Great Basin National Park is apparently one of the least visited parks and that’s a damn shame. But also it’s not because I would like to keep the beauty all to myself.
I feel plenty spoiled considering all 5 of Utah’s parks are 4 hours or fewer away, so finding out Great Basin was just as far as Arches or Cayonlands was amazing.
Peter and I had been interested in visiting Great Basin since the dead of winter; we just didn’t want to visit during that time because there’s so much snow and the temperatures aren’t exactly conducive to comfortable camping. Finally getting the opportunity to take a day trip on July 2 was well worth the wait. Though we didn’t get to camp in July, we were able to decisively say that we would be back in the near future.
In just a day we were able to do a few small hikes and go on the Lehman Caves tour (an absolute must if you’re visiting Great Basin).
We started the day by heading out the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive to hike around Stella and Teresa Lakes. We (meaning me, Hannah, Peter, and Taylor) were ecstatic about the alpine lakes loop. Peter and I had looked at pictures of Great Basin of course, but somehow we never saw photos of this area of the park. It’s greenery galore. For someone like me who misses trees on the daily, Great Basin was a breath of fresh air (and not just because of the high elevation).
While at Teresa Lake it started raining, though it lasted for all of about 20 minutes. I certainly didn’t mind because it felt refreshing and made everything around us look just that much greener. I also have a thing for rain jackets and rain covers for backpacks. It was my first time wearing my new Columbia rain jacket as well as the first time using my pack’s rain cover. (I bought the backpack over 2 years ago in part because it had a compartment with a rain cover).
On the drive to the Lehman Caves Visitor Center we stopped at the Mather Overlook. Even though we’d just been hiking through areas just like that, it really puts into perspective how many trees there really are on the mountains. Can you imagine how amazing it would be to camp in that little grassy opening?
The trip might have been been worth it just for the caves tour. I can’t urge you enough to spend the $10 to do the hour and a half tour. Keep in mind that reservations have to be made in advance. It’s best to make these at least one week before you’ll be at the park so you can ensure there’s enough space at a desirable time.
I didn’t take any photos while in the caves because A) lighting is poor and B) there’s so much to look at. There’s so much more to caves than stalactites and stalagmites, though Lehman Caves have plenty of those as well. The rangers who guide the tours do a great job helping everyone understand how the caves and their features formed, as well as the history of the caves’ discovery. To give you an idea, here’s a photo taken by Homeschool Traveler, used here thanks to Creative Commons. (No changes were made to the photo.)
If you do go on the tour, make sure you’re taught about cave bacon!