Great Basin National Park derives its name from the Great Basin, the dry and mountainous region between the Sierra Nevada Range in California and the Wasatch Mountains of Utah. Located in White Pine County in east-central Nevada, near the Utah border, the park is notable for its groves of ancient bristlecone pines, the oldest known non-clonal organisms; and for the Lehman Caves at the base of 13,063-foot Wheeler Peak. Topographically, this entire region is known as the Basin and Range Province.
President Warren G. Harding created Lehman Caves National Monument by presidential proclamation in 1922. The monument was incorporated into the National Park Service on October 27, 1986. Adjacent to the park lies the Highland Ridge Wilderness. These two protected areas provide contiguous wildlife habitat and protection to 227.8 square miles of eastern Nevada's basin lands.
Great Basin National Park contains over 40 known caves, filled with unusual cave life and unique features. Some caves contain unique formations such as folia, bulbous stalactites, anthodites, and shields. Some caves contain features that suggest that deep-seated, hydrothermal waters influenced the caves' development. The park has high-elevation vertical shafts and horizontal solution caves that have formed along fracture planes.
Lehman Caves is a beautiful limestone cave ornately decorated with stalactities, stalagmites, helictities, flowstone, popcorn, and over 300 rare shield formations.
The caves attract tens of thousands of visitors to eastern Nevada yearly, a trend that began not long after their discovery in the late 1880s. For over 60 years, Lehman Caves National Monument protected these underground wonders, with their unique geology and ecology. And today, they remain protected as part of Great Basin National Park.
The park's natural resources division has graciously offered to work with the 2016 convention to provide guided off-trail tours of Lehman Caves. A limited number of additional caves in the park may be available for visitation. Please check with our trips coordinator for further information. White Nose Syndrome decontamination protocols will be strictly enforced.
Bristlecone pines are the longest-living tree on Earth. Many of Great Basin National Park's bristlecone pines were growing at the time the Pharaohs were still building their pyramids in Egypt!
There are three groves of bristlecone pines in the park. The Wheeler Peak grove, the most accessible in the park, is located on the northeast side of Wheeler Peak. It is unusual in that it grows on a glacial moraine consisting of quartzite boulders. Most groves grow on limestone or dolomite. The northeastern exposure of the Wheeler Peak grove is also unusual as most other groves have a generally southern or western exposure. The Wheeler Peak grove is reached by a 1.5 mile (3 miles round trip) trail from Wheeler Peak Campground. A short self-guided nature trail passes through a portion of the grove. During the summer, the park offers ranger-led interpretive walks in this grove. Check at the visitor center for a schedule.
Rising high above the floor of Lexington Canyon, this imposing natural arch was created by the forces of weather working slowly over a span of centuries. Lexington Arch is unusual in one important respect: it is carved from limestone. Most of the natural arches of the western United States are composed of sandstone. The fact that Lexington Arch is made of limestone leads to speculation that it was once a passage in a cave system. Flowstone, a smooth glossy deposit that forms in caves has been found at the base of the opening, lending support to this theory.
Until further notice the Lexington Arch Road and Trail is closed due to damage sustained during a wildfire. Access to this area during the 2016 convention is currently unknown.
Great Basin National Park is home to the only glacier in Nevada, and one of the southernmost glaciers in the United States. The Wheeler Peak Glacier sits at the base of Wheeler Peak, in a protected cirque around 11,500 feet in elevation. The glacier measures 300 feet long and 400 feet wide. Its exact depth is unknown.
On a clear, moonless night in Great Basin National Park, thousands of stars, five of our solar system's eight planets, star clusters, meteors, man-made satellites, the Andromeda Galaxy, and the Milky Way can be seen with the naked eye. The area boasts some of the darkest night skies left in the United States. Low humidity and minimal light pollution, combined with high elevation, create a unique window to the universe.
Weekly Astronomy programs are conducted on Saturday nights at the park in April and May on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday nights Memorial Day to Labor Day and Saturday nights in September and October. The programs are held at the Lehman Caves Visitor Center.
