One of the lesser known National Parks in the United States is Great Basin National Park. It sits out of the way in central eastern Nevada near the Utah border. It is actually the nearest National Park to Salt Lake, but certainly the least visited. It doesn’t have the wildlife and hype of Yellowstone or the ease of access of the Utah parks, but it can hold its own in grandeur and amazement. It is a protected area for a few key reasons; probably the most important being Lehman Caves, then he peaks that stretch beyond 11,000 feet even to 13,078 foot Wheeler Peak, the water access for the small towns of the central basin and a great lesson on the Great Basin.
The Great Basin stretches from the East at the Wasatch Mountains to the West at the Sierra Nevada Range. It then rises up to corners of Oregon and Idaho and down to Southern Utah and Nevada. Covering this mass amount there is so much to learn about the water usage, abundant wildlife and ever changing landscape. I knew that the Great Basin was large, but didn’t realize that it really stretched this far.
We arrived Friday evening and found a nice campsite at Upper Lehman Creek Campground. We were one of only a few other campers in that campground. The lower campground was full. There is only about 500 feet of elevation difference between these two campgrounds and we hoped that that wouldn’t make too much of a difference. The night was a bit chilly, but we all survived just fine. We did wake up that morning to a white surprise.
Later that day we went on a hike along the Baker Creek Trail. We attempted to do the loop with a simple cutoff trail, but we never found the cutoff so we ended up hiking along a less tracked trail along the river. We all enjoyed it anyway. We had to hustle down the mountain to make it to our cave tour. The kids all pushed well running most of the way down the trail.
After our hike we made it to our cave tour. We got to go inside Lehman Caves. Lehman Caves is one of the great wonders of Great Basin National Park. It was discovered by Absalom Lehman around 1885 with many different theories and stories about its discovery. This cave is a great wonder of many of the rare underground features such as stalactites and stalagmites as well as rare shield features. Early visitors to the cave had little respect for it and caused harm to many aspects of it. Now under the protection of the National Parks system we can preserve the cave and its natural beauty for many generations! My children thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to enter into this wonder and be able to see the great God given features of the cave.
After our tour of the cave we all indulged in the HUGE homemade ice cream sandwiches that they offer at the visitor’s center.
On Sunday the weather turned out to be excellent! We attended church that morning and the snow was melted around camp and it gave us an opportunity to relax and enjoy the gorgeous day.
I took off for a couple of hours to get a run/hike up to see the Wheeler Cirque. I took the Lehman Creek Trail up to the Wheeler Peak Campground. It was a very scenic adventure. A bit of snow, but a great time to get out.
Once up to the campground I was able to get an amazing view of the Cirque. Unfortunately the pictures don’t quite do it justice. This peak is certainly on the peak bag checklist. I also want to traverse south along the ridge across a couple of other peaks down to Mt. Washington. This was recently featured in Backpacker Magazine. It sounds like an awesome route and after seeing Wheeler Peak I am even more desirous to go and do this. Also, there is a couple of climbing routes up the face of Wheeler Peak that are 5.8 and 5.9 rated that would be great for a beginner big wall climb.
Each of you should take an opportunity to go off route a little bit and explore this little National Park gem in Eastern Nevada. Well worth the trip for sure!