Last Updated on 07/24/2023 by Glynn Willard
Great Basin National Park is a hidden gem and a lesser known National Park.
It seems completely out of place sandwiched between Nevada and Utah, but once you reach a little elevation, it’s breathtaking!
Great Basin has amazing views, beautiful wildlife and some really pleasant hikes.
It also has challenging hikes and backpacking. We can only give you feedback on some of the easier hikes.
We can also fill you in on where to camp, boondock, find water and dump stations near Great Basin.
Oh and did I mention there’s no fee to enter the park!
Where Is Great Basin National Park?
Great Basin National Park is sandwiched in Nevada right on the Utah line.
In fact, our phones continued to flip flop between cell towers in Nevada and Utah. In other words, the time zone keep changing.
Great Basin is off Nevada Rt 487. The road (488 Lehman Cave Rd) to the main entrance is in the tiny town of Baker.
It’s easy to miss, so pay attention.
Great Basin Visitor Center
It’s a little confusing, because the visitor center is outside the park.
The visitor center is just outside the town of Baker and has plenty of parking. When we pulled in, my first thought was “Is this all there is?”
It’s worth stopping briefly to use the rest rooms and learn about some of the history, plants (Bristle cone Pine) topography and geography.
Keep in mind, the Great Basin Visitors Center is closed in the winter from 10/30 to 5/16.
But, the actual park is the real treat. Follow the signs for Lehman Caves Visitor Center.
There will be several roads that will take you up into the mountains for some grand views.
Stop by the Lehman Caves Visitor Center first, check out the caves, use the facilities and speak to a Ranger about finding the most suitable hikes for your group.
I suggest hiking before making the drive to the top.
Great Basin National Park By Car
If you’re not planning on hiking, at least visit the Lehman Caves.
Keep in mind, there’s a fee for the cave tour, which the National Park Pass does not cover.
Also, if you do the longer tour, budget 2 hours to give yourself a buffer.
After that, head back, but take a left onto Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive.
The drive gets steep with some tight switchbacks. Part way up, you’ll see a sign for no RV’s past this point.
You’ll see why. If you’re just in a car or a truck, it’s worth the drive.
The road past Upper Lehman Creek Campground is closed from November to June for obvious reasons.
Mather Overlook is worth the time and a great place for a packed lunch. We spent almost an hour there eating, taking in the beauty and exploring.
Continue on (if the road is open) to Wheeler Peak Overlook. It’s a quick stop.
Continuing on after the lookout gets you to Summit trail head, Bristle cone, Alpine Lake and Sky Island Forest Trail head.
I hear those are amazing hikes!
You can also access Wheeler Peak Campground for small vehicles and tents. We did not stay there.
Hiking Pole Canyon Trail At Great Basin
We decided to do the Pole Canyon Trail based on a suggestion from a Ranger.
To get there head away from the Lehman Caves Visitor Center and make a right onto Baker Creek Rd (it’s dirt).
Follow it until you see pull off on the left for a public pit toilet. Immediately after that is a left turn, then go left at the fork.
It’s a one lane road, so be kind to pedestrians and oncoming traffic.
Pass the Pole Canyon trail head and take a right into a parking lot for a picnic area and bathrooms.
There’s a little foot bridge next to the bathrooms that will take you to the trail.
Take a right on the trail toward the mountains. The hike is easy and kid friendly.
Go as far as you like and turn around when you’re 50% exhausted.
If you keep going, it will eventually terminate onto the Timber Crk trail, which takes you to the Baker Creek Trail head Parking Lot.
It would be a long walk back to the parking area. Of course, you have the option of following Baker Creek Rd all the way to the trail head parking.
Then you can take the Timber Crk Trail to the Pole Canyon Trail.
Neither choice will let you down.
Where To Boondock Near Great Basin?
We boondocked at Sacramento Pass BLM Campground. We can’t complain.
It was safe, quiet and had nice facilities.
If you take the dirt road in the campground that crosses the cattle guard, it takes you to alternative boondocking locations and campground specifically for equestrian campers.
The lower campground was a cell phone dead zone for us, but each morning, I would hike up to the upper campground and take care of emails and messages.
There are a few random spots on BLM land along 487, but they’re hit or miss.
Silver Creek Reservoir has a few random spots that we didn’t explore. But the satellite image is feasible for medium sized rigs.
Pruess Lake off of 21 nearby in UT has a few spots and is a great alternative.
Using iOverlander before you go to figure out a plan A, B and C is the key to finding a boondocking location near Great Basin National Park.
The campgrounds in the park are primitive, $20/night and only have a few spots that can accommodate 40 feet.
Since the dispersed camping on NF roads and BLM is no different and free, it’s preferable.
Dump Stations Near Great Basin National Park
We found two.
One in the park just before the Lehman Caves Visitor Center. It has water and dump, but there’s a $10 fee.
The only other dump station we found was of Rt 50 and centered on the NV/UT state line.
It’s to the right of and behind the Philips 66 gas station. They accept the payment inside the gas station.
I believe we paid either $5 or $10. Regardless, it was easily accessible.
And we filled up with Diesel.
Where To Find Water Near Great Basin National Park
The best place is the dump station near Lehman Caves Visitor Center.
There’s a fee to dump, but I believe potable water is free.
You can also grab water for a fee at the small RV park behind the Philips 66 on Rt 50 where we dumped.
iOverlander lists the spigot in the back of Baker Fuel and RV right in town. We saw it, but didn’t use it for water.
Junior Ranger Program At Great Basin National Park
No input about a national park is complete without discussing the Junior Ranger Program.
We use the learning experience as part of our roadschooling.
The program is a great hands on experience for kids to learn about the local wildlife and local plants.
Great Basin’s program spends a lot of time on the Bristlecone Pine for obvious reasons.
Honestly, we as parents learn just as much as our two boys by going through the program.
I highly recommend participating if you have kids.
Wrapping Up Great Basin National Park
Even if Great Basin is a little out of your way, make it a point to visit.
Like I mentioned before, it just doesn’t fit in and is a hidden gem.
If nothing more than to just visit the caves and drive to the lookouts, the park will not let you down.
If you’re a backpacker or hiker, the trails are outstanding in the right weather.
Just make sure to check the NPS website for road and trail closures before heading to Great Basin National Park.
Have you found any national parks that are hidden gems?
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