Contrasting terrains clash as barren desert and snow-capped mountains come together to create a fascinating landscape.
Climb to the top of Wheeler Peak in Great Basin National Park and marvel at the breathtaking scenery as the South Snake Mountain Range rises suddenly from an endless plain of scrubland. Look for marmots and coyotes on the lower slopes in front of remarkable limestone formations.
At 13,063 feet (3,981 meters), Wheeler Peak dominates the skyline of the park. Get close to the mountain to see contrasting habitats by driving on the 12-mile (19-kilometer) scenic road. This narrow route winds slowly toward the summit, offering spectacular views of the Great Basin Desert on the way. Drive past frigid glacial lakes and forests of bristlecone pines. Some of these trees are estimated to be more than 5,000 years old.
After a morning in the car, get out for a hike and feel the fresh, alpine air on your face. Select from paths ranging from gentle 10-minute walks to 13 miles (20 kilometers). The Mountain View Nature Trail is a good choice for young children while the short, wheelchair-accessible Sky Islands Forest Trail will take you through pretty conifer woodland. Follow the Johnson Lake Loop for a more challenging hike, incorporating rugged terrain and steep climbs. Enjoy unbeatable mountain scenery and look for wildlife including marmots, deer and coyotes.
Away from the elevated vantage points and sprawling mountain ranges, one of the park’s most memorable sights is located underground. Venture inside the Lehman Caves to discover a secret world of strange and mystical limestone shapes. Long white pillars rise from the stony ground while tentacles of glistening gold and silver fall from above. Book tickets at the park visitor center for a 60-minute tour of this bizarre grotto.
Great Basin National Park is in eastern Nevada, a few minutes off the highway. The park remains open year-round; however, some trails may close during the winter. Information and maps are available at the visitor center.
The range of affordable adventures available from the U.S. national parks for all types of travelers is extensive. Enjoy your views of deserts, mountains and caves on your trip to Great Basin National Park.