Great Basin National Park, Nevada: hikes & scenic roads

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Follow-up of the summer 2017 road trip stories. We first arrived at the Las Vegas airport, we spent one night there to plan the following days, and the day after, here we go, it was road trip time baby. We drove to Great Basin in Nevada through the Valley of Fire. The drive was pretty isolated and long, it’s the kind of long that is both boring and interesting: through a first valley, then a second one, with the feeling that we were going nowhere, and would never come back. It was desperately straight.

The day before, in Vegas, we looked for a place to stay and found a cute Airbnb for 2 nights in Baker, which looked, according to the map, right next to the entrance of the national park. We arrived in Baker at night, around 8pm. It was very dark, the town looked asleep already and made of trailers mostly. Our Airbnb host greeted us and was worried we had nothing to eat: everything was already closed. We are used to this kind of remote places when we travel in this region and had the car filled up with food. A skunk has ‘spat’ (I don’t actually know what they do) under our trailer and it smelled like hell “Just open the window, the smell will go away” our host tried to reassure us, but honestly, it stank all night. Let’s stay positive: the night was pitch black, the stars were shining. Baker is so remote that we could see the Milky Way  up in the sky.

Great Basin national park has never been before on our radar, mostly because it’s far away, it doesn’t seem that there’s a lot else to do in this region. On a very pragmatic side, there’s also so much to see elsewhere. It was just a matter of time until we came here. Even though it was a first for us here, the landscape reminded us of South-East Oregon: it makes sense since it’s actually the same region. “Great Basin” may be the name of the national park, it’s also the name of the whole region that covers Nevada, Western California, Eastern Utah, and Southern Oregon (you may need a map for this one).

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Dab

Wheeler Park

Wheeler Park is the heart of Great Basin National Park, the place that summarizes what you can see here: peaks, glacier, trees and caves. We didn’t go to the caves, even though they are said to be amazing. We chose to hike and enjoy the scenic roads instead. Booking tickets to see the caves would have forced us to hike less. The day after, all the tickets were already sold out. Too bad, but that’s how road trips work: you’re always on the go!

The Bristlecones

Bristlecones pines were one of the best thing of this national park. I had no idea what they were before, and now I’m totally fascinated with them. When I think about amazing trees, sequoias come first to mind. And for a good reason, they deserve their reputation, they are old, majestuous, big and tall. But bristlecone pines also deserve our attention!  These trees last forever, they are old, really old, sturdy like no one else: the shittier the land is, the best they thrive. And the higher in altitude the better too. Some of them are 2000 and even 3000 years old. Let’s sink in this information: trees that are 2000 to 3000 years old. It’s crazy! Some of them look dead, bare trunk, but they don’t rot, thanks to their resine. Like stone, they slowly erode with time. Manu, the plant lover, was fascinated and took some pictures:

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Old and good looking
Twisted

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Glacier Trail (4,6 miles, 7,4 km)

The ranger at the visitor center told us that they would be some thunderstorms in early afternoon: we walked fast to see the glacier. The trail was awesome and moderately hard. The scenery around us was great: mountains on one side, the valley on the other. The glacier was small, almost all melted. It felt fresher up there, in our whole trip that was the coolest temperature – we went to Utah after…

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Along the Glacier Trail

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Snow in Nevada

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Here it is: the glacier! just for the scale, I’m on this picture too!

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Alpine Lakes Loop
(2,7 miles, 4,4 km)

What was cool with the Glacier Trail is that it was easy to combine it with another trail, we walked the Alpine lakes loop, and easy walk among lakes – everything is on the name. I would recommend to walk first the Lake Loop and then the Glacier: we walked backwards just to make sure we could reach the glacier before the storm.

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Lake n°1 (they are 3 total)

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 Lake Teresa

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Hello deers!

Another night in Baker, Nevada

Second night in our trailer with an amazing view over the desert and the mountains. The sunset was pretty, specially after the storm. We felt far away from everything, on vacation and super tranquil. Even if the scenery isn’t the craziest we’ve seen, the fact that it’s so remote and peaceful made us loving it easily.

