Great Basin National Park

Hope everyone had a great weekend! I’ve finally caught up with everything after our camping trip. Although, it did end with an unexpected trip to Costco to get our tire patched after discovering a flat in the middle-of-nowhere Nevada. Lucky, J was a boy scout and had an air compressor in the car that saved the day. Bonus: Costco pizza for dinner.

This weekend we were at Great Basin National Park in Nevada – one of the least visited National Parks in the US. We left a little after lunchtime on Thursday, and arrived in time to grab a site in the fourth (!) camp are we tried.

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View from camp.

Great Basin is known for its great star-gazing, so after dinner we headed to a Ranger talk and some telescope viewing. It was super cool (but I am a science nerd). We saw craters on the moon, Mars, Saturn and a couple of galaxies. Plus, I finally figure out what the Big Dipper looks like, and we saw the Milky Way.

On Friday we had reservations for a 9AM tour of the Lehman Caves. You can only visit these caves as part of a ranger-guided tours and they are super cool (literally – it was 50 F down there).

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In the afternoon, we drove the scenic road up to the base of Wheeler Peak (second highest peak in Nevada). We hiked a loop to a couple of alpine lakes, and then up to a glacier (yes – in Nevada!) followed by a bristlecone pine area which had trees over 3000 years old. Perfect weather and great hiking (about 1500 ft total over 6 miles).

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Lake number one.

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Lake number two. That peak in the middle of the photo is Wheeler Peak – and our destination for Saturday morning.

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We even had to hike across a couple of feet of snow.

When we car camp we always bring our Dutch ovens. Dinner on the bottom – roast chicken and vegetables – and dessert on top – brownies.

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I also decided that I’ll have to comeback in winter to bring this home as our Christmas tree.

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Saturday was an early (5.15 AM) start. We wanted to hike up Wheeler Peak (13077 ft) and the weather forecast called for late morning thunderstorms. We began hiking a little after 6.40 AM and made it to the top by 8.45 AM. 2900 ft in a little over four miles. The last 1.5 miles were tough – small, steep and rocky switchbacks. The view from the top was pretty cool.

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They even had a little walled area on the summit for protection from the wind. And a mailbox where you could sign in.

We celebrated our hike (a little over 4.5 hours total) with some ice cream and a campfire nap (for me). Later in the afternoon I did a short (3.65 mile) run around our camp to figure out our Sunday morning trail run. Man, it was so hilly – 674 ft elevation change. But afterwards I got to try out our latest purchase ($10 on Amazon) and totally amazing.

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The next morning, J and I decided to go on a trail run. After our hike up Wheeler Peak and my run around camp this was not the smartest idea I’ve ever had. I managed to run the first mile (in 13.45 mins) and then it got seriously hard. I wanted to stop and had to have a serious talk with myself to keep going. My legs felt the heaviest they’ve ever been. The first 3.5 miles gained 1900 ft, and I had to walk for a lot of miles 2 and 3 (average pace 17-18 minutes). But I kept thinking to myself – this is probably how I’ll feel at the end of my marathon so it’s good to get the practice in now. Ha!

We finally reached the top (following along Baker Creek), and emerged into some beautiful (and flat) meadows. We saw three people at the very start but basically had the woods to ourselves. Then the downhill began – and it was steep. But running in this park (after finishing with all the climbing) was exhilarating! 6.35 miles in a little under 90 minutes. My slowest run ever but one of my favorites. And I managed to remain upright for the whole run (with only three close calls).

We got back to camp and rinsed off with our camp shower before packing up and discovering our flat tire. But we made it back to SLC in one piece except for our burnt out quads!

Anyone else encounter snow this weekend? Hardest hike/trail run you’ve ever done?

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35 thoughts on “Great Basin National Park

  1. You guys are like my heroes. You do such cool things. This entire post is amazing, and I kind of want a solar camp shower just to say that I have one. And the fact that you have roast chicken and brownies in dutch ovens is boss.
    Coolest and hardest hike I’ve ever done was the one through the backwoods/cliffside coast in Kauai. Infreakingcredible.

  2. Jane Likes to Run says:

    The views look amazing! Your camp shower looks pretty funny. Did it work out ok? I think any time you do not fall on a trail run, mark that one down as a success.

    • I’ve had so many close calls but no bad falls..yet. The shower worked pretty well. You just need to leave it in the sun for a couple of hours and the water was pretty warm. It was nice just to get rid of that grimy feeling for a while.

  3. I’m so jealous! We were supposed to visit big basin last year but my work denied my vacation until the last minute and we couldn’t get reservations anywhere for our 5th wheel trailer and hubby won’t sleep on the ground. Maybe next year.

  4. Martha says:

    Thanks for sharing your awesome weekend with us! I would love to do the Great Basin someday. I always get sketched out camping on holiday weekends because it seems like there’s so many more people out and about… It looks like you found yourself a good spot, though πŸ™‚

    • I was a bit worried too, especially when we couldn’t find any free spots in the first places we tried. Luckily for us it’s quite a trek to get there so it was pretty quiet. We usually stay home for the holidays but this was going to be our only chance to go camping this camping so we had to do it.

  5. Wow, looks like a super cool trip! Ben and I always want to do more camping, but we’re so busy during the summer we rarely get the chance. I’ve heard that those solar showers actually work pretty well–glad it worked for you guys.

    • I’ve become a total camping convert. I never did it in Ireland/Scotland becaus- weather. But out west, the weather is usually perfect for it. And I loved the camp shower! Totally got rid of the grime.

  6. Ouuuu! That sounds like a great adventure! How come I wasn’t invited? Haha! In all seriousness though, the pictures are beautiful and I am sure it is even better than that when you are there in person. I’m a geek too! It’s been really a while since I did star watching. It’s hard in big cities because of all the lights. Gotta talk to my hubby and plan a camping trip πŸ™‚ xoxo

    • You should definitely go camping! So fun – especially when J is in charge of getting all our gear. This park is so far from other cities that the sky is really dark – and known for stargazing. So cool! It’s nice to be reminded how many stars are up there.

  7. Yes! I knew you wouldn’t disappoint on the awesome photos from your weekend. This sounds like a blast (minus the tire part). I’ve never attempted a trail run of that magnitude (we don’t have anything like that here), but I used to love to go on difficult hikes/climbs in the Los Padres forest when I lived in CA! I miss those adventures. πŸ™‚

    • West is best! Well, we have some spectacular scenery (that even me with my crappy iPhone camera can make look good). I think if we ever move away I’ll miss the mountains and their trails the most.

  8. Your pictures are gorgeous! Sounds like a fun weekend despite the flat, I’m glad! Looks like we’ll have to put Great Basin on our list of places to visit πŸ™‚

  9. Aaron McKenzie says:

    Came across your post while asking the internet how crazy I am to think of visiting Great Basin over the upcoming July 4 weekend (actually, I’d be arriving mid-day on July 5, a Sunday).

    From your experience, would the park be emptying out a bit by then, or am I just delusional to think we’ll be able to get a camp spot in the park?

    • My impression is that it takes quite an effort to visit this park and it is very much off the beaten path. We couldn’t find a campsite in the two main campsites (heading up to Wheeler Peak) but there were plenty available in their overflow site. It never really felt crowded and I think there were even a few empty spots by the end of the day on the Saturday night. My best guess is that if you are arriving on a Sunday you will have no trouble finding a site – and this will probably be even more true the closer to check-out time that you arrive. Have fun!

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