I spent the day at Great Basin NP. This area, known as the Basin and Range, is really quite interesting and the Park is fantastic.
If you’re wondering what the name Great Basin refers to, its a geographic region which encompases nearly all of Nevada and parts of all the surrounding states. Basically it’s a region comprised of elevated mountains or mountain ranges with desert valleys separating them. What makes the basin area interesting is that all of the preciptiation that falls here, stays here, because of the mountain ranges. It doesn’t run ultimately to the ocean like everywhere else.
The elevation differences in Great Basin NP make for some prety dramatic views of the surrounding areas. There is something like an 8,000 ft difference from the summit of Wheeler Peak to the surrounding deserts. Pictures don’t do it justice, you really have to see it first hand.
As I was only spending the one day here, I wasn’t able to do the summit hike of Wheeler Peak as that’s an all day thing and you really have to be off the summit before noon in order to avoid the routine afternoon thunderstorm. Instead, I took the scenic drive up to the campground at 10,000 ft and took the Alpine Lakes hike. It was about a 3 mile hike which offered lots of great views of Wheeler peak and it’s neighbor, Jeff Davis Peak. Wheeler peak at 13,063 ft is the second highest in Nevada (sorry, but I don’t know the first). The lakes on this hike were really more like ponds, but it was still worth the effort.
After that, I went back down to the visitor center and took the tour of Lehman Cave. Lots of really cool cave stuff including the most “shields” of any cave in the world. Shields are a rare cave formation where water under pressure exits through a crack or weak point in the cave. Because the water is under pressure, the shields can form at all sorts of angles.
I’ll have to come back here someday and take the Wheeler summit hike, the view has got to be amazing. I’d stay in the park the next time – I drove through the campground at the trailhead to the summit hike and it’s really nice!