5 Top Reasons To Explore Great Basin National Park
In: Trail Notes
Glacier Basin National Park, is the place I am heading to explore some of the oldest Bristlecone pine trees on earth, see the last and only remaining glacier in Nevada, do some hiking and climb one of the tallest peaks in Nevada. Here are my five reasons to explore Great Basin National Park.
Reason #1: Less Crowds
According to National Park Service, Great Basin National Park which was established in 1986 approximately gets 90,000 visitors per year. That is nothing compare to visiting Yosemite or any major National Park in the US. In addition, you get to learn so much about the history of Great Basin!
Reason #2: Explore Bristlecone Pine Trees
If you love checking out some of the oldest pine trees that have survived for thousands of years, Great Basin National Park is the place. Great Basin National Park has one of the most oldest Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva) trees I have ever seen. The Great Basin Bristlecone Pine is found above 9,000ft throughout the mountains of Utah, Nevada and eastern California. Due to the intense climatic conditions at the high elevations in which they grow, these trees have developed unique survival strategies and can live to be 5,000 years old! The age of the tree is determined by counting the number of growth rings in a cross section of its trunk. These annual rings occur because trees grow yearly surges which take place during the spring and summer. A grove of ancient Bristlecone pines grows below Wheeler Peak trail-head.
Reason #3: Explore Wheeler Peak Glacier
One of the last and only remaining Glaciers that still exist in Nevada is Wheeler Peak Glacier. It has been called the southernmost glacier in the Northern Hemisphere. The glacier is also unique in that it contains many rocks and minerals, including limestone(found in Lehman Caves) marble, sandstone,shale granite, aragonite, gypsum and many more other rocks.
Reason #4: Climb Wheeler Peak Summit Trail
Wheeler Peak which sits at 13,063ft. is the tallest peak in Great Basin and second tallest mountain in the Nevada. How did the mountain get its name? In 1869, 1st Lt. George M. Wheeler surveyed the Great Basin region, literally putting it on the map. Climbing the peak that bears his name, Wheeler took barometer readings and estimated its height at 13,000ft.
The peak has been carved and shaped by glaciers over a long period of time. What is also interesting about this peak is, because Wheeler Peak has a northeast-facing headwall, it has perennial snow, and is able to protect one of the last remaining glacier from the sun! Due to global warming, it is estimated that the Wheeler Peak Glacier will be gone in 20 years!
Wheeler Peak Summit Trail is six to ten hour trek with an elevation gain of 2,902ft. Consider your level of ability and physical conditioning prior to climbing the trail. I started hiking at around 6a.m. and was done with my climb before noon. Weather Patters are unpredictable at higher altitude. Sudden changes in weather, drenching rains, lightning and snow are common at higher altitudes. Begin your hike early, so you will be off exposed ridges by afternoon.
Reason #5: Explore Lehman Caves
Lehman Caves is a beautiful limestone cave with charming and unusual formations. Lehman Caves is one of the best places to see rare shield formations. Over 300 shields are known to exist in Lehman Caves, more than any other cave. All of the cave is lavishly decorated with stalactites, stalagmites, helictites, flowstone, popcorn, and other formations. Nearly every surface is covered with something interesting. I unfortunately did not get to see the Lehman Caves due to COVID-19. More information on tickets and pricing, can be found here.