great basin Ntl park, nv
Have you ever been on a hike and seen wild turkeys scurrying through the trees? Have you ever come to a lake and the water has been so clear you could literally see every nook and cranny below the surface? Have you ever looked up into the night sky and felt like you were covered with a blanket of stars? Your answer will be yes to all three of these questions when you visit Great Basin National Park!
As one of the most extreme landscapes we've been to, Great Basin National Park is located in east-central Nevada, near the Utah border. From a distance, it looks desolate and barren. In fact, given it's remote location, Great Basin National Park is one of the darkest places in the United States. Hence, the incredible star-gazing at night. If you time your trip just right, you may get to experience the Great Basin Astronomy Festival, which is held every September and includes stargazing presentations and night sky photography workshops.
When we visited Great Basin National Park, we were there for just a day, so we chose to take the 12-mile scenic drive from the town of Baker, Nevada to the summit of Wheeler Peak. We happened to be there right as the Aspens were in full color and with a light breeze, the orange leaves blew off the trees like a light snowfall. It was absolutely gorgeous. As we made our way along the scenic drive, there were a few places to safely pull off the road and snap some shots of the view. They each had telescopes available for use, which was nice for those of us without binoculars. At the end of the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive (closed from November through June), there was a large parking lot with restrooms near the trail head for the Alpine Lakes.
We packed our lunches and plenty of water in our backpacks and headed out on foot for the next part of our adventure. The trail was well-groomed with well-marked signs for each hiking trail. The Alpine Lakes Loop that we chose to hike was about 3-4 miles long and was above 10,500 feet in elevation. We took our time and tried to really soak in the beauty around us while enjoying the time together. While we hiked, the landscape constantly changed from dense forest, to fields of wildflowers surrounded by colorful Aspen trees, to barren desert-like open areas with the occasional Bristlecone Pine, two alpine lakes formed from glacier water over boulders and rocks of all shapes and sizes. The downed trees were fun to climb on and explore, we collected trash along the trail as we hiked, and we sat lake-side and tossed rocks into the water. All while taking in the extraordinary beauty around us, as it truly was a site to see!