Monday, February 6, 2023

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Great Basin National Park Camping

Day Two: Wheeler Peak

Free Camping in Great Basin National Park and Hiking Wheeler Peak

I hadnât realized until after completing the hike that Wheeler Peak is the second highest mountain in Nevada at 13,065 feet, or just under 4000 meters.

The kicker is that the hike includes a gain of 3000 feet over just 3 miles, making it almost entirely uphill. This might not be a big deal if it werenât for the altitude making each step ever more difficult.

When I completed the hike at the end of June, there was still snow at the very top, making the last 500 feet or so pretty hairy. It involved a lot of hand and foot scrambling on my part and many people turned around before reaching the end. Even if you only hike part way, though, you will be rewarded with amazing views the entire time.

I also highly recommend grabbing a walking stick from one of the many fallen tree branches you will find along the trail , or bringing your own hiking poles, as much of the trail is scree and boulders and can be unstable. Itâs also quite common to experience high winds. There were 30 mph gusts at my side throughout most of the hike on the day that I went despite low winds elsewhere in the area.

You can also camp at the top of Wheeler Peak, though I would only recommend it if youre truly prepared for any kind of weather including heavy wind. Unfortunately most weather reports I checked were incorrect throughout the entire 48 hour period that I visited, mostly because the mountain peak has its own weather and it changes rapidly.

Climate In Great Basin National Park

The climate in Great Basin National Park varies drastically across the nearly 8,000-foot elevation change between the valley floor and Wheeler Peak. And, of course, that means weather conditions can be all over the place around these parts, and different throughout the park. In late spring and early summer, days in the valley below may be hot, with a 30 degree temperature drop as you approach Wheeler Peak parking lot, which sits at 10,000 feet. In the summer, fast moving weather systems are known to move in and out of the park suddenly, with fierce afternoon thunderstorms.

The Great Basin is one of the four deserts in North America, with low relative humidity and sharp drops in temperature at night. As with most other destinations around Nevada, be prepared to face a variety of weather scenarios by packing lots of layers, no matter what time of year it is.

Driving & Parking In Great Basin National Park

There is one main paved road in Great Basin National Park: Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive . Along Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive, there are pull-outs and larger parking areas at different scenic spots. Theres also a parking area near the Wheeler Peak campground and Wheelerp Peak Trailheads.

During the summer months, its possible that parking might become limited at some parts of the park its always a good practice to arrive early especially on weekends when most visitors will be there.

All of the other roads in Great Basin are unpaved and/or require a high-clearance four-wheel-drive vehicle. Youll need to bring a car capable of handling those roads to visit those other parts of the park. That said, those areas are far less visited, and you wont need to worry about parking or crowds.

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More Tips For Your Visit

  • You may get altitude sickness at elevations over 8000 ft. If you are prone to getting altitude sickness, and you dont want to get prescription drugs, you can try Dramamine, though it doesnt work for everyone.
  • Always check road conditions before heading to the park, especially early in the summer.
  • Do hikes in the early mornings. Afternoon thunder storms are common in the summer.

Where To Camp In The Great Basin Backcountry

Nevada RV CampingGreat Basin National Park

Great Basin National Park does not have designated backcountry campsites. Rather, the NPS recommends that backcountry hikers camp at obvious campsites which have been developed by previous users. These should be fairly obvious on the trail as youll generally be able to see where tents have been placed, logs arranged for seating, etc.

Regardless of where you decide to pitch your tent youll need to be at least 1/4 mile from the nearest road, and avoid close proximity to water sources, other campers, structures, and trails.

Pyramid Peak Loop

The most popular backcountry trip in Great Basin National Park is the Pyramid Peak Loop. This 13 mile loop makes the perfect overnight trip in the Great Basin backcountry and provides excellent views of Wheeler Peak while visiting both Baker and Johnson Lakes. Find additional information on this excellent trip below:

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Wheeler Peak Summit Trail Via Stella Lake Trail

Wheeler Peak is the second tallest peak in Nevada. This makes the peak a great option for any hiking enthusiast who tours the Great Basin, National Park. Wheeler Peak also has an easy ascent due to its trail condition and you will only cover a distance of 8.2 miles for this hike. In this trail, you gain an elevation of around 2900 feet. This becomes your biggest obstacle. The difficulty level in Wheeler Peak Summit Trail is advanced.

Length: 8.2 mi

No dogs

Great Basin National Park Boondocking 10 Miles: Great Basin Np Strawberry Creek

Address National Forest Development Road 456 Baker, Nevada

Elevation: 6715

Management Public Bureau of Land Management

The road in is Gravel and 0.1 mile miles from a paved road. There are 6-15 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 60 feet.

