The road to Great Basin National Park is a lonely one. The good thing is that the speed limit is 80 mph and there is hardly anyone else (or anything) around. However, this would be a really bad place for your car to break down, especially with the hot weather!
The plan was to camp for our first night. I was somewhat apprehensive since Great Basin does not take reservations for its sites—first come; first served. I tried to reassure myself with the statistics that this is one of the least visited national parks. I should have known better when I called to make reservations for the Lehman Caves tour the day before we left and it was sold out!
We arrived at the visitor center and watched the overview movie. Then we headed straight to the Lower Lehman to look for a campsite. No luck. Next we went to Upper Lehman…all taken. I was getting nervous now, since the only other campsite I saw on the map was at Wheeler Peak, which is close to 10,000 feet above sea level! We went back to the Visitor Center and asked the ranger about other options. He told us that he was pretty sure Wheeler Peak would be full (which we did not want to do anyway), but advised us about the Grey Cliffs Group Camping sites. On the map it is labeled as group camping only, reservations required. The secret is that in Loop A, there are sites that are designated as “overflow camping”, no reservations required. We said some prayers, and found one of the last two spots available. I think that by this time it was still before 3 p.m.! So, if you are visiting on a summer weekend, be prepared to arrive early to secure a spot. Arriving on a Saturday was also more difficult since many people arrived on Friday and stayed for two nights.
The one upside was that the site only cost $6! The downside was that there were only vault toilets, no running water, and TONS of flies. We had to eat our cup o’noodles in the car, which was hot, because swarms of flies would follow us wherever we went outside. However, the fact that we were even able to secure a campsite made me appreciate what we had.
Before our dinner in the car, we returned to the visitor center yet again to go to the small café to try their “famous” ice cream sandwiches. Another letdown…they ran out! So, we settled for two scoops of ice cream and a root beer float.
This is what happens when you can’t decide between a cup and a cone.
The amount of root beer was small, but they offered us a free refill on the root beer.
Afterward, we took a short .3 mile Mountain View Nature Trail hike in the back of the Visitor Center. Yes, we were ill-prepared with the kids still in their flip-flops, but we were too lazy/hot to go back to the car again!
Next, we drove up Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive to Wheeler Peak and walked through a .4 mile trail.
Thankfully, it was much cooler at the top of the mountain.
These rubber mats were nice for walking on the trail.
Coming back down the mountain to our campsite.