Airbnb Baker Nevada 2
Airbnb Baker Nevada 1
Airbnb Baker Nevada

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Snake Creek,
another scenic road

The park is huge, we could have stayed more. But what we like when we road trip is to hike and move away quickly. We drove in different scenic roads of the park, like this one along the snake creek. They were many rustic campgrounds, and it looks like a good spot to stop. I recommend it for campers!

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En route toward Mt Washington

We rented an SUV with high clearance to be able to drive on difficult roads, the ones that lead to the nicest places, most of the times, and when you can actually get there. A ranger vaguely told us about this drive, he didn’t seem to have done it himself though. We started driving to go to towards Mt Washington, on the western part of the national park. The road was narrow and covered in gravel, it was fine at first but then the switchbacks became complicated to manage. I was scared, and it felt like the car was almost vertical… So we gave up and turned back, but had a nice picnic spot in front of the valley, by an abandoned mine.

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Peaceful drive, at first

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Pic nic among the ruins
Nevada road trip suv

Fuck it, I’m out
Nevada road trip mine

Trashy picnic
Nevada road trip

It doesn’t look that terrible now…

Route 93, going South

And then we left Great Basin National Park. Along the road, we stopped at the very curious Cathedral Gorge state park, still in Nevada, but that’s another story, for another blog post.

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Infos about Great Basin National Park, Nevada

We stayed in : Baker, Nevada

Zone 1: Wheeler Park ; tickets to the Lehman Caves at the visitor center ; hikes: Glacier Trail (4,6 miles, 7,4 km) + Alpine Lakes Loop (2,7 miles, 4,4 km)

Zone 2: Snake Trail, nice scenic road + many options to hike. The campgrounds by the creek looked awesome.

Zone 3: Mt Washington. A scenic drive to access bristlecone pines… we couldn’t do it.

Read more: 

▶ Recap of Utah + Nevada off road road trip 2017

Carte Great Basin Nevada

▶ Something to add? Comment below!

Writer, organizer and social media-ter for my own blog. When I'm not in front of my laptop, I'm organizing guided tours of Boston with my own company "Boston le nez en l'air". It's in French!

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10 Comments

  • Reply Nov 16 2017

    Anne-Marie

    Infiniment merci pour votre partage.Je suis du voyage et je me régale. C’est merveilleux.

    • Reply Nov 19 2017

      Mathilde

      Merci Anne-Marie ! ça me fait toujours plaisir de voir un de vos commentaires.

  • Reply Nov 17 2017

    Marie Voyages

    Cette photo du ciel étoilée est incroyable !! C’est fou d’avoir réussi à avoir une netteté comme celle-ci !
    Merci pour la découverte de ce parc !!

    • Reply Nov 19 2017

      Mathilde

      Pause longue ! il faudrait que je demande des détails à Manu sur comment il l’a prise…

  • Reply Nov 17 2017

    odrey

    Great Basin NP… j’en prend bonne note…bien hâte aussi de lire sur les chemins perdu au nord de Lake Powell !

    • Reply Nov 19 2017

      Mathilde

      ça vaut le coup, il y a moyen en fait de l’intégrer dans un road trip Oregon / Nevada, pas seulement via l’Utah comme on a fait. Ou juste en un voyage de quelques jours rien que pour ça à partir de Vegas

  • Merci pour toutes ces infos qui nous seront fort utiles lors de notre road trip en sept 2018. Ce sera pour fin septembre, pensez-vous que le temps (proche de l’hiver) sera un frein pour cette visite et surtout pour la visite des grottes ?
    Marie-Christine.

    • Reply Nov 19 2017

      Mathilde

      Comme je le mentionne dans l’article, je n’ai pas visité les grottes, il faut voir directement avec le visitor center et sur leur site pour voir si c’est ouvert à cette saison.

  • Reply Nov 23 2017

    Veronique

    Merci du partage Mathilde ! Je n’avais jamais entendu parler des bristlecone pines, ils sont impressionnants ! Et bon sang, les skunks, quelle plaie ! Il y en a plein dans le coin ou j’habite, et je subis, je subis… A l’instar de Marie (commentaire plus haut), je suis en admiration devant la photo de la nuit etoilee, good job Manu.

  • Reply Dec 4 2017

    Benoît

    Merci pour les descriptions et les photos, et quelle belle idée de nous faire sortir des grands classiques, incontournables certes, mais si bien entourés!

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