Backpacking in Great Basin National Park
Last weekend, my roommate and I took an adventure to a national park that really flies under the radar. Great Basin National Park is fairly remote, sitting near the border of Nevada and Utah. Being so close to some of Utah's giants like Zion and Bryce Canyon, it makes sense that this park only brought in 144,875 visitors in 2021. For reference, Zion had 5,039,835 visitors in 2021, roughly 35 times more visitors. This is the exact reason why this national park is such a treat to visit.
The Overnight Backpacking Trip
We arrived at the visitor center Saturday morning, and filled out our backcountry permit. There was no entrance station where we had to wait in line, our backcountry permit was free, and parking at the trailhead was free. It took no more than 10 minutes to get started on our adventure. Not being as popular certainly has its benefits! My roommate and I were hiking the Baker-Johnson Loop. The beginning of the trail started in meadows with wildflowers lining the trail. It then moved into the forest where we hiked with the sound of a flowing creek urging us forward.
The trail gained elevation steadily throughout the entire duration to Baker Lake. At that point, we were about 5.5 miles in and really really hungry. We broke for lunch at the lake, and sat amongst the trees to get shelter from the crazy winds.
Following our lunch, we put our backpacks back on, and set out on the second leg of hiking that day. This was the hardest part of the entire trail. Hiking up the ridge line between Baker Lake and Johnson Lake was grueling! This was also my first backpacking trip of the year, and I was certainly feeling it in my legs. My roommate and I took it slow and steady, breaking often. Eventually we hit the top and dropped our packs to take in the incredible scenery.
The only thing that kept me going was knowing the rest of the trail was mainly downhill from that point. After getting our fill of the views, we hiked down to Johnson Lake, where we would be camping that night. It is certainly possible to pound out this trail as a long day hike, but I really enjoyed taking it easy and relaxing near the lake.
Again, the remoteness of Great Basin National Park led to its charm. We were the only people camping on this beautiful lake! We took full advantage of the serenity and spent the evening reading by the lake as the sun dipped below the ridge line. Then, we cooked our dinner, bundled up in the tent, and drifted off.
The next morning we awoke to beautiful blue skies, and a much calmer day than the previous. The moon still sat in the sky right above the pine trees.
We packed our gear up into our backpacks once again, and set off on the last portion of the trail. As I said, the remainder of the trail was mostly downhill, and we only had 4.5 miles left. It was a much easier day than the last. We moved along past old mining cabins, glimpses of the mountains through the trees, and even a herd of young bucks crossed the trail in front of us. We finished the loop just before noon right back at the trailhead we started at.
Rest of Great Basin National Park
Besides the backpacking loop, this national park has so much more to offer. Two of its biggest draws are the Lehmann Caves and the Bristlecone pine trees. We didn't have much time left, and all of the cave tours were booked up, so we elected to do the scenic drive to an overlook of Wheeler Peak.
What I am saying is that I definitely have a reason to go back! There are many more day hikes and sites to see, and I look forward to the next time I can visit Great Basin. Whether it be to see one of the oldest tree species in the world, or tour the network of caves, it should be an adventure.
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Until next time!