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Nevada

Great Basin National Park

According to the National Park Night Sky Team, Great Basin National Park is one of the best parks for viewing star-filled night skies!
Two-thirds of Americans cannot see the Milky Way from their backyards, and nearly all live in places with measurable light pollution.
But because of its remote location, Great Basin National Park provides exceptional visibility of the night sky. In fact, in 2005 the National Park Service Night Sky Team found Great Basin to be one of the darkest places in the country.

What Is The Great Basin?

Shrouded in myth and mystery since its discovery by Europeans over 150 years ago, the Great Basin is still misunderstood today. Called dead, barren, and desolate, visitors are surprised to find it alive, fruitful, and full of wonders. Great Basin National Park preserves a small representative piece of this larger region, whose boundaries can be defined three different ways.

In the shadow of 13,063-foot Wheeler Peak, 5,000 year old bristlecone pine trees grow on rocky glacial moraines. Come to Great Basin National Park to experience the solitude of the desert, the smell of sagebrush after a thunderstorm, the darkest of night skies, and the beauty of Lehman Caves. Far from a wasteland, the Great Basin is a diverse region that awaits your discovery.

Brief itineraries for short park visits

Whether visiting for a day, or week, endless opportunities abound for recreation and relaxation in Great Basin National Park! Stop at a visitor center and ask a ranger for recommendations on activites to fit your schedule and your group. Below are a few ideas to get you started.

Half a Day

  • Check out the exhibits in both visitor centers.
  • Join a Lehman Caves Tour, 60 or 90 minutes in length.
  • Drive the 12 mile Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive for unparalled views of the mountains and surrounding valleys.
  • Stroll along the 1/4 mile Island Forest Trail at the end of the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive.
  • Stop at the Lehman Caves Cafe & Gift Shop for an unforgettable ice cream sandwich.

One Day

  • Walk the self-guided Mountain View Nature Trail, located next to the Lehman Caves Visitor Center, and experience the sights, sounds, and smells of a pinyon-juniper forest.
  • Attend an evening campfire program at the Upper Lehman Creek Campground.
  • Enjoy a picnic lunch at the secluded Pole Canyon Picnic Area, located off the Baker Creek Road.
  • Venture up the Bristlecone Pine Trail to see the oldest living organisms in the world (2.8 miles roundtrip). Continue further up the trail to see Nevada's only glacier at the base of Wheeler Peak.
  • Sign the kids up to become Great Basin Junior Rangers.
  • Find a comfortable spot after sunset and look up to enjoy one of the darkest night skies in the country.

Backgrounders

Climate

There is almost an 8,000 foot (2,400 m) difference in elevation between Wheeler Peak and the valley floor. Weather conditions in the park vary with elevation. In late spring and early summer, days in the valley may be hot, yet the snowpack may not have melted at high elevations. The Great Basin is a desert, with low relative humidity and sharp drops in temperature at night. In the summer fierce afternoon thunderstorms are common. Weather conditions are highly variable. Please come prepared for all types of weather. It can snow any time of the year at high elevations.

Visitor Centers

Great Basin Visitor Center: Located just north of the town of Baker on the west side of NV Highway 487. Information desk, exhibits, theater with orientation film, and brochures.

Lehman Caves Visitor Center: Located on NV Highway 488; 5.5 miles from the town of Baker and half a mile inside the park boundary. Lehman Cave Tours, information desk, exhibits, theater with orientation film, and brochures.

Park Hours

Daily, year round, from 8:00 a.m to 4:30 p.m. Pacific Time. Extended hours in the summer.
Closed on: Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day.

Location

5 mi west of Baker at the SR 488 in eastern Nevada. Close to the border to Utah.

Arriving by Car: From the east or west: From U.S. Highway 6 & 50, turn south on Nevada State Highway 487 and travel 5 miles to Baker, NV. In Baker turn west on Highway 488 and travel 5 miles to the park.

From the south (Utah): Travel north on Utah State Highway 21 through Milford, UT and Garrison, UT, which will become Nevada State Highway 487 as you cross the border. Turn west on Highway 488 in Baker and travel 5 miles to the park.

From the south (Nevada): Travel north on U.S. Highway 93 (Great Basin Highway). At the junction of U.S. Highway 6 & 50 drive east to Nevada State Highway 487 and turn south. Travel 5 miles to Baker, NV. In Baker turn west on Highway 488 and travel 5 miles to the park.

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Document Information
Source: magazineUSA.com; National Park Service; photos: Nevada Commission on Tourism
Last modified: 20050620
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