We caught our first glimpse of the mountains of Great Basin National Park as we crossed Sacramento Pass heading east from Ely, Nevada. Until Will spotted this park on the map about a week before our visit, we had no idea there was even a National Park in Nevada. But with that first glimpse, we knew we were on a memorable afternoon adventure.
Since we are clearly not the only ones who are unfamiliar with this park, the Visitors Centers are very small and operating on abbreviated hours, so we first made our way to the 1 that was open before heading up Wheeler Peak. There seem to be 3 primary attractions at the park: Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive and the various associated hiking trails along the way, the Lehman Cave, and the apparently incredible stargazing that the dark Nevada sky has to offer. We had Daisy along, so we automatically counted ourselves out of the cave tour and any backcountry hiking, and we were not willing to totally throw off Bird’s schedule, so stargazing was also not on our agenda, but we were super excited for the drive up the Peak.
And we should have been. It was 12 miles of stunning scenery, made even better with the many groves of aspen trees showing off all their golden, fall glory. We stopped at the overlooks on our way up, letting Bird get out to run off a little energy (in hopes of getting a good nap on the way down, which for better or worse turned into a good nap when we finally got home far later than her usual nap time) and taking in the beautiful sights.
At the top, the road abruptly ends with trailheads in every direction going to several lakes, groves of bristlecone pine trees that are only found in this specific ecosystem, and leading to the summit of the peak. Even though the parking lot was crowded, we found a makeshift spot and got out to fully enjoy the golden leaves around us. After we took a few fall family photos, Bird and I explored the aspen groves a little further from the parking lot. Her sense of adventure truly knows no bounds and she is so full of a desire to experience everything around her. It is so much fun to see what will catch her attention, and we picked up sticks, rocks, and pinecones and compared different leaves. She wanted nothing more than to keep going deeper and deeper into the woods, but knowing Will and Daisy were waiting for us, we kept it short and sweet.
While our time in the park was fairly short (we made the 1-hour trip from Ely, completed our visit to the park, and made it back home in the span of about 5 hours), it was absolutely worth the trip and 1 Will and I both agreed that we would 100% visit again—for a more in-depth visit—if we are ever in the area again.