The One of the benefits of taking the Loneliest
Road (Highway 50) across the middle of Nevada is that it
passes Great Basin National Park, located near the
village of Baker at the eastern edge of the state.
Great Basin, one of the newest national parks, preserves
and protects a significant piece of the region centered
around Mt. Wheeler, an impressive mountain rising from
the desert to an elevation of 12,067 feet.
The park is 50 miles southeast of
Ely, Nevada. To get there, take Highway 6/50
leading south from Ely and turn west at Major's Junction.
A turnoff to the small community of Baker also leads to
The park area has seen several incarnations over the
past 100 years. Mt. Wheeler has been part of the
Humboldt National Forest, and the national forest still
encases the park on the west, south, and north sides.
One of the park's major attractions, the Lehman
Caves, has been a national monument for many years.
The caves may have been discovered by prospectors before
the 1860s when Absalom S. Lehman moved to the area and
explored the series of caves under the Snake Range.
Taking time from his ranching activities, he led tours
through the caves until he died in 1891. A trail runs
through the caves. Pools of water on the floors have
built miniature dams that have terraced the caves.
Stalagmites, stalagtites, silvery crusts, and helictites
(the popcornlike lumps) have grown throughout the
No two rooms in the caves are alike. Daily tours are
conducted through the caves, on a 2/3-mile (1 kilometer)
pathway with stairs. The temperature averages about 50
degrees F (10 degrees C), and jackets are advised. The
cave entrance is adjacent to the park visitor
center and a snack bar. The visitor center is the
natural place to begin a visit to the park.
Mt. Wheeler itself is the second major attraction.
Drivers may take an exciting tour up the mountain on the
Mt. Wheeler Scenic Drive, which winds its way up
the eastern slope through the Lehman Creek Valley. There
are several viewpoints at pulloffs along the way. The
first turnoff is at the remains of the Osceola gold
mining ditch, which took water from Lehman Creek to the
Osceola mining camp several miles to the north. The
Mather and Peak overlooks provide superb views of
the peak. There are campsites beside the drive at a
parking area and near the summit.
From the entrance to the top campground, a trail leads
to a grove of bristlecone pine trees. You can take the
hike on your own or join a guided hike with a park
ranger. These 3-hour hikes are offered in the summer
(from mid-June to Labor Day, starting at 9 am).
Other hikes and nature walks are available from
various points in the park. The Lehman Creek Trail
connects the upper Lehman Creek Campground and Wheeler
Peak Campground over a distance of 4 miles, with an
elevation change of more than 2,000 feet. Mountain
View Nature Trail, starting near the visitor center,
is a 1/2-mile self-guided loop walk that begins near the
Rhodes Cabin and a picnic area. A trail leaflet is
In other parts of the park: Baker Creek Trail
begins at the end of Baker Creek Road and winds 5 miles
beside Baker Creek to Baker Lake, a fine spot to relax
for a picnic. There are excellent views of the Snake
Range peaks from this trail. Johnson Lake Trail begins at
the end of Snake Creek Road, following an old mining road
for 6.5 miles, climbing about 1,000 feet and ending at
Johnson Lake. Snake Creek Road is reached by taking
Highway 487 south from the town of Baker.
Camping in the Park
There are are four campgrounds in the park and three
are located along Wheeler Peak Road. All are operated on
a first come, first served basis.
Lower Lehman Creek Campground has 11 sites,
open year-round, with water, pit toilets and pull-through
sites for small RVs and trailers (elevation, 7,500 feet).
Upper Lehman Creek Campground has 24 sites, with water,
pit toilets, pull-through sites for small RVs and
trailers, and a group picnic site, at an elevation of
Wheeler Peak Campground has 37 sites with
water, pit toilets, 12 miles from the visitor center at
the top of the scenic drive, at an elevation of 9,950
Baker Creek Campground has 32 sites, with water
and pit toilets. It is 3 miles from the visitor
Hotels in and near Baker
Baker is a small village) near the entrance to the
park, near the Utah border in eastern Nevada. While there
is a gas station and store in Baker, motels and private
campgrounds are located some distance from town, around
Ely and to the east, at the state line.
P.O. Box 548, Baker NV 89311
This motel is located 13 miles from the national park
entrance, on the Utah/ Nevada border. There are 15 rooms
here, in addition to a restaurant and bar, laundry,
showers, and gambling.
The motel has eight quiet, comfortable rooms, in the
middle of Baker. It's open March-November.
End of the Trail...er
This is a unique bed and fix-your-own breakfast place at
the edge of Baker, and only 6 miles from the national
park. Scheduled to re-open in May 2007, the facility has
a large bedroom with queen bed, plus a smaller room with
a daybed. Coffee beans and continental breakfast fixings
in the refrigerator, telephone and wireless conection.
For reservations, go
to the End of the Trail...er's home page, or call
775-234-7206. The web site also includes art including
beautiful woven horsehair bracelets for sale.
Whispering Elms RV Park
This campground in Baker is open during the summer