Friday, July 24, 2015

Road Trip- Great Basin National Park

A panoramic view from Mather Viewpoint on the high road  with Wheeler Peak on the left

Wheeler Peak on the right is over 13k feet

Great Basin National Park  has been on our list for several years, and we finally made a mad dash up to see it.
It is Nevada's only National Park, and its way off all the beaten paths, in the middle of nowhere and not near ANY major highways. Out on the far eastern edge of Nevada 1/2 way up the state, just on the border with Utah. The scenic drive up Hwy 93 from Vegas is very much worth it, and the forecast predicted cooler weather, so we grabbed the chance.

The South Snake Mountain Range is dominated by Wheeler Peak which has the only permanent glacier in Nevada. We did not make the 4 mile summit trek up this 13,064 ft peak, though I wish I felt I could.  It is the 2nd highest peak in Nevada, but starting from 10,000 feet with a 3000 ft gain, the average time up is 4 hours, and just 2 hours back. We saw many people head up and watched many arrive through our high powered binoculars and the local telescopes. Driving up the road into the park takes you up over 10,000 foot elevation, and there were incredible views and vistas around every curve. Plenty of wildlife and wildflowers to see as well. The upper campground is at about 10,000 feet and there are many alpine lakes and hikes in the area. Great views of Wheeler from just about everywhere in the area. This mountain range is another of Nevada's Sky Island Echo-systems. A high altitude environment surrounded by a very different environment, in this case, a sea of high desert sage lands. Stunning all around, and a nice cool 52 degrees. We enjoyed just sitting in the cool temperatures and listening to the breeze flutter through the aspen trees. Alpine retreats are so magical when you live in the desert.
Looking North to the next Range

After enjoying the views from above 10,000 feet, we drove back down to the other section of the park at the Lehman Caves Visitor Center.

We did not tour the caves as that isn't really my husband's thing and this was sort of a birthday trip for him. We did eat lunch in the nice little cafe there, and enjoyed the view and the recreated log cabin. The setting was beautiful.

Overall a very enjoyable day, though we recommend 2 days there, especially if you are into hiking because there are so many wonderful trails in this park. They go from as easy as wheelchair accessible to the 4 mile hike to the summit from the upper campground.

 Before and after Great Basin National Park, we stopped at a few state parks and other sites in the Ely area before heading home. Cave Lake State Park is a gem of a little alpine lake park above 7500 feet,
and Ward Charcoal Ovens State Park was interesting for its history and great views. Both are just south of  Ely, Nevada where we stayed both nights.

deer grazing among the aspens

We had a good time and look forward to our next escape, but for now, its back to my paints! - Michele

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