Sometimes you find the best things in life on the road less traveled. Great Basin National Park is no exception. It’s home to Nevada’s only glacier, Lehman Caves and the best stargazing of the Milky Way in the lower 48 states.
Most people have the impression that Nevada is nothing but a desert and have images of Las Vegas, slot machines and showgirls. The reality is there are incredible mountains, lakes and forests once you head north. These areas have very few residents with large open land masses. Great Basin is one of these hidden gems almost 300 miles to the north of the glitz and glitter of the Las Vegas strip.
Located directly behind the parks visitor center is the entrance to Lehman Cave. Be prepared as you can only enter this cave by a guided tour and advance reservations are recommended. There is a small fee for the tour but I would highly recommend for any first time visitor.
Lehman Caves has several formations including stalactites, stalagmites, helictites, flowstone and popcorn. The real attraction is the 300 plus rare shield formations. Caves are very fragile ecosystems and visitors should not touch any of the formations and stay on designated paths. You will also be screened for White Noise Syndrome which is a disease In bats that was only discovered in 2007. If you have not been in a cave or mine in the past year you pass. Others will be screened if anything they have with them has been in a cave the past year. This includes shoes, clothing, camera equipment. These items will either have to be changed or cleaned before entering the cave.
I was personally attracted to seeing the Bristlecone Pine forest and glacier hike. This 4.6 mile hike starts off at 9800 feet in elevation and climbs another 940. This hike is not for the unprepared. People in good physical condition will find this hike a challenge as elevation sickness is real and oxygen is harder to come by in high elevation. Be prepared to take extra breaks to catch your breath. Enjoy the moment as the scenery is outstanding!
Bristlecone Pine trees are the oldest living things on earth living over 5000 years! They look tough, rugged and manage to live is some of the most severe living conditions in western forests between 5600’-11,200’ in elevation.
You continue past the Bristlecone Pine forest to Nevada’s only glacier at the base of Wheeler Peak. It is Nevada’s second largest mountain peak at 13063’ and provides incredible views.
This is not a park you will stumble upon while driving down the road. It is very remote and you will have to plan on going out of your way to get here. Plan ahead and you will find this park very rewarding. You will not find the large crowds. Instead you will be rewarded with gorgeous scenery, great hiking trails and a cave in very good condition!
Do you love National Parks?
Check out some of our other National Park posts
~ Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
~ Haleakala National Park, Maui
~ Everglades National Park, Florida
~ Virgin Islands National Park, St John
~ Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
What is your favorite National Park to visit?