Silver State Stopover at Great Basin National Park

In the Great Basin National Heritage Area, you’ll find Nevada’s only national park and surprising history.
Author:
Publish date:
Great Basin National Park in Nevada

Just over the Utah border, visit Nevada’s only national park, Great Basin, where you can explore the inside of the Earth and the top of a 13,000-foot peak on the same day. Here are three unusual sights to see in the park plus more to do in the national heritage area.

1. Bristlecone Pine Trail

Bristlecone pine trees leading to Wheeler Peak in Great Basin National Park

Bristlecone pine trees in Great Basin National Park

See some of the oldest trees in the world on this 2.8-mile roundtrip hike. Bristlecone pines thrive in harsh conditions and grow above treeline, so this hike starts at 9,800 feet. You’ll gain 600 feet in elevation as you walk this trail, which is dotted by interpretive signs that explain why bristlecone pines play an important role in the ecosystem. One of these trees, nicknamed the Prometheus Tree, was cut down by geographer Donald Currey in 1964. It had 4,862 tree growth rings, indicating the tree was nearly 5,000 years old. You can count its rings today in the visitor center. Bristlecone pines are now protected on federal land and cannot be cut down.

If you walk further down the trail, you can spot the only glacier in Nevada at the base of Wheeler Peak, a 13,000-foot mountain.

2. Lehman Caves

Lehman Caves in Great Basin National Park

Graceful rock formations in Lehman Caves

A popular attraction, the Lehman Caves are well-worth seeing, but you must go on a guided tour with a park ranger to tour the caves. Choose between the Lodge Room tour, which covers .4 miles, is 60 minutes long and is ideal for young children and families. Or sign up for the Grand Palace Tour that covers .6 miles, lasts 90 minutes and is for ages 5 and over (except November through February). While you can show up at the park to reserve your spot, park officials highly recommend you buy your tickets online in advance at www.recreation.gov/camping/gateways/2732. These tours fill up, and you don’t want to miss out.

3. Wheeler Peak

An alpine meadow, seen on the hike up to Wheeler Peak, in Great Basin National Park

An alpine meadow, seen on the hike up to Wheeler Peak, in Great Basin National Park

Hike or drive to this 13,064-foot peak, the second highest in Nevada. If you hike it, get a very early morning start at the Summit Trail parking lot to avoid afternoon thunderstorms. It’s a 8.6-mile round-trip trek, with 2,900 feet in elevation gain, to the summit. Or let your car do the work and take the 12-mile (round-trip) paved Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive, which begins at the park boundary on Hwy. 488. Climb 4,000 feet to the peak’s face, while taking in stunning views of the Great Basin Desert below. 

More Fun Nearby

Outside of the park, head to the Nevada Northern Railway Museum in Ely, a National Historic Landmark where you can ride on trains pulled by century-old engines. Check nnry.com for the schedule of themed trains.

To learn about a darker part of Nevada’s past, visit the Topaz Museum in Delta, educating visitors about the internment camp where more than 8,000 Japanese Americans were imprisoned during World War II. Discover the stories of those who lived at Topaz at the museum before visiting the camp site, which is approximately five miles away. 

At the end of a day, check in to the Stargazer Inn in Baker and dine at Kerouac’s (yes, like Jack). The menu is a homage to American life on the road, which makes their inventive pizzas and burgers the perfect road-trip fuel. 

Horizontal rule

For more information:
Great Basin National Heritage Area
775-234-7171
Baker Nevada
www.greatbasinheritage.org

Related

Sunrise over Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park.

National Parks Bordering Utah

There many national parks nearby in addition to Utah's five. Mesa Verde and the Grand Canyon are very close and worth the extra drive.

Court of the Patriarchs in Zion National Park

7 Top Things to Do in Zion National Park

This gorgeous national park offers breathtaking views, lodging and great educational stops. Here are our top seven.

Hiker beside the Virgin River with a view of the Watchman in Zion National Park

5 Utah National Parks Plus Grand Canyon Road Trip

Hit every Utah national park, Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands, plus Nevada's Great Basin and the Grand Canyon, on this 1,453 mile trip.

zion-park-death-valley

Death Valley National Park

Just across the Nevada border in California is Death Valley National Park. Death Valley is hot, dry, and low altitude.

Watching the sunrise at Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park.

5 Romantic Things to Do in Moab and Nearby National Parks

Surrounded by two national parks with incredible redrock formations, the quirky and lively town of Moab is a great base for a romantic getaway.

Hiking inside of Fiery Furnace in Arches National Park

Which Trail Should I Hike in Arches National Park?

What to expect on Arches National Park trails, from an incredibly popular arch hike to a difficult desert scramble in a remote area.

Park Avenue rock formations in Arches National Park

5 Stops on Arches National Park's Scenic Drive

Don't miss these awe-inspiring sandstone formations in Arches National Park that can be seen after a short stroll from their parking areas.

Under Canvas Moab tent suite with couch

Why Glamping is Great for Families

Elevate your national park vacation when you and your family spend the night at a glamping camp.

Concert at Tuacahan Amphitheatre

Beyond Zion in Springdale and St. George

Zion National Park's beauty does not end at the park boundary. Here are six ways to experience the area and escape the park’s crowds.