Hi travellers! My name is Bhavana and welcome to my article on Great Basin National Park. I am from Bangalore, India and moved to the United States in 2011 for my masters degree in electrical engineering. I have always been an outdoor enthusiast. I used to go on many hikes when I was young.
During recent COVID-19 times, my husband and I wanted to visit the lesser known and least visited national parks to avoid crowds. Great Basin National Park was the best choice for us because it was in driving distance from Southern California. This national park is certainly underrated as it has some amazing alpine lakes, scenic drives and great hikes.
We spent three days and two nights in Great Basin during the July 4th long weekend of 2020. It was great to get some hiking and trekking done on trails such as Rock Glacier Trail, Bristlecone Pine Glacier Trail, Teresa and Stella lakes and Wheeler Peak. We had a fantastic experience overall.
Most Rewarding Hike at Great Basin National Park: Wheeler Peak
We were mesmerized by the views along the numerous trails we hiked in Great Basin National Park. Wheeler Peak Summit Hike was definitely the most challenging and rewarding hike for us. The mileage stated on the national park map that Wheeler Peak was eight miles round trip.
We expected to reach the summit after four miles but to our surprise we had an entire tall mountain to scale with 60 mph winds knocking us off our feet on the loose rocky path. There were snow patches we had to cross with thousands of feet drop off along the way. Reaching the summit and taking in the views after facing all these challenges made it all the more worth it.
5 Best Things To Do in Great Basin National Park
Unfortunately, we missed out on seeing the Lehman Caves since tours were cancelled due to COVID-19. However, some other attractions that we loved were Wheeler Peak Summit Hike, Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive, Alpine Lakes Trail and Bristlecone Pine Glacier Trail. Let me explain more in detail about these amazing adventures you can do in Great Basin National Park.
1. Tour the Dazzling Lehman Caves with a Guide
As mentioned above, we didn’t get the chance to tour these spectacular caves but this definitely gives us a big reason to come back to Great Basin National Park one day. These caves are some of the largest and most dazzling cave systems in the state. A guided tour allows you to get close to the otherworldly stalactites and stalagmites which characterize the caves.
2. Take on the Epic Wheeler Peak Summit Hike
Believed to be the crowning achievement of Great Basin National Park, this hike will challenge and delight you in many ways. The views along the trail are incredible as you make your way from a forest through alpine meadows to the top of Wheeler Peak. The scenery at the bottom is lovely with wildflowers but hike higher and the terrain gets more rugged and difficult.
3. Cruise up Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive
For those not adventurous enough to undertake the Wheeler Peak Summit Hike you can always drive up Wheeler Peak. This scenic drive takes you up to 10,000 feet above sea level to the face of Wheeler Peak where majestic views of Great Basin National Park are on offer. It’s not uncommon to see wildlife in the higher regions of the national park such as marmots.
4. Hike the Lovely Alpine Lakes Trail
Alpine Lakes Trail of Great Basin National Park is a much more leisurely experience than Wheeler Peak Summit Hike. I can recommend this trail to people with all fitness levels. Discover a beautiful lake along the way as well as some nice scenery and bird watching spots. My husband and I cooked lunch and spent a wonderful afternoon along the shore of Alpine Lakes.
5. Explore the Beauty of Bristlecone Pine Glacier Trail
Bristlecone Pine Glacier Trail is located at the end of Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive and it takes you through beautiful bristlecone forests. A moderate hike of 4.6 miles round trip with an elevation of 1100 feet. On this trail you will discover ancient trees and rugged glaciers cut into canyons.
Tips for Great Basin National Park
We stayed at Upper Lehman Creek Campground on our visit to Great Basin. We wanted to avoid interacting with people (because of COVID-19) and therefore chose to camp during our visit. The campsites were well maintained and offered great views. We highly recommend this place!
Great Basin is one of the least visited national parks in the US but it has so many attractions. Summers can get hot. We started our hikes early in the morning and would return by noon. If you plan on doing Wheeler Peak Summit Hike, remember that this trail is 11.6 miles round trip and not eight miles as stated by the NPS maps. Check conditions before starting the hike.
Finally, I would definitely recommend checking out some other places in Nevada like Cathedral Gorge State Park which is on the way to Great Basin National Park from Las Vegas. It offers many beautiful rock formations and structures to explore and photograph. Valley of Fire and Red Rock Canyon close to Las Vegas also have some great hikes and scenic drives.
Thanks for reading and enjoy hiking in Great Basin National Park!