There is a full moon on Tuesday during the 2016 convention. We are working with Great Basin National Park to arrange a no-flashlights-allowed hike near Wheeler Peak so you can experience a view of the night sky like nowhere else on Earth! Bring your cameras and warm clothing.
Great Basin National Park
Great Basin National Park has five developed campgrounds with vault toilets, picnic tables, tent pads, and campfire grills. There are no hookups or leveled parking sites. Campsites are limited to eight people, three tents, and two vehicles per site. There are three campgrounds that have ADA accessible sites.
There is one primitive campground along Snake Creek Road. Sites have picnic tables and fire rings. Excellent back country camping opportunities are also available.
The park is located approximately 290 miles north of Las Vegas, but only about 60 miles from Ely. It is most commonly accessed by way of Nevada State Route 488, which is connected to U.S. Routes 6 and 50 by Nevada State Route 487 via the small town of Baker, the closest settlement to the park.
The park has 12 trails ranging from 0.3 miles to 13.1 miles. Trails range from short nature hikes at 6,825 feet (Mountain View Nature Trail), to the Wheeler summit trail starting at 10,160 feet. The Wheeler Summit trail is quite strenuous, and the altitude presents significant hazards for unprepared or inexperienced hikers. Backcountry routes are occasionally maintained throughout the more remote southern portion of the park. A number of these trailheads are accessible by the dirt road that terminates at the primitive Shoshone campground.
If trails are provided, stay on them. Alpine communities are especially fragile and easily damaged. Taking shortcuts creates a complex web of trails and causes erosion. When traveling cross country, avoid damaging vegetation by staying on durable surfaces such as rock or mineral soil.
Elevations in the park range from 6,200 to 13,063 feet, which leads to highly variable weather conditions year round. At elevations of 10,000 feet and higher, snow and/or electrical storms can be life-threatening, and can occur any month of the year. Be prepared for changing conditions.
The Great Basin Visitor Center is located on Nevada State Route 487 in the town of Baker. The Lehman Caves Visitor Center is located on Nevada State Route 488. It is 5.5 miles from Baker, Nevada, 1/2 mile inside the park boundary. Both centers feature exhibits about the park's geology, natural and cultural history, as well as theaters with orientation films. The centers are closed Thanksgiving Day Christmas Day, and New Years Day. Great Basin National Park has between 79,000 and 89,000 visitors in a normal year.
Great Basin National Park is covered by six topo maps in the USGS 7.5 minute series. The Wheeler Peak
and Kious Springs maps cover much of the high-elevation backcountry. The Windy Peak map covers a number
of the most popular trails and well-developed trails. The Lehman Caves map covers mostly low-elevation
areas outside the park. The most remote, least-used backcountry areas are covered by the Minerva Canyon
and Arch Canyon maps.
USGS 7.5 Quad Maps:
USGS 1:100,000 Map: Ely
District: White Pine County
Coordinates (WGS84): 39.0056794; -114.2200165
Elevation: 6,200 to 13,063 feet
Nearest town: Baker, NV
Distance from the convention: ~50 minutes
Lots of sunshine. High 73F. Winds NE at 5 to 10 mph.
Clear skies. Low 44F. Winds W at 5 to 10 mph.
A mainly sunny sky. High 81F. Winds E at 5 to 10 mph.
Last updated on
Mon, 22-May 9:53 am
The diversity of habitats in Great Basin National Park gives rise to a wide variety of animal life. From sagebrush steppe to alpine areas, from caves to creeks, many species thrive. The South Snake Range is still home to 10-15 Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep.
Ely, Nevada owes its existence to the nearby porphyry copper deposits discovered early in the 20th century. At one time, the open-pit mines were the largest human-made hole on the planet.
The Nevada Northern Railroad was created to haul copper ore from Ely to the Southern Pacific Railroad to the north. At a time when the United States was heavily adopting residential electrical power, the mines at Ely, Nevada were the dominant source of copper used in transmission lines.
Although the railroad isn't used to move copper these days, it still exists as a fully-functioning museum offering short-line excursions through the mining district. And Ely's copper mine is still one of the largest employers in the county.