Great Basin National Park is one of the USA’s most recent national parks, only designated as such in 1986. It is located in east-central Nevada, near its border with Utah and covers some 312 km2 (82.2 sq mi). There are fewer than 100,000 visitors annually.
The park has a desert climate and there is very little rainfall throughout the year. Days are generally dry and hot while temperatures plunge at night, but because of its range of elevation, the visitor can experience unpredictable extremes in weather. In summer, extreme afternoon thunderstorms are not unusual and at higher elevations, it can snow at any time of year, so come prepared.
At low elevation, the landscape is mainly sagebrush desert, giving way to mountain meadows and stands of coniferous trees at higher elevations. While the landscape may appear sparse and barren, it in fact supports over 800 species of plants and 11 species of conifer. Fauna are equally as prolific: at lower levels the area is teeming with small mammals adapted to the hot, dry conditions such as jackrabbits, ground squirrels and chipmunks. Higher up in the rocky mountain terrain, mountain lions, mountain sheep and mule deer can occasionally be seen.
There are 12 trails in the park ranging from 0.5 to 21 km (~0.3 to 13 mi) in length. Some are more strenuous than others, such as that which runs to the top of Wheeler Peak, the second highest mountain in Nevada, at an altitude of 3,982 m (~13,063 ft). The rewards for reaching the peak are views of the region’s only glacier and a cluster of bristlecone pine trees, some of which are nearly 3,000 years old.
One of the most popular features in the Park is the Lehman Caves, situated on the side of Wheeler Peak at an elevation of around 2,073 m (~6,800 ft). Despite its name, this is a single marble cave. Its interior is intricately festooned with stalactites, stalagmites, columns, draperies and other rare shield formations.