Great Basin National Park

Location: Nevada

Park Tally: 52/59

Orientation: Great Basin is one of the least known and most secluded national parks in the country. Located in east-central Nevada, visitors must travel along ‘the loneliest road in America’ (Highway 50) to access Great Basin National Park’s beauty. The park has a small store, café and campgrounds and the nearby town of Baker has limited facilities. Things are very quiet around Great Basin… the nearest supermarket and hospital are both more than an hour away by car, to put things into perspective.

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Most iconic view:  Many people come to Great Basin National Park to see the world’s oldest living organism – the bristlecone pine. These rugged trees can live to be more than 5000 years old and are known to withstand extreme conditions. The 2.8-mile (roundtrip) Bristlecone Trail is a wonderful way to experience these unique trees. Be mindful of the altitude when hiking as the bristlecone pine grove sits above 10,000-feet and can experience high winds, snow/ice and cold temperatures. The thick and twisted trunks of the bristlecone pines are an impressive sight, and interpretive signs along the trail provide interesting facts about their history and means of survival.

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Accessible activity:  Great Basin National Park has a range of accessible visitor activities. The Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive covers 12 miles of beautiful mountain and forest landscapes. This steep and windy road rises more than 4000-feet in elevation and finishes just below Wheeler Peak, an altitude greater than 10,000-feet. Be sure to stop at Mather Overlook for incredible views of Wheeler Peak.

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Lehman Caves is another popular attraction in the park, with tours to suit any visitor’s needs. This unique cave system allows you to get up close and personal with various cave formations, such as stalactites, stalagmites, drapes, and rare shields that are unique to Great Basin. The Grand Palace tour (1.5-hours) is a great option for those wanting to see the best of Lehman Caves, with the Gothic Palace tour providing an accessible option for those in wheelchairs. All tours are led by rangers who are knowledgeable in the history, ecology and geology of the cave system.

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For the adventurous:  For those wanting an even bigger adventure can consider summiting Wheeler Peak (13,060-feet). The 8.6-mile hike gains 2,900-feet in elevation and should be started early in the day in order to avoid afternoon storms. The view from the summit over Great Basin and the surrounding areas is absolutely breathtaking!

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Best photo opportunities: Great Basin National Park is known for its deep starry skies and has even been given an International Dark Sky designation. Astrophotographers won’t be disappointed with the opportunities to capture unique night time images. Another popular photography scene is the Bristlecone Trail, where the choices are endless for taking photographs of the ancient and twisted trees.

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Quick facts

  • Great Basin National Park was established on October 27, 1986.
  • There is proof of human inhabitance in Great Basin dating back 12,000 years ago.
  • The Great Basin American Indian Tribes have lived on the land since before it was discovered by European settlers in 1776. The tribes making up this collective are the Shoshone, Ute and Paiute people.
  • Great Basin National Park is home to the bristlecone pine, the world’s oldest living organism.
  • Extreme conditions such as cold temperatures, strong winds, and reduced oxygen levels allow the bristlecone pines to grow very slowly. Their density ensures their longevity by allowing them to fend off infection, rot, and erosion.
  • Wheeler Peak is the highest point in the park at 13,060-feet above sea level.
  • Wildlife found within Great Basin National Park include snakes, coyotes, kit foxes, jackrabbits, elk, bighorn sheep, mule deer, pronghorn, mountain lions, ravens, marmots, and more.
  • Great Basin National Park is accessed via Highway 50, which has been dubbed ‘the Loneliest Road in America’.
  • Great Basin is one of the least visited national parks, with 144,846 recorded visitors in 2016 according to the National Park Service.

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Evolve-59-National-Parks-Roadtrip-Mount-Great-Basin-National-Park

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