Great Basin National Park is known for you being able to experience desert heat and alpine cold all in one day with a diversity of geological formations. The entrance to Great Basin National Park is in Baker, Nevada and the park is most famous for both it’s Lehman Caves and Wheeler Peak which stands at 13,063 feet. One of the two Visitor Centers is in Baker which is at 5,300 feet elevation. We could see the Visitor Center from our RV Park. The Visitor Center offers a gift shop, several displays, and a nice film about the park.
From there we drove up the mountain arriving at the second Visitor Center which is were the tour for Lehman Caves begins. The park offers a variety of ranger-led tour lengths throughout the day. When we stopped at this Visitor Center it was very crowded with long lines for picking up cave tour tickets and the cafe was jam packed full. The tours sell out way ahead of time and same day reservations are not accepted. The crowds here were in contrast to the Visitor Center in Baker where we were the only ones.
The caves were discovered around 1885 by Absalom Lehman and extend about 2 miles into the eastern base of the Snake Range. It is a limestone cave full of stalactites, stalagmites, popcorn, and cave shields.
As we departed from the second Visitor Center and headed on up towards Wheeler Peak we were met with fantastic views of the surrounding area.
Also along the way we passed both the Lower Lehman Campground and Upper Lehman Campground and took a drive around. They are both lovely campgrounds with a number of small and unlevel sites but it would still be great to stay at. After Upper Lehman Campground the road is closed to vehicles over 24 feet. The road, Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive, continues on up where there are two viewpoints, Mather Overlook and Wheeler Peak Overlook, which provide more views.
The 12-mile Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive ends at 9,886 feet elevation where there is both a parking lot and the Wheeler Peak campground. From there there are a variety of trailheads to hike around the area including one to the Bristolecone Pine Grove, a glacier, and a few alpine lakes. There is also a very strenuous trail which goes all the way up to Wheeler Peak. We didn’t hike that one.
The Bristlecone Pines and the Limber Pines, both can survive elevations higher than most trees can survive. They are very hardy trees that can withstand harsh environments and live to be thousands of years old. One of the trees we saw was estimated to be over 3,200 years old.
The Alpine Lake loop takes you past both Teresa and Stella Lakes which each sit at over 10,000 feet in elevation.
The trails are breathtaking (literally due to the altitude) and well worth the effort. We loved them.
We absolutely loved this national park and the hiking!!