For a more in-depth view of the unique, timeworn Bristlecone Pines, take the detour on the Bristlecone Forest Loop.
Well known for its beautiful formations, the Lehman Caves area was originally protected as a National Monument in 1922. The entrance to Lehman Caves, a single cave regardless of its name, lies at an altitude of 6,825 feet, and consists of 1.5 miles of stunning subterranean passageways. The caves can only be explored by ranger led tours, which are usually limited to 20 people, and are offered daily throughout the year, excluding some holidays. Two different tours are available: The Lodge Room Tour (About 60 minutes, .4 Miles) and the Grand Palace Tour (about 90 minutes, .5 Miles). Be sure to bring a jacket, as the 50°F cave interior is often much cooler than the outside temperature.
Great Basin National Park boasts of “one of the last true dark skies in America”. The avid star gazer will have difficulty finding clearer, darker skies anywhere else in the country. Astronomy programs are offered at various times throughout the year, and begin with a ranger talk at the Lehman Caves Visitor Center. One of the most popular astronomy programs is the “Full Moon Guided Hikes”, led by one of the parks “Dark Rangers”. These full moon hikes are only offered on full moons during the summer months, and are limited to 40 people on a first come first serve basis. The location and route of the hike is kept secret until visitors receive their tickets, which builds up excitement and adds to the overall experience of the hike. To learn more about these extraordinary astronomy programs click here.
THE SEASONS OF GREAT BASIN
Summer is the season of activity. Animals are a common sight throughout the park this time of year. Temperatures are favorable and mild, perfect for popular activities such as fishing in nearby creeks. When Autumn arrives, so does the magnificent colors. The park bursts with color from aspen tree groves glistening in brilliant golds and yellows. Winter is accompanied by silence and solitude, as few visitors frequent the park, other than the occasional snowshoer and skier. When winter melts away into spring, the park is full of rebirth and new beginnings. Flowers begin to spring up everywhere, and a refreshing splash of color returns to the park. Animals begin to emerge as temperatures become more pleasant. Great Basin is open year round, with different activities to enjoy depending on the season. Regardless of the time of year, the absolute best time to view Wheeler Peak is in the morning, when the lighting is soft and the air is full of quiet tranquility.