Last Updated on August 24, 2023

The Great Basin National Park is a United States National Park established in 1986, located in east-central Nevada near its border with Utah, five miles west of the town of Baker.

It is located in the Great Basin Desert, the dry and mountainous region between the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains and the largest of the four major deserts in the US.

Great Basin Desert, Nevada, USA
View of Great Basin National Park. Photo Courtesy of AndrewKPepper.

The Great Basin Desert

The Great Basin is a high-elevation desert and remote wilderness area that comprises most of Nevada and adjacent portions of eastern California, southeastern Oregon, southern Idaho, western Utah and southwestern Wyoming.

The Great Basin is characterized by a series of north-south running mountain ranges separated by relatively flat basins. The highest peaks in these ranges are over 13,000 feet, while the lowest points in the basins are about 4000 feet.

Due to the “rain-shadow” effect from the Sierra Nevada and the numerous mountain ranges in the basin itself, the Great Basin is very arid, with annual precipitation varying from approximately 4 inches per year to 10 inches per year, although the highest peaks can have significantly more precipitation, which mostly occurs in the form of snow in the winter, and is thus not available to plant life during the growing season. 


Weather conditions in the Great Basin Desert vary with elevation. In late spring and early summer, days in the valley may be hot, yet the snowpack may not have melted at higher elevations.

The Great Basin is a desert, with low relative humidity and hot daytime temperatures which drop sharply at night. In the summer fierce afternoon thunderstorms are common. At high elevations, it can snow throughout the year.

Climate in the desert is highly variable and prone to extreme weather conditions, so make sure to dress accordingly.


The Great Basin desert is home to a few major cities and towns. Here are some of them:

  • Salt Lake City, Utah: The capital and most populous city in Utah, Salt Lake City is known for its Mormon heritage and its many ski resorts. It is also home to the University of Utah, a major research university.
  • Boise, Idaho: The capital and most populous city in Idaho, Boise is a major center for agriculture and technology. It is also home to the Boise National Forest, a popular recreation area.
  • Reno, Nevada: A popular tourist destination known for its casinos and its proximity to Lake Tahoe. Reno is also home to the University of Nevada, Reno, a major research university.
  • Carson City, Nevada: The capital of Nevada, Carson City is a charming city with a historic downtown. It is also home to the Nevada State Capitol, the oldest state capitol west of the Mississippi River.
  • Baker, Nevada: A small town in the northeastern corner of Nevada, Baker is known for its hot springs and its proximity to the Toiyabe National Forest. It is also home to the Baker Hot Springs Resort, a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.
Great Basin Desert
View of Great Basin National Park. Photo courtesy of AndrewKPepper.

Great Basin National Park

The Park is open daily, year round, from 8:00 a.m to 4:30 p.m. Pacific Time. Extended hours in the summer. Closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.


Great Basin National Park has no entrance fee. Cave tour fees vary depending on length of tour. 60 minute tours cost Adult/Child $8.00/$4.00 while the 90 minute tours cost $10.00/$5.00. Golden Age/Golden Access card holders pay child rates.

Camping fees are $12.00 for developed campgrounds per night/per site. $6.00 for Golden Age/Golden Access card holders. Primitive campgrounds have no fee.

Getting there

The nearest airport is located in Cedar City, Utah, 142 miles away. Major airports are found in Salt Lake City, Utah (234 miles) and Las Vegas, Nevada (286 miles). The closest town to the park is Baker, Nevada. You will have to access the park via car as there is no direct public transportation available.

From the east or west – From U.S. Highway 6 & 50, turn south on Nevada State Highway 487 and travel 5 miles to Baker, NV. In Baker turn west on Highway 488 and travel 5 miles to the park.

From the south (Utah) – Travel north on Utah State Highway 21 through Milford, UT and Garrison, UT, which will become Nevada State Highway 487 as you cross the border. Turn west on Highway 488 in Baker and travel 5 miles to the park.

From the south (Nevada) – Travel north on U.S. Highway 93 (Great Basin Highway). At the junction of U.S. Highway 6 & 50 drive east to Nevada State Highway 487 and turn south. Travel 5 miles to Baker, NV. In Baker turn west on Highway 488 and travel 5 miles to the park.

Things to do

  • Here are some of the things you can do in Great Basin National Park:
  • Check the exhibits at the two visitor centers: The Lehman Caves Visitor Center and the Wheeler Peak Visitor Center have exhibits on the park’s geology, wildlife, and history.
  • Drive the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive: This 13-mile drive takes you past some of the park’s most scenic spots, including Wheeler Peak, the Bristlecone Pine Forest, and the Island In The Sky.
  • Walk the Island Forest Trail, the Mountain View Nature Trail, and the Bristlecone Pine Trail: These trails offer opportunities to hike among the park’s diverse forests and see some of its most ancient trees.
  • Join a Lehman Caves Tour: These tours take you through the park’s spectacular cave system, which is home to a variety of formations, including stalactites and stalagmites.
  • Stargaze: The park is a dark sky park, making it an ideal place to stargaze.
  • Fishing: There are several lakes and streams in the park where you can fish for trout.
  • Visit the Baker Archeological Site: This site contains the remains of a prehistoric village that was inhabited by the Great Basin people.
  • Search for ancient rock art at Pictograph Cave: This cave contains over 200 images of animals, people, and symbols that were created by the Great Basin people.
  • Climb Wheeler Peak: This is the highest peak in the park and offers stunning views of the surrounding area.

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