Based around Wheeler Peak, the Great Basin has 5,000-year-old bristlecone pines, glacial moraines, and the limestone Lehman Caves. It has some of the country's darkest skies and animal species including Townsend's big-eared bat, Pronghorn, and Bonneville cutthroat trout.
I was a bit hesitant to take this hike after reading some of the reviews, but I'll say this: for the average person with limited hiking experience, the guided 60 minute tour should be fun and adventurous without much demand from your body. The caves are partially lit, with graded and paved walkways, and staircases with railings. The tours are mainly informative, but also allow time to take pictures and video. Spend the $30 and do it.
This was definitely one the most interesting mountains I've summitted. From the bristlecone forests in the first two miles of the hike to the last rocky mile, there was always something to be amazed by on this trail.
The wind as you cross into the rocky last section of the trail is brutal, and you will want at least 3 layers to protect yourself from wind chill. Currently, there is a bit of snow approaching the summit, but the trail is still fairly clear. Keep this in mind when preparing for this hike, though - added with the wind, I wished that I had brought gloves and a hat.
At about 1 mile into the hike, the trail splits off - one way towards the summit, the other towards Stella Lake (only .1 miles away). If you have a few minutes to spare, check it out, it's gorgeous. I went around 7:30 and the lake was partially frozen over. As the trail to the summit climbs, you can actually see Stella Lake from above, and from the summit you can see all 3 alpine lakes.
There and back, the hike took me about 7 hours (that's including the Stella Lake detour, lunch at the summit, and plenty of picture taking time). Very worth it, and a must do in Great Basin.
Really rewarding hike. It would be smart to bring a jacket because after the first mile or so it gets really windy. Trailhead starts at an elevation around 10,000 ft and climbs to over 13,000. The Altitude is definitely what makes this hike so challenging
Fantastic Hike in Great Basin National Park. This hike was our early morning hike after camping about 15 miles outside of Baker. We hit an early morning coffee hut in Baker and then stopped at the visitor center and drove up and did the Bristlecone Pine Trail. We spent about 3.5 hours doing the 4.6 mile round trip trail and loved every minute of it. We took about 500 photos and Marjorie and I loved this hike. It is not really super strenuous but it is at high altitude so bring plenty of water and your camera.
Nice trail, trees are very cool, it was the first time we had seen Bristle-cone trees, so it was a memorable experience, did not quite make it up to the glacier, family had had enough so I turned back with the this time. You should at least hike to the Groves, make a side trip to the lakes on the way back
From the Great Basin Visitor Center, drive into Baker (watch the speed limit) and take a right onto Hwy 488. This road will take you directly to the Lehman Caves Visitor Center, but just before you get there, take a right onto the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive, which takes you to the Bristlecone-Alpine Lakes Trailhead and Wheeler Peak Campground at 10,000 feet. Along the way up the 12 mile one-way drive, stop at Mather Overlook for a picnic spot, and Peak Overlook for spectacular views of Wheeler Peak on the right and Jefferson Davis Peak on the left. The road gains nearly 4000 ft. from sagebrush flats in the valley to aspen and conifer forests just below tree line. In good condition and quite twisty, the road winds up along the flanks of the Snake Range. Expect a wide range of weather due to the elevation change. Views along drive are outstanding – the north face of Wheeler Peak drops 1800 ft to the Wheeler Cirque, a glacier hollowed valley enclosed by sheer cliffs. This glacier is the southern- most glacier in the United States. You can reach the cirque via the 4.5 mile RT Bristlecone / Glacier Trail. Another great hike from the top of the road is the Alpine Lake Loop Trail which goes past Stella and Teresa Lakes – 2.7 miles RT to an alpine setting next to the barren sawtooth ridge. Wheeler Peak Summit Trail to top of 13,063 ft Wheeler Peak begins at the Summit Trail parking area, which is located at about 1 mile from end of road. The trail follows the ridgelines to the top of Wheeler Peak - 8.6 miles RT with gain of 2,900 ft. Start your hike early in day because of afternoon storms. One of the surprise National Parks as it's not as well-known and a bit more remote, Great Basin and Wheeler Peak is a trip well worth your time.
Overall, an excellent hike. First 3 miles are quite gradual and offer a fantastic view of the surrounding valley. However, after crossing the tree line, wind picks up quite suddenly. Last mile is very steep. I'd tell everyone to make sure to turn back as soon as the weather turns. Chances of lightning strikes are very real.
Amazing but tough if you are not from these parts . I am an avid hiker but an east coast sea level girl. So hiking at near 11,000 feet left me winded every 5-10 minutes. The glacier was awesome. The gnarly trees very cool. Beware this trail is mostly uneven ROCK at the top quadrant. We had trekking poles and good hike boots. Hiked in june and at the middle and base encountered plenty of snow and ice patches still. Glacier sooo neat we climbed as close as you could get ! Breathtaking sub alpine views quiet as a cricket. LOVED
Went for the 90 minute tour and really enjoyed the cave and the narrative from our guide. There was good combination of geology and history, including the owner of the cave who opened it up and charged visitors for a tour. They are able to document people visiting the cave since the late 19th century, and believe the native Americans have been using it long before. There's a lot more to the story so come check it out.
They have installed flat concrete floors, hand railings and lighting to make the cave more accessible.
They built a road to the top of Wheeler peak. Thanks guys. The drive is closed in the winter, and they open up sections in the spring as the snow melts. Currently the road is open up to the Mather scenic viewpoint, but you can cover several additional miles on foot, further with snowshoes. Beautiful views of the peak as you approach and of the valley below. This is the way to access the high country, which is a big part of what this park has to offer.
Easy and short trail behind the Lehman caves visitor center. I emerged from the cave tour, eyes squinting at the light and went for a stroll here. There are nice views of the valley below, the fresh smell of pines, a few benches for resting, and some nice signage pointing out the areas of interest and types of vegetation along the trail.
Shauna A. on Lehman Cave
We took the short tour (60 minutes). It was an easy tour. There were some stairs and parts of the path were narrowed by the cave walls. It gets chilly so take a jacket. If you have time take the long tour. The cave is spectacular and our 60 minute tour went by fast. The rangers are knowledgeable and patient. Enjoy!