Great Basin National Park
Great Basin National Park is home to the world's oldest living things, the bristlecone pines.Some of these amazing gnarled trees are 3,000 years old (when Egypt was in full swing, these trees were little sprouts), living on the hillsides of the Snake Range mountains.The bristlecones don't grow very tall (they grow about 1 inch every one hundred years), but they survive for centuries in an unfriendly environment.
Tip: To get to Great Basin, take the turnoff from Highway 50. The road into the park, especially the Wheeler Park Drive, slowly winds up into the mountains, so allow plenty of time for your visit. The national park is a super spot to camp, with lovely streams and aspen trees.
Visitor Center (Baker) - Before heading up into the park, in Baker stop in the visitor center to learn about bristlecone pines, wildlife in the park (lizards, badgers, jackrabbits, coyotes, marmots), ecology (salt desert, woodlands, alpine forests), and the people who lived in the Great Basin 13,000 years ago. Also, check out "Field Packs," a backpack filled with different books and activities - Nature Discovery, Tracking and Night Exploration.
Bristlecone Grove Trail - A walk up this trail is a must do and okay for kids of all ages. The bristlecones standing on a lonely rocky hillside have a magical timeless quality, as if the trees might start slowly waving their branches. Many of the trees are labeled with their ages; the oldest tree is 3200 years old, born in 1230 BC! Trail is 2.8 miles round trip, with some up and down, and parts have sharp rocks, so wear closed-toed shoes.
- At the beginning of the Bristlecone Trail is a short paved nature trail through the forest, okay for strollers.
Alpine Lakes Loop Trail - For a super spot for lunch, hike one mile to Teresa Lake, a lovely emerald lake surrounded by forests and snow patched mountains. If the kids feel like hiking further, continue on to Stella Lake, 2.7 miles round trip.
Lehman Caves - Go on a guided tour through Lehman Caves, formations in all shapes and sizes including "cave bacon" and "cave popcorn." Each room is named for its distinctive formations, such as Gothic Palace, Lake Room, Grand Palace, and at one point on the tour, all the lights are turned out and you're in total darkness.
Choose from a 60 min. or 90 min. tour.The 60 min. tour goes as far as the Lodge room, children under 5 aren't allowed on the 90 min. tour which is longer and goes to the Grand Palace. The temperate in the cave is 50 degrees (feels great on a hot day), so bring a sweater and wear comfortable shoes for the tour.
Buy tour tickets at the Lehman Caves Visitor Center, which has exhibits and seasonal snack bar, picnic tables outside. Tickets can be bought a month in advance by calling 775.234.731
- Great Basin is the perfect location for stargazers - no city lights and clear desert nights. The park has ranger-led stargazing events during the summer and click here
for more info.