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Hidden near the Nevada-Utah border, Great Basin National Park remains an untapped Western gem that makes for a great weekend trip from Las Vegas.

Its location and proximity to Utah’s Mighty Five can often lead this natural wonder to be overlooked, but it’s a place you should have on your bucket list.

From exploring ancient caves to hiking to the peak of one of Nevada’s most formidable mountains, there are endless things to do in Great Basin National Park.

Let’s get into it.

Take in the scenery along the Wheeler Peak Scenic drive

The Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive gives an immediate answer to the question, “Is Great Basin National Park worth visiting?” Yes. Yes, it is.

This 12-mile route is guided and dictated by the mountains of the South Snake Range. The road is paved but nothing less than a true mountain road, gaining 4,000 feet in elevation as you follow it.

Throughout the drive, you’ll encounter seas of sagebrush that build into armies of pinyon pines, junipers, firs, and aspens. 

Keep an eye out for various wildlife amidst the forests. It would not be uncommon to see animals such as deer, marmots, and coyotes.

The entrance sign of Great Basin National Park framed by sparse vegetation and a clear blue sky, indicating the park's affiliation with the National Park Service.

Hike the Alpine Lakes Loop Trail

The Alpine Lakes Loop Trail is easily one of the best things to do in Great Basin National Park and it’s popularity proves it.

Starting from Bristlecone Trailhead at the end of the scenic drive, the beauty of this park will unfold itself in intervals of forest broken up by two bodies of water, Stella Lake and Teresa Lake.

Despite trekking through the Nevada mountains, this 3-mile loop is relatively easy, perfect for any level of hiker. Every season, visitors of all kinds come to marvel at the summer wildflowers or the snow-clad pines.

Attend a ranger-led program

Ranger-led Great Basin National Park activities are a hit amongst adults and kids alike.

Tagging along with a certified ranger is the best way to experience the intricacies of the landscape that are easily missed by the untrained eye.

There are Junior Ranger Programs where your little ones can delve into the world of caves, stars, animals, and more. 

You can also join the Astronomy Programs every Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday during the summer months, starting in May.

These trained professionals are more than ready to make your visit to Great Basin educational and enjoyable.

A serene view of Great Basin's landscape, showcasing sprawling shrubbery and distant mountain ranges under a soft blue sky.

Find the Glacier on Glacier Trail

Nevada is home to one glacier. This sounds more like a line to trick your friends when playing two truths and a lie, but I can attest that this is actually true.

Embarking on the Glacier Trail to find it is one of the best things to do in Great Basin National Park.

The Glacier Trail and Bristlecone Trail share a length of the distance, but after breaking off of Bristlecone Trail, you’ll navigate through some rocky mountain terrain until you reach the base of Mount Wheeler and Rock Glacier.

Despite being severely affected by global warming, the glacier still stands, adding to the intensely beautiful alpine scene around it.

A unique upward perspective of leafless, white-barked trees reaching towards a clear blue sky in Great Basin National Park.

Summit Wheeler Peak

If you want to hike Wheeler Peak, I suggest spending more than one day in Great Basin National Park.

This 8.82-mile, 13,000-foot climb is not for the casual hiker. It will take 5 to 7 hours to complete.

The trailhead can be found at the end of the scenic drive and from there you start on a gradual climb up to the top. After a while, the path steepens and hardens into jagged mountain training, making you really work for the last few miles.

It takes some serious mental fortitude and physical capability to summit this peak, but once you reach the top, it will all be worth it. Only from there can you experience views of the mountain range that cut a deep path through the Nevada wilderness.

Walk the Bristlecone Trail

Tackling Bristlecone Trail will be a breeze compared to Wheeler Peak.

This short hike connects to Glacier Trail, so if you’re interested in making it a bit more difficult, you can absolutely combine the two!

The star of this trail is the bristlecone forest you encounter. A collection of some of the oldest trees in America that stand out proudly against their younger neighbors.

Enjoying the wildflowers is one of those quintessential things to do at Great Basin National Park and the Bristlecone Trail displays a myriad of them for you to see.

An informational signpost at Great Basin National Park indicating the direction and distance to various campgrounds, with a backdrop of pine trees and clear skies.

View the diversity of the landscape along the Lehman Creek Trail

Lehman Creek Trail is a moderate to strenuous hike that stretches 3 miles across the terrain of the Great Basin. Going up and back totals the hike at 6.4 miles.

You’ll follow the quiet rolling of Lehman Creek up into the mountains, encountering aspen forests and meadows that change their character every season. 

