Hit the Trail with Landmark: Great Basin in a Day

How to spend a day in Great Basin

Nestled between the Sierra Nevada and the Wasatch mountain ranges, Great Basin National Park has possibly the most diverse landscape of any national park. With alpine lakes to high deserts interspersed with valleys, streams, and caves, you could explore Great Basin for days.

But if you have just a day to spare, you can still see the Silver State’s most notable geography. To help you make the most of your trip, we’ve put together this guide to an unforgettable day at Great Basin!

Entry and Parking

Great Basin is free to visit 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, since no entrance pass is required. There’s also ample parking near the visitor center and park entrances. So don’t wait to go—this national park is accessible and beautiful year-round.

Great Basin National Park Poster

Best hike at Great Basin

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more memorable hike than the Bristlecone and Alpine Lakes Loop. This moderately difficult out-and-back trail is roughly four miles long and takes about two hours to complete.

This hike is especially fun because it includes various terrain– from shady forest areas to rocky glacial moraine. As you hike, you’ll pass Great Basin’s three-thousand-year-old bristlecone pine grove. Be sure to snap a photo with some of the oldest trees in the country!

When you reach the base of Wheeler Peak, you’ll also be standing at one of the southernmost glaciers in the country. Wheeler Peak Glacier is an alpine glacier and primarily covered in rock. It's also the only remaining glacier from the Ice Age! If you want to see the glacial ice, you’ll want to go in the fall after the snow mantle melts throughout the summer months.

We recommend starting your hike in the morning so you can enjoy a picnic midday, explore the alpine lakes, and start a leisurely descent in the early afternoon.

Lehman Cave Tours

If you plan it right, you can squeeze in a 60-minute cave tour before your hike first thing in the morning. Be sure to book your ranger-guided tour of the caves in advance. Tickets are $12, and spots fill a few weeks out.

Unfortunately, you can’t enter the caves without a reservation and tour. But sometimes, there are same-day openings due to no-shows. It’s worth trying to go, even at the last minute!


As you close out your day, grab a warm drink at the visitor center, unpack your blanket, and take in the sky! Great Basin is designated as an “International Dark Sky Park” and it’s an incredible place for stargazing.

You can stargaze from anywhere in the park, but we recommend the Mather Overlook. The drive to the overlook offers beautiful views, and you can park in the large lot and take in the nighttime sky above the famous Wheeler Cirque. You can find more stargazing tips and lookouts here.


Camping, Lodging, and Food

If you love camping, you’re in luck at Great Basin! There are fully equipped campgrounds, group campsites, and primitive camping options. Campsites cost $20 per night, and availability changes seasonally. You can find the most up-to-date information on the official national parks website.

If you prefer indoor lodging, we recommend the Stargazer Inn and Bristlecone General Store in Baker, Nevada. This cozy inn has reasonable rates, friendly staff, and a general store with picnicking and hiking necessities. Since Great Basin is a remote park with limited lodging and dining options, we recommend stocking up on essentials at the general store even if you decide to camp.

We hope you'll hit the trail for a day and fall in love with Great Basin as much as we did. Whatever you end up seeing and doing, this spectacular park will surprise you!

Great Basin National Park Unisex Short Sleeve Tee

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