View of Alpine Loop Trail in Great Basin National Park Nevada

Where is Great Basin National Park

Great Basin National Park is the only national park located entirely within the state of Nevada. The state also contains a portion of Death Valley National Park, which is shared with the state of California. Great Basin US National Park is best known for containing ancient groves of bristlecone pine trees. The park also contains the Lehman Caves, five developed campgrounds, a variety of hiking trails, and a few visitor centers. The national park is located in White Pine County near the cities of Ely, Baker, and Border. 

Great Basin National Park is located 296 miles (four hour and thirty-minute drive) north of Las Vegas, Nevada.  Great Basin is 191 miles (three-hour drive) southwest of Provo, Utah.  And Great Basin is 234 miles (three hour and thirty-minute drive) southwest of Salt Lake City. The national park also lies adjacent to the Highland Ridge Wilderness which also protects the wildlife and ecosystems of Nevada’s eastern basins.

How Large is Great Basin National Park

Great Basin National Park covers a total area of more than 77,000 acres. The highest point of elevation contained within this territory is Wheeler Peak, which sits at an elevation of 13,063 feet above sea level. At the base of Wheeler Peak, the Lehman Caves and the Wheeler Peak Glacier. The national park is home to a diverse population of flora and fauna. More than 800 species of plants, 61 species of mammals, 238 species of birds, 18 species of reptiles, 2 species of amphibians, and eight species of fish reside within Great Basin National Park and the park’s surrounding area. Great Basin National Park also contains 12 hiking trails that traverse a large portion of the park including the summit of Wheeler Peak.

View of Blooming Parry Primrose Alone Forest Stream at Great Basin National Park Nevada

Great Basin National Park Weather

The climate of Great Basin National Park is classified as a cold semi-arid climate. Locations with this climate typically experience cool winters and warm to hot summers. However, the climate of Great Basin National Park varies significantly within the different elevation zones. Summer temperatures in the park normally range between 55- and 85-degrees Fahrenheit, whereas winter temperatures in the park fluctuate between 20- and 40-degrees Fahrenheit. The climate of the Lehman Cave system remains constant at 50 degrees Fahrenheit and a humidity of 90 percent throughout the entire year. The park receives very little rainfall and most of its average annual precipitation is attributed to winter snow or the occasional summer thunderstorm.

When did Great Basin Become a National Park

Great Basin National Park first became a national park in 1986. However, the area was first protected and designated as the Lehman Caves National Monument in 1922 by a federal declaration from President Warren G. Harding. The annual visitation of Great Basin National Park has increased significantly over the past several years. The latest annual visitation totals recorded in 2019 exceeded 131,800 visitors. Even with this increase, Great Basin National Park is one of the least visited national parks in the United States National Park System. For comparison, the annual visitation of Rocky Mountain National Park numbers near four and a half million visitors.

Deserted Car in Great Basin National Park Nevada

Things to do in Great Basin National Park

Travelers planning to recreate at Great Basin National Park will find a variety of outdoor experiences suited for them. The park is well known for its extensive and diverse trail system that includes strenuous summits and brisk and easy nature walks.  Our National Park Visitors Guide outlines the most popular and intriguing outdoor adventures offered at Great Basin National Park below: 

Start at the Visitor Center

When visitors first arrive at Great Basin National Park, they will find the Great Basin Visitor Center. The visitor center is the best place for visitors to orient themselves within the national park. The visitor center possesses a variety of maps, brochures, and other handouts that will provide visitors with information on the park’s trails, geology, history, and wildlife. Park staff working in the visitor center are also a great resource for park visitor. Often, the visitor center also hosts a variety of interpretive programs visitors of the park can join in on to learn more about Great Basin National Park.

Drive the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive

The Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive is a twelve-mile mountain road that hugs the peaks and ridges of the South Snake Range. Following the road, visitors will increase over 4,000 feet of elevation and reach a max elevation of over 10,000 feet. Along the road visitors will be introduced to a variety of ecosystems contained within the park and may even spot several species of the park's wildlife. Popular species spotted in the park include mule deer, marmots, coyotes, and jackrabbits. 

Take a Tour of Lehman Caves

The Lehman Cave system may only be entered by visitors through a guided ranger led cave tour. These tours introduce visitors to the history, geology, and ecology of the cave system, and take visitors through several notable rooms in the Lehman Caves. The two main tours offered by Great Basin National Park are the Lodge Room Tour and the Grand Palace Tour. The Lodge Room Tour is shorter and less strenuous than the Grand Palace Tour. White Nose Syndrome screening is mandatory on each of the two cave tours to prevent the spread of the virus.