Fall welcomes a transformation from green to orange and yellow. Winter brings on a blanket of snow, making this the best route to snowshoe or cross-country skiing if you’re looking for things to do in Great Basin National Park in the colder months.

Finally, spring blooms with wildflowers covering every section of the earth it can.

Lehman Creek Trail has quite a climb in altitude and is subject to a quick onset of thunderstorms, so be prepared if you decide to embark on this adventure.

Take a tour of the Lehman Caves

Descending into the Lehman Caves has been a popular thing to do in Great Basin National Park since 1885. Over the years, there have been many explorers itching to see what’s inside the longest cave system in Nevada.

The caves are only accessible by tour, and they are best booked a month or so in advance to make sure you get the date you want.

There are 4 different tours you can take, depending on how much of the caves you want to see. The most expensive is the Grand Palace Tour with a fee of $15 for adults (16 & up) and $8 for youth.

Be sure to check out the park’s website for booking and any rules and regulations you need to be aware of so you can be free of worry while marveling at the majesty of this natural palace of stalagmites and stalactites. 

A wooden sign for Lower Lehman Creek Campground set among tall golden grasses with a backdrop of dense forest and blue skies in Great Basin National Park.

Spend the night at the park in a campground

There are six campgrounds in Great Basin National Park.

Lower Lehman Creek Campground, Upper Lehman Creek Campground, Wheeler Peak Campground, and Baker Creek Campground are available for reservation from Memorial Day to Labor Day. During the off-season, the campgrounds are first-come first-served.

These campgrounds all have vault toilets, fire pits, and picnic tables for use. There is no potable water.

Grey Cliffs and Snake Creek campgrounds are first-come first-served only.

Whichever campground you decide to stay the night in, you’ll be astounded by the alpine beauty that surrounds you, welcoming you as a part of the Nevada wilderness.

The Timber Creek Trail in Great Basin National Park, a tranquil path surrounded by snow-dusted trees and underbrush, hinting at the onset of winter.

Hike the Timber Creek Trail

Starting at the Baker Creek Trailhead, the Timber Creek Trail provides a different perspective on the park.

Five miles up and back takes hikers on a strenuous but stunning trek. First, you’ll encounter a pine forest that stretches up the mountain range until you reach the top, opening up a vision of sprawling meadows.

This hike also provides clear views of Pyramid Peak, another high point in the South Snake Range.

A picturesque landscape of Great Basin National Park, featuring rolling hills, coniferous trees, and a mountain range against the clear sky.

Stargaze at night

Recognized internationally as a Dark Sky Park, the night skies in Great Basin National Park are unbelievably clear.

The park actively attempts to limit their light pollution with special lighting, motion detectors, and keeping the lights off whenever possible.

Throughout the summer, there are ranger-led Astronomy nights, but if you want to break off and enjoy the constellations on your own, you’re more than welcome to.

The best places to stargaze in the Great Basin are the Astronomy Amphitheater, Mather Overlook (on Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive), and the Baker Archaeological Site.

Of course, if you found a favorite nook amidst the mountains and pines, then by all means, set up shop there.

Ride the Great Basin Star Train from Ely

To take your stargazing experience up another level, look into taking the Great Basin Star Train.

Departing from Ely, Nevada, around sunset, the tried and true locomotive embarks on a trip to show astronomy enthusiasts the best of the Nevada skies.

The train is stocked with rangers who aim to make your experience the best it can be. Once you’ve made it well outside of the city limits, the train comes to a stop where you can see the sky through high-quality telescopes before boarding once again.

The entire trip takes around two and a half hours and tickets are $58 for adults and $27 for children. There is a discount for seniors.

The night sky should be on your list of what to see in Great Basin National Park, and taking the Great Basin Star Train is the ideal way to do it.

The Lehman Caves Visitor Center at Great Basin National Park, featuring stone steps leading up to a wooden building with signage.

Walk the Mountain View Nature Trail

After reading about all the peak-summiting, steep, strenuous hikes Great Basin has to offer for its more adventurous visitors, you may be wondering where all the calmer, more manageable hikes are.

Despite having ‘mountain’ in the name, the Mountain View Nature Trail includes very little climbing and is the perfect length for a serene walk in a juniper and pinyon forest.

Although only a quarter mile long, there’s plenty to see in the forest. You can pick up a guide to the trail at the visitor center to tell you exactly what you’re looking at.

After reading this article, you can be assured there is no shortage of things to do in Great Basin National Park.

Whether that be a relaxing night of stargazing or reaching the top of one of Nevada’s highest peaks.

The variety of activities within Great Basin will leave any visitor satisfied and in awe of the unique alpine beauty that is found here.

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