This BLM Recreation area is adjacent to Highway 50 roughly 48 miles east of Ely, NV. There are pit toilets and almost all of the campsites have covered tables on concrete pads. Some of the campsites are pull throughs that will accommodate large RVs. Quite popular during hunting season and very close to Great Basin National Park. There are also 35 miles of mountain biking trails from the campground and a horse camp about a mile off the road with more pit toilets

Amenities:

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How Much Time Do You Need For Your Visit

The time you spend at Great Basin National Park depends on the things that you decide to do there. For instance, if you are only doing the scenic drive and the Lehman Caves tour two days will be enough for you. However, if you are a passionate and enthusiastic hiker and probably you want to do more things like backpacking overnight, 3 or 4 days will be enough.

Great Basin Visitor Center

Great Basin National Park

Located in the town of Baker, just outside the park, this center has information on the geology, culture and natural history of Great Basin, along with a film. It is open throughout the year, but it has some fantastic exhibits and can be a good place to start your journey through the park. to learn more.

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Bristle And Alpine Lakes Loop Trail

Alpine lakes are other fascinating features that you find in the Great Basin National Park. You can access a couple of these lakes from the Alpines Lakes Loop which brings you back to the point where you started the hike. The Alpines Lakes Loop starts at the parking lot of the Wheeler Peak campground and you cover a total distance of 5.3 miles. While taking the hike you have access to the beautiful views of the Jeff Davis and the Wheeler peaks. The level of difficulty in this hike is immediate.

Length: 5.3 mi

No dogs

Rv & Camping Outside The Park

If all the spots are full within the park, here are a few options outside of the park. There are no full hook-up RV sites in the park, but here are a few options nearby.

  • Whispering Elms Motel, Campground, & RV Park offers 25 full-service RV sites
  • The Border Inn has 22 full-service RV sites and pull-through spaces
  • Hidden Canyon Guest Ranch has campsites and showers
  • Ely KOA has campsites and RV sites with full hook-ups

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Getting To Great Basin National Park:

The best way to describe Great Basin National Parks location is truly the middle of nowhere. The nearest big town is Ely, which is about an hour away. The best option in my opinion is to stay in Baker or in one of the campsites in the national park.

Keep in mind that the Wheeler Park Scenic Drive, the same road that will take you to all of the hiking trails, is narrow, winding, and full of animals. On my three drives up and down I encountered dozens of jackrabbits, eight dear, and a fox! None of it was a big deal since we were driving slow and were hyper aware. Just make sure that you do the same when driving up or down the scenic road. Note that its closed in the winter months.

There are several pullouts along the road where you can get out and look at the beautiful views, including the Mather Overlook, which is pretty well situated for both the sunrise and the sunset.

Although Great Basin National Park is one of the least visited national parks, parking is limited and the best way to make sure you can actually get a spot is either to go very early, or my tactic was to go later in the afternoon so that I could catch the sunset and stars. Arriving between 10 and noon might make for some difficult parking. Note that parking along the side of the road can result in tickets. I saw a few on some dashboards and not others, and was unable to figure out why some were ticketed and some were not.

Where You Can Stay In Great Basin National Park

Nevada RV CampingGreat Basin National Park

Great Basin National Park has five developed campgrounds within the park and several primitive sites along Snake Creek Road. None of the sites has hookups and most campsites are first-come, first-serve. If there are none left when you arrive, here are a few options for camping outside the park boundaries:

As noted above, there are BLM campsites close to the park as well. These are primitive spots, though so keep that in mind.

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Great Basin National Park Entrance Fees

Want some good news? Its free to enter Great Basin National Park! There are no entrance fees for Great Basin you dont need to show an American the Beautiful Pass or any other pass to enter the park.

There are some other fees you may have to pay depending on what you choose to do during your visit:

  • Lehman Caves tours have various costs per person, depending on which chore you do.
  • Its $20 per night for a spot in the developed campgrounds throughout the park.

Other than that, there are no costs for visiting Great Basin National Park.

Lower Lehman Creek Campground

When you use the Baker entrance to enter Great Basin National Park, this campground is one of the first ones that you encounter. It is a developed campground and is open throughout the year hence you are sure of getting a campsite even during the off-season. This creek has 11 sites and is located on the smaller side of Great Basin National Park. The sites are given based on the first-come, first-served approach. This campground also allows RV parking. Lower Lehman Creek is very close to the Lehman Creek Trail and Lehman Caves hence it is suitable when you want to explore the two areas.

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Wheeler Peak Summit Trail

8.6 MI RT, 2900 FT, DIFFICULT

Summit the second tallest peak in Nevada. Since afternoon storms are common, start this hike early in the day. The hike starts out relatively easy, but as you approach the mountain, you will start gaining a lot of elevation.

High winds are common and youll need to do some scrambling to reach the summit. Stop at the wind shields. They really help. Also, dont underestimate this hike. Its a beast. Your starting elevation is 10,160 feet and you are at 13064 at the summit.

