Great Basin National Park is one of the least visited National Parks in the entire system. Sure, it’s a million miles from nowhere (but really, not far from Las Vegas or Salt Lake City), but the remoteness means no crowds. Seriously, the road to get to tiny Baker, Nevada, the town at the entrance to the park, is called the Loneliest Road in America.
The park is absurdly beautiful, and because nobody’s there, it’s so peaceful. And there’s no entrance fee! We LOVED it, and so far (I’m writing this in Southern Utah, which, if you read our posts from last trip, you know we are obsessed with) it’s been our favorite destination of the trip.
We stayed at Whispering Elms, a pretty little bare-bones park that was completely empty during our end-of-the-season visit. Highlights: the camp office doubles as a bar, where you can drink a beer and watch the sunset or a sporting event; and at dusk if you step outside you can hear a coyote chorus, which is eerily beautiful. J spent a couple evenings as the lone patron at the bar, watching the Red Sox in the World Series. If only he had a spouse who cared about baseball…
There was some snow and ice at high elevations when we visited at the very end of October, so we didn’t do the flagship hike of the park, Wheeler Peak–a decision we were completely fine with, but we’d like to do that hike in the future.
Great Basin has the standard no dogs rules: Your dog is allowed anywhere in the park that a car can go. There is one trail excepted from that rule: Lexington Arch, which we wrote about below.
We (humans) did these hikes in Great Basin:
Alpine Lakes trail is about 2.5 miles and takes you past two lovely alpine lakes (surprise). We returned to Teresa Lake with a couple beers in our backpack to sit on a rock by the water after hiking Bristlecone on another day.
Baker and Johnson Lakes trail is a thirteen-mile hike past two alpine lakes and over an INSANE ridge. When we hiked at the end of October, there was snow on the ridge which made for a very slow slog up the hill, and a treacherous descent down the other side. The hike was brutal and terrible, and looking back on it, strangely one of our favorite hikes ever. The views of Johnson Lake from the top were phenomenal, and that view of the lake, and back down the ridge toward Baker, made it all worthwhile.
Bristlecone Trail is a must-do at Great Basin. On a normal day (our day included some snow and ice on the trail) it’s an easy three-mile jaunt through the woods to see a grove of bristlecone pines, among the oldest living organisms on Earth! They are amazingly cool to see.
Lexington Arch is a six-mile out-and-back to a big natural arch in the southern part of the park, and it’s a dog friendly trail! That’s because most of the trail is on BLM land (shout out to dog-friendly BLM hiking!) It’s a fun climb to the arch and neat to see a desert ecosystem adjacent to the snowy mountains, but we’re not sure we would have done the hike if it weren’t for wanting to entertain Bugsy.
Great Basin offers Astronomy Nights every Saturday, and during high season also on Tuesday and Thursday. I felt lucky to arrive the day of the very last Astronomy Night of the year and highly enjoyed the presentation.
We were so disappointed to be a week too late in the season to eat at Kerouac’s, a randomly delicious-sounding restaurant in wee little Baker.
Next time we’ll also be sure to hike Wheeler Peak.
We didn’t do Lehman Caves, because we wanted to maximize outdoor time (and we’ve done the incomparable Kartchner Caverns in Arizona, and Carlsbad Caverns) but maybe next time we’d visit the caves.
We will be back! Great Basin was incredible.
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