Visit one of the least visited national parks in the entire country and see what everyone is missing out on! From arid desert, to austere mountains, to intricate caves there is so much to see. You can read what to do when you visit Great Basin National Park in winter.
I had barely heard of this park before I went and I truly had no idea what to expect. Over the past year, I have been to 40 National Parks and this was definitely one of the trickiest to get to. However, once I got there, I realized this park is incredibly cool! I will never forget our time exploring the Lehman Caves. Find out what to do if you visit this park in the off season!
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Table of Contents
Great Basin National Park Details
What is Great Basin National Park?
Great Basin National Park is a park in the Great Basin area of the country in the Eastern area of Nevada. This park features natural wonders like the arid desert, the tall South Snake Mountains, ancient bristlecone pine groves, and the mysterious Lehmann Caves. There are so many things to see and explore in this incredible park!
What can I do in Great Basin National Park in Winter?
Drive the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive
Although a lot of the 12 mile scenic drive is closed during the winter, there are still gorgeous views you can see. This road winds up into the mountains and raises in elevation, so that you can see far beyond the parks bounds. Drive to the farthest areas that you can stop at to see the views over the wonderful landscape that surrounds the area. Check the website and visitor center for updates on road closures and openings.
Take a Lehman Cave Tour
Visiting the Lehman Caves is one of the best experiences you can have in the park. However, you can only enter the caves on a ranger-led tour. Tours are sold 30 days in advance on recreation.gov and they tend to sell out during popular times. Make sure to book a tour so you can see these magnificent natural spaces with incredible formations.
Lehman Cave Tours:
- Parachute Shield Tour ($12) – This tour is 60 minutes long and is the most common tour to take in the cave. The trail continues for .5 miles and visits the Grand Palace, Lodge Room, and Inscription Room. Each tour only has 16 spaces.
- Grand Palace Tour ($15) – The Grand Palace Tour is 90 minutes long and travels .6 miles through the cave. It travels through a few more rooms than the Parachute Shiled Tour including the Gothic Room, the Music Room, the Lodge Room, the Inscription Room, and the Grand Palace Room. Children must be at least five to join the tour and there are only 20 spaces.
- Gothic Palace Tour ($8)- If you want a family friendly tour, then this is the best option. It is only 30 minutes and travels just .25 miles into the cave focusing on the various cave formations. This tour also only has 20 spaces.
Great Basin National Park is very remote with very little around it, which makes for wonderful night skies. It is an International Dark Sky Community, which means the sky see really little light pollution. No matter the season, you can stargaze and try your luck at seeing shooting stars or planets.
What Should I know about the Cave Tours?
It’s important to know all the rules and regulations before you enter the caves. There are a few requirements that must be adhered to so that you stay safe and wildlife is protected. Look over the rules below and have a wonderful time on your tour. If you have claustrophobia, you may want to opt out of the cave tour, because there are some tight spaces.
- You must arrive 15 minutes prior to the tour to check in and get screened for White Nose Syndrome. Do not wear clothing that you have worn in another cave to protect bats from white nose syndrome.
- No backpacks, bags, camera holders, or back facing baby holders are allowed in the cave. If you need a front facing baby carrier then you may be able to rent them at the Visitor Center.
- No food or drinks are allowed in the caves and you may not touch the cave walls.
How Can I get to Great Basin?
Great Basin National Park is one of the harder parks to get to in the US. The two closest airports are Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, both of them are more than 200 miles away. There are two closer airports: St. George, Utah and Cedar City, Utah. All flights connect from Salt Lake City and the planes are usually smaller.
Then, you will need a car to get from the airports to the park itself. You can take Highway 287 to Baker, Nevada. Once you get to Baker, take Highway 488 and then travel five miles into the park.
Things to Know Before You Go
💵 Great Basin National Park is one of the few national parks that has no fee to enter. However, there are fees to join a Lehman Cave Tour and reservations are recommended.
☀️ Weather changes quickly in Great Basin National Park. Make sure that you stay updated and that you take the proper precautions. If there are signs of bad weather, then stay in the lower elevations.
⛺️ There are a few campgrounds in the park and all of them except for Baker Campground require reservations in the peak season. You can make reservations for your campsite on recreation.gov.
⛏ If you have experience, then you can access the one wild cave in the park. You can apply for a caving permit two weeks in advance and you must exemplify the required caving skills. White nose syndrome screening is still required.
🦮 Pets are only allowed in the parking lot, on paved roads, and in the campground. They must be kept on a 6 foot leash and they are only allowed on the Lexington Arch Trail.
🍃 Remember to follow the Leave No Trace Principles. As always, you want to leave nature looking better than you found it.
Let me know in the comments if you found this guide to Great Basin helpful!
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