The Complete Guide To Camping In Great Basin National Park

Great Basin National Park car SUV camping

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more info.

Great Basin National Park, located in eastern Nevada, is one of Americas most stunning national parks. The park features the 13,065 Wheeler Peak, a mammoth mountain that dominates the skyline. At the base of the peak youll find the Lehman Caves, a spectacular cave system that is over 2 miles in length, the longest in Nevada. Great Basin is also home to several stands of bristlecone pines, considered to be some of the oldest living organisms in the world.

Needless to say youll have plenty of natural wonders to explore during your visit. We think the best way to experience everything that Great Basin has to offer is to spend a few nights under the stars in your tent or RV. Great Basin National Park has plenty of camping options from the five developed campgrounds within the park, to the primitive sites along Snake Creek Road, to the abundance of backcountry options as well as nearby RV and dispersed campsites.

Keep reading to learn all the details youll need to plan your perfect camping trip in Great Basin National Park.

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Win Gear For Camping Great Basin

When you review campsites across the US on The Dyrt, you get the chance to win outdoor gear. In Nevada, you have the chance to win a $100 gift card from Green Goo and a $150 gift card from Primus. Check out the contest leaderboard, review your camping experience, earn points for your review, and you could win prizes!

Great Basin National Park

Great Basin National Park boasts some special features that are hard to come by these days: a lack of big crowds and an abundance of dark skies. Though its hard to believe with the lineup of scenic features this place offers, Great Basin is one of the least visited national parks, making your time here even more special. Here, you can hike Nevadas second tallest peak, only crossing paths with a handful of people or experience the darkest night skies thanks to the parks remote location.

It can be difficult to stand out in a state so rich in amazing outdoor wonders, with alpine lakes, towering peaks, limestone caves, and Earths oldest treesall beneath the brightest stars in the darkest skies in the Lower 48Great Basin National Park does exactly that.

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Nevada Rv Campinggreat Basin National Park

All Great Basin National Park RV camping is first come first serve, and there are numerous free designated dispersed RV camping sites available within the park.

Located in the middle of nowhere as many visitors describe it, Nevadas Great Basin National Park is off the beaten path. One of the least visited national parks, GBNP offers unexpected beauty in the shadow of 13,065 foot Wheeler Peak, the beautiful marble Lehman Caves, and ranger led Night Sky Programs at one of the darkest of all national parks.

Great Basin National Park Nevada: A Recreationalists Paradise

RV Camping in Great Basin National Park

You may be wondering, what even is the Great Basin that gives this park its name? The vast region covering much of Nevada and parts of four neighboring states is one marked by basin and range topographywide-open valleys between tall mountains, with swathes of high desert cut by meandering streamsand theres no better way to get to know this unique ecosystem than with a visit to a national park devoted to showcasing and protecting it.

While so many spectacular landscapes define Nevada, Great Basin National Park showcases the Silver States geographical diversity all in one place. Great Basin National Parks high desert rises up to some of the states tallest peaks, which harbor the states only remaining glacier, cascading mountain streams, alpine lakes, the ancient bristlecone pine, and the states largest and most spectacular cave system. In this recreationalists paradise, spend the day hiking, bagging peaks , fishing backcountry lakes and streams, and touring Lehman Caves then settle into campsites at up to 10,000 feet of elevation and discover why Half the Park is After Dark with the some of the best stargazing in Nevadaand the entire country.

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Great Basin National Park Boondockers Friendly Spots 12 Miles: Cleve Creek

Address National Forest Development Road 435 Ely, Nevada Elevation: 6276

Management -Public Bureau of Land Management

Cleve Creek is open May-Sep. The maximum RV length at Cleve Creek is 24 feet. We were car camping our way across Nevada route 50 in May, 2020. We went to Cleve Creek because our first choice, Sacramento Pass, was full. And boy are we glad Sacramento Pass was full! Cleve Creek is about 14 miles off route 50. There was only 2 other campers there.

Amenities:

What To Bring On Your Great Basin National Park Camping Trip

Preparing for your Great Basin National Park camping trip involves more than deciding which campground best fits your needs. There is also the important job of making sure you have all the right gear youll need to ensure a great trip.

Were sure youll already have the essentials like a great tent, sleeping bags, and camp chairs, but below are some of our favorite items specifically for camping in Great Basin:

  • Coleman Camping Stove This stove is perfect for cooking up camping classics at the campground.
  • Pop-up canopy The sun in Nevada can be intense! We recommend bringing a portable shade structure like this one.
  • Portable water container Especially useful for camping along Snake Creek Road, portable water containers are a life saver.
  • Cooler The hot summer temperatures make a good cooler essential. We cant recommend Yeti enough!
  • Great Basin National Park Guidebook A good guidebook will provide insights and information to help you plan your perfect trip to Great Basin.
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