The 8 Best Day Hikes in Great Basin National Park

Along the Lexington Arch Trail in Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Along the Lexington Arch Trail

Great Basin National Park is definitely one of the overlooked national parks of the Continental US.  It’s a bit out of the way – those coming from NorCal might have to take the “Loneliest Road in America” to get there – but what it lacks in crowds it makes up for with varying scenery.  It’s desert, it’s mountains, it’s caves, it’s ancient forests, it’s glaciers, it’s the state high point.  Combine all that, and you’re sure to have some pretty good hiking opportunities!

 




 

8 Best Day Hikes in Great Basin National Park

Theresa Lake along the Alpine Lake Loop in Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Theresa Lake along the Alpine Lakes Loop

Alpine Lakes Loop

The 2.7 mile loop trail takes you to two alpine lakes set below the highest peak in Nevada.  For short and sweet, this is a great hike.  You also get an alpine environment in the middle of the desert.  How amazing is that?

 

One of the older Bristlecone Pine Trees in Great Basin National Park, Nevada

One of the older Bristlecone Pine Trees

Bristlecone Pine Forest

Beginning from the same parking area as the Alpine Lakes Trail, you actually have to walk by Teresa Lake en route up to the Bristlecone Pine Forest.  The forest itself showcases the ancient trees, some dating back to the days of the Israelite Exodus and the Egyptian pyramids.  Views also extend out to the nearby plains and Wheeler Peak along the 3.5 mile (RT) trail.

 

The Rock Glacier in Great Basin National Park, Nevada

The Rock Glacier

The Glacier Trail

Actually, the Glacier Trail is a 0.8+ mile extension of the Bristlecone Pine Forest Trail (for a total mileage of at least 4.8 miles RT).  The great thing about the glacier is that it’s amazingly scenic, especially if you like cliffs.  Much of the year the snow recedes to where you don’t really want to scramble up to it, but the rock glacier is nice any time of year, and there are always the cliffs above to leave you in awe.

 

Inside Lehman Caves in Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Inside Lehman Caves – PC Jeff Hollett

Lehman Caves

It’s hard to call this a “hike”, since it’s a guided tour that’s only 0.4-0.6 miles long, but the cave tour is worth the admission price (currently $4.50-$11) to see.  There are quite a few beautiful formations, as well as a discussion of the cave’s history.  More about the tour can be found here.

 

Views from Wheeler Peak in Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Views from Wheeler Peak – PC J Brew

Wheeler Peak

A discussion of the best trails in Great Basin would be incomplete without mentioning the 8.0 mile (RT) trail up the state high point.  Depending on the time of year, you might encounter lakes, snowfields, or heat, but you’ll always have a great view from the top.

 

Lexington Arch in Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Lexington Arch

Lexington Arch

If you’re really looking for an adventure, check out the Lexington Arch Trail.  After a fire ripped through the area, the road has been left to wash out, so the normally 1.7 mile trail from the trailhead may be quite a bit longer if you have to walk a mile or more up the dirt road (4×4 and high clearance is recommended in any case).  But if you can actually get to the arch, you’re in for a real treat – arches like this don’t come along every day!

 

Panorama of Baker Lake in Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Panorama of Baker Lake. PC Chris M Morris

Baker Lake

Looking for a little solitude?  Check out Baker Lake, a small but pretty pond set below some even prettier cliffs.  The 10.4 (RT) trail wanders along the outlet creek through the aspens for great ambiance even if there aren’t a whole lot of views along the way.  For an even more epic hike with better views, do the trail as a 12.9 mile loop with Johnson Lake.

 

Panorama of the cirque around Johnson Lake in Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Panorama of the cirque around Johnson Lake. PC Chris M Morris

Johnson Lake

While you could do Johnson Lake from the Baker Lake Trailhead as a 10.4 mile out & back (RT), it’s a lot faster and steeper to begin at the Snake Creek Trailhead for a 7.0 mile out & back (RT).  View historic mining artifacts near the lake.  Then, if you’re feeling adventurous, continue up toward the pass and Baker Lake for spectacular views over the surrounding area.

 

Do you have a favorite hike in Great Basin National Park?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

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Looking for more hiking options in and near Great Basin National Park?  This book is very detailed – probably more than needed for the casual visitor – but it also offers some great hiking ideas.