Forget Las Vegas. When you’ve had enough of the glitz and glam, head to Great Basin National Park to get away from it all. With a range of awe-inspiring scenery, including mountains, desert, and deep caves, there’s no shortage of excitement despite its distance from Sin City.
Adventures await in Lehman Caves, which are made of marble and contain a wide variety of gorgeous formations, including stalagmites, flowstone, and more. There are pretty strict entrance requirements: no items that have been in a cave or mine in the past year are allowed inside in order to avoid the spread of White-nose Syndrome, a disease affecting bats. However, any minor inconveniences are well worth the hassle once you witness the beauty that lies within.
Outside of the cave, you’ll find numerous hiking trails … more than 60 miles of them! Pick up a map from the visitor center before you venture out. In the backcountry, you’re also allowed to horseback ride or bring other pack animals, like mules and llamas. However, these animals aren’t allowed on paved roads, in campgrounds, or on select trails, so make sure to plan ahead with any furry friends.
You can enjoy more leisurely activities here as well, like picnicking, wildflower viewing, birdwatching, and pine nut gathering. There are also several driving routes that make exploring the park by car a popular choice.
Astronomy aficionados will love this park, as it’s one of the darkest spots in the entire U.S. You can stargaze on your own, of course, but the weekly spring and summer astronomy programs combine education and a telescope viewing session for an unforgettable evening.
There are plenty of places to camp at Great Basin, with five areas to choose from. One, Lower Lehman Creek, is actually open all year round, while the rest typically operate from May through November. The park isn’t just a seasonal destination, though; winter-weather activities like skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing are all on deck in the cooler months.
So, when’s the best time of year to visit? Summer is by far the busiest season, with an increased number of programs and activities, but fall holds its own with yellow and gold foliage, and spring celebrates blooming flowers and sees animals waking up from a winter’s rest. All in all, you can’t go wrong, no matter which season you choose!