Plan a late summer visit to Nevada’s Great Basin National Park |

Plan a late summer visit to Nevada’s Great Basin National Park

Don Quilici

Here is another one of my annual outdoor reminders if you are interested in a nice quiet late summer vacation at an out-of-the-way location.

If you are interested, did you know that White Pine County is the home to one of the nation’s least visited and Nevada’s only National Park – the 77,000 acre Great Basin National Park?

If you’ve never been there, here is some helpful information:

How to get there:

Take U.S. 50 (“The Loneliest Road in America”) from Carson City to Ely, a distance of about 320 miles. The park is about 85 miles southeast of Ely. When you reach Ely, take U.S. 6 and U.S. 50 east toward Delta, Utah. Near the Nevada-Utah stateline, take Nevada S.R. 487 south for about 10 miles to the tiny town of Baker (the gateway to Great Basin National Park).

Park history:

Great Basin National Park was created on Oct. 27, 1986. It was first proposed for National Park status in 1922 but the effort failed due to strong opposition from mining and ranching interests.

Congress created the Lehman Caves National Monument on Jan. 24, 1922, which is now incorporated within the park’s boundaries.

Physical features:

The park contains a wide variety of physical features that range from hot desert areas to cold arctic zones, topped by Nevada’s second highest mountain, Wheeler Peak (13,063 feet). The park also has desert areas, lush meadows, small ice-cold streams, crystal-clear lakes, rugged-looking mountain peaks, groves of pine trees, patches of quaking aspen trees, sagebrush and limestone caves.


Within its borders are a wide variety of mammal species including: Pronghorn Antelope, Bats, Bobcat, Unita Chipmunk, Coyote, Mule Deer, Rocky Mountain Elk, Black-Tailed Jackrabbit, Yellow-Bellied Marmot, Mountain Lion and Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep.


Visitors to the park can enjoy the 12-mile (8% grade) Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive, with its spectacular views. Vehicles longer than 24 feet are not recommended to travel beyond the Upper Lehman Creek Campground. The Drive ends at a campground and trailhead at an elevation of about 10,000 feet on the northern flank of Wheeler Peak. From there, you can hike on a number of different signed trails to destinations such as Teresa and Stella Lakes, the Bristlecone Pine Forest, the permanent glacier at the base of Wheeler Peak and even to the summit of the mountain.

Bristlecone Pine trees are the oldest living things on earth, with some of the trees in the park being as much as 3,000-4,000 years old.

Wheeler Peak Glacier is the only permanent body of ice between the Wasatch Mountain Range in Utah and the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range in California.

Lehman Caves:

Lehman Caves were first discovered in 1885 by a local rancher, Absalom S. Lehman. Through the late 1800’s – early 1900’s, those caves were widely-known for hosting explorers, tours, parties, weddings, etc. Today, ranger-guided tours are offered daily, except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.

Note: Light jackets or sweaters are highly recommended, even on the hottest days. The caves temperatures are a constant 50 degrees with 90 percent humidity. Be sure to wear shoes with good traction as the trails may be wet and slippery.


Lower Lehman Creek (elevation 7,300′) has 11 camping sites.

Baker Creek (7,700′): 34 sites.

Upper Lehman Creek (7,800′): 22 sites.

Wheeler Peak (9,950′): 37 sites (RV’s and trailers are not recommended).

Be sure to take warm clothes and blankets for the cool evenings at those high-altitudes.

There are primitive camping facilities located along Snake Creek and Strawberry Creek.

Some limited motel accommodations are available in Baker.

Food and supplies:

You better stock up on everything in Ely, before going to the park! That means: Buy your food and gas before leaving Ely.

But if you don’t, a park concessionaire operates a small cafe and gift shop from April to October.

There is also a restaurant and small grocery store, as well as a couple of credit card (unmanned) gas pumps in Baker.


If you’re looking for a special, out-of-the-way place to spend your late summer vacation, visit Great Basin National Park.

For information, call the Great Basin National Park Visitors Center at (775) 234-7331 (ext. 242 for Cave Tour Tickets) or go to website

• Bet Your Favorite Pigeon

Bet your favorite pigeon he can’t tell you the name of the very first National Park that was created in the United States.

If he grins and says, “Yellowstone National Park, way back in 1872,” you lose this bet.

• Don Quilici is the Outdoors editor for the Nevada Appeal