Great Basin National Park

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Great Basin National Park in Nevada

Just over the Utah border lies Great Basin National Park where you can explore the inside of the Earth and a 13,000-foot peak. Here are three unusual sights to see.

1. Bristlecone Pine Trail

Bristle Cone trees 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 recreation.gov. 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. 

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

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