At L.L.Bean, we believe in carving out time to relax and savor the great outdoors. That’s why this week, we’re exploring one of the most unique parks we’ve visited: Great Basin, a national park best known for a system of marble caverns, 5,000-year-old bristlecone pine trees, and its glorious 13,063-foot Wheeler Peak.
Located in eastern Nevada, Great Basin National Park is a 77,180-acre expanse of geological treasures. We’ve compiled a few of the park’s “can’t miss” sights here.
The Lehman Caves
Great Basin’s famed Lehman Caves formed under water approximately 550 million years ago. Over the centuries, the rising water floor within the caves has created vast cavities – caves within the caves! The interior caves, known as the Grand and Gothic Palaces, and Music and Lodge Rooms, feature awe-inspiring walls made of marble and limestone. While walking through, keep an eye out for the crickets, spiders, chipmunks, mice and, most notoriously, bats, that make up the cave’s ecosystem.
After absorbing the cave’s splendor, get your blood flowing by hiking one of the park’s many trails. Here are a few of our favorites:
While the Lehman Caves may look like the inside of nature’s haunted mansion, the Bristlecone and Glacier Trail are its outdoor counterpart, lined with a millennia-old grove of bristlecone pine trees and leading to the only glacier in the state of Nevada.
Continuing down the trail, you will pass piles of glacial rock and debris. Make sure to walk all the way to the glacier. Like us, you may be surprised that a desert and ice plain can co-exist so close to one another.
Fans of fishing will want to check out Baker Lake, the only body of water in the park with fish (aside from the park’s creeks). While some of these fish have been artificially stocked, indigenous fish species swam through mountain waters that have dried up over time, isolating the fish in this particular lake, but not others.
Those who continue on toward Johnson Lake will discover meadows and fields of wildflowers lined with old cabins, once used by miners digging for tungsten, an element used to create alloy weapons, tanks and transmitter radios for the First World War. Today, this area is a historic mine district.
We’ve saved the best (and most difficult) trail for last! Hiking to Wheeler Peak takes at least two days. On your way there, USA Today recommends absorbing the “…sweeping views of alpine lakes and rock jumbles to the east and Nevada’s Great Basin to the west; a place where mountain snow melt collects but fails to reach either ocean.” Once you reach the summit it’s time to put your bags down, relax at the peak’s campground and enjoy the view. You’ll have earned it.
Before heading home, history buffs will want to explore the Baker Archaeological Site, filled with remnants of a Fremont Native American village occupied between 1220 and 1295 AD. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to see the village in all its glory, but you will be able to view artifacts on the surface.
Nevada’s Great Basin National Park may not be as well known as others throughout the States, but we think this is all the more reason to visit. With fewer people, you’ll find great peace and easier access to the beautiful lakes, forests, rock jumbles and caves that surround you. If you’ve been, how would you rate Great Basin National Park
Did we miss your favorite part of the park? Share with us in the comments section below.