Where Aged Trees and Alpine Lakes Surround the Massive Wheeler Peak
Well over 13,000 feet, Wheeler Peak stands as a sentinel over the grand Nevada basin; a central figure at a national park that also includes Lehman Caves.
Walk Among 5000-Year-Old Trees
While most visitors to the west flock to the National Parks of the Sierra Nevada or of the Utah Outback, the Wheeler Mountain area of east-central Nevada, is often ignored. Designated a National Park since 1986, and a notable distance between both Las Vegas and Salt Lake City, as well as a great distance from a major interstate highway, most summer travelers are either unaware of its existence or would rather see the more famous sights of saying the Zion or Yosemite valleys.
It’s a shame because Great Basin National Park offers a substantial cave system, alpine lakes, bristlecone pine forests, and a peak to climb that is well over 13,000 feet, for anyone who’ll make the trek. That stated the park is almost perfect for those travelers wishing to escape the summer crowds and heat.
Lehman Caves Tour
The first stop after entering the park would be the visitor center and an inquiry about the Lehman Caves Tour. Prices are extremely affordable. The tours last up to 90 minutes and offer a fascinating glimpse into life below the surface. Drive-up the ridge and into alpine forests where scenic stops allow great views of Wheeler Peak. If the option is to take the hike up to the peak, almost 18 miles round trip, one should plan an early start, but if not opt for the Loop Trail instead. The trailhead is at the Wheeler Peak parking area and, after crossing a rushing stream, it leads the hiker through quaking aspen trees and on toward Stella Lake. Between Stella and the next lake, Teresa, trees are shorter, just below the timberline, and sparser, thus unable to shield the numerous deer. One option is to break from the Loop Trail and continue on the Bristlecone Pine Trail where the visitor can hike just below the moraine of Wheeler and past ancient Bristlecone Pines, some over 5000 years old.
Great Basin National Park is within a mile or two of being located directly between Las Vegas and Salt Lake but having stated that, Las Vegas offers the most direct route. Within minutes from North Las Vegas, U.S. Highway 93 exits from Interstate 15 and proceeds north to the Majors Place junction. Leave U.S. 93, also known as the loneliest highway in the United States, and travel east on U.S. Highways 6/50 for a few miles to the Baker, Nevada exit, or State Highway 487. Beyond Baker State Highway 488 takes visitors into the park. From Salt Lake City, drive due west on Interstate 80 to Wendover, Nevada and then south on U.S. Highway Alt 93 past Ely and to the highway junction of Major’s Place, and then simply follow the aforementioned directions.
The park has several full-use campgrounds and around the visitor center area. There are several more primitive camps along Snake Creek and up toward Shoshone. Baker also has campground facilities. Lodging in Baker includes Silverjack Motel on the Main House Loop, the Great Basin Lodge on Highway 487, and further out on Highway 6/50, the Border Inn. Border and Silverjack have dined. T&D Restaurant, located at 1 Main Street, also offers hearty fare. Nearby Ely, Nevada, is only 60 miles away and offers a full range of dining and lodging experiences.