Walk the Mountain View Nature Trail

The Mountain View Nature Trail is a leisurely walk through the pinyon and juniper filled forest contained within Great Basin National Park. The walk introduces visitors to several species of vegetation and geologic features of the national park. Visitors looking for more information on the trail can loan a trail guide from the park’s visitor center. The Mountain View Nature Trail starts at the Rhodes Cabin located near the Great Basin National Park Visitor Center.

Hike one of the Parks Trails

Visitors looking for more adventure may also want to hike one or more of the other trials contained within Great Basin National Park. The Wheeler Peak Summit Trail is one of the more popular, but also more strenuous hiking trails in the park. Visitors traversing this trail should start their journey early in the day and be prepared to face several areas of intense elevation and grade. The hike is best started from the Summit Trail Parking area.

Fish on Lehman or Baker Creek

Anglers visiting Great Basin National Park can look to fish on Lehman and Baker Creek. Each creek contains populations of brook, brown, and rainbow trout. All visitors looking to fish in Great Basin National Park will need to first obtain a valid Nevada state fishing license. All other Nevada state fishing regulations also apply within the park.

Camping in Great Basin National Park

The five developed campgrounds at Great Basin National Park provide a plethora of campsites suited for tent camping and recreational vehicles. Most camping in the park operates on a first come, first serve basis. However, visitors looking to make reservations beforehand can do so online through the park’s reservation portal for the Grey Cliffs Campground.

Autumn Day View of Wheeler Peak Trail at Great Basin National Park Nevada

When to Visit Great Basin National Park

Great Basin National Park is open throughout the entire year. Visitors planning to travel to the park can do so throughout every season. However, in the winter occasional heavy snowstorms can close park facilities and roads. The best time to visit Great Basin National Park is during the late spring through early fall. The park receives its most visitation during the summer, for the temperatures of the season are the most conducive to hiking and camping. Visitors hoping to see the various species of wildlife found throughout the national park will want to visit the park during the spring when wildlife in the park is most active.

Must Have Items to Bring to Great Basin National Park

Visitors planning a trip to Great Basin National Park will want to bring a series of equipment, supplies, and other items with them to the park. The following list includes several essential items and a few that may make your trip more enjoyable. 

Water & Snacks

List of Parks highlights water is essential for every outdoor recreation trip. High energy snacks are also very useful after a long day of recreation or during the final mile of a summit on Wheeler Peak. Campers should bring additional supplies of water with them to the park.

Camping Equipment

Creating and utilizing a camping checklist is the best way to ensure you remember to pack all of the camping equipment you will need for your trip to Great Basin National Park.

Layers of Clothing

The temperatures of Great Basin National Park vary frequently throughout the course of the day. Temperatures at the summit of Wheeler Peak also vary greatly from the temperatures found in the park’s campgrounds. Visitors bringing a variety of layers of clothing to the park will be the most prepared.

Field Guides

Visitors interested in learning more about the park’s wildlife will want to bring a wildlife field guide with them to the park to help with identification.

Digital Camera

Visitors bringing a digital camera to Great Basin National Park will have the opportunity to document their trip and create memories they can look back on for years.

Where to Stay in Great Basin National Park

Visitors looking to stay within the borders of Great Basin National Park will want to either arrive at the park early in the day to ensure campsite availability or make a reservation for the park’s Grey Cliffs Campground. These reservations can be made online through the park’s website and reservation portal. Visitors looking to stay in a hotel or other lodging establishment near the national park will find various options spread out around the park in White Pine County.

Food Near Great Basin National Park

The closest food to Great Basin National Park can actually be found within the national park. The park contains its own cafe. The cafe offers coffee, snacks, and several smaller meals. Visitors looking for restaurants, convenience stores, or grocery stores located near the national park can search for options throughout White Pine County. However, visitors looking for a lager culinary scene will make the long drive to either Provo, Utah or Las Vegas.

Airports Near Great Basin National Park

The closest international airport to Great Basin National Park is located about three hours and 234 miles away from the park. The airport is located in Salt Lake City. The next closest international airport to Great Basin National Park is located over four hours away in Las Vegas. Provo, Utah also contains a smaller regional airport that is somewhat closer to the park than either of these two international airports.

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