This blog post was produced in partnership with Travel Nevada. All opinions are my own.
Great Basin National Park is definitely a bucket list destination. It has everything from the second tallest peak in Nevada (13,065 feet tall!), to incredible caves, to some of the oldest living things on Earth. We’ve loved exploring the park with our 5 kids, and want to share some tips, tricks, and things to do in Great Basin National Park with kids!
Learn About Great Basin National Park
Great Basin National Park History & Natural Features
Great Basin National Park Discussion Questions
Great Basin National Park Weather: What to Pack For a Great Basin Family Vacation
Great Basin National Park Packing List
How To Get to Great Basin National Park
Where to Stay in Great Basin National Park with Kids: Great Basin Camping for Families
Great Basin National Park Camping
RV Camping Accessories
- CHOCKS. Chocks are super useful if the ground isn’t perfectly level. Makes it much easier to sleep when the vehicle is flat! They’re inexpensive and easy to use.
- HANGING SHOE RACK. An inexpensive shoe rack is my favorite RV hack – helps keep all the shoes organized and helps keep dirt out of the vehicle.
- CAR BATTERY JUMP STARTER. This car jump starter is invaluable if the battery dies. It’s so nice to not worry about finding someone else to ask and lining up the vehicles. Super powerful. We have one we leave in the RV and one we leave in our minivan at home.
- TIRE INFLATOR & AIR COMPRESSOR. We once needed a roadside tire change on the RV, but the tech who did it didn’t have anything to inflate our spare tire for us! We were SO glad to have this on hand and now always leave one in both the RV and the car.
- PORTABLE POWER STATION BATTERY. I love having a small external portable charger (or this slightly larger and very powerful portable charger) for hikes, but this big power station is invaluable for powering up things in the RV (including running the heat overnight and charging devices).
Family Camping Gear
Hotels Near Great Basin National Park
Great Basin National Park Lodging
Here are some other lodging options in the area.
Where to Eat in Great Basin National Park
Be sure to check seasonal hours ahead of time! Ely is about an hour away and has quite a few more options, including grocery stores for snacks and picnic items. I recommend packing in some picnic food!
How to Get Around Great Basin National Park: GBNP Transportation
Best Time to Visit Great Basin National Park
Great Basin has relatively few visitors compared to other national parks, but it does still get more crowded during the summer months. This means it can be harder to get tickets for a cave tour. It can also get quite hot. Winter is beautiful and the caves are open (and usually uncrowded), but it’s usually very cold and snowy, and Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive is typically closed from November to June.
I highly recommend visiting in the early fall months – late August through early-to-mid October. The weather is usually beautiful, and there are fewer crowds. Snow won’t be blocking Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive, so you’ll be able to see some spectacular views and bristlecone pine trees at the top. Keep an eye on the weather once you hit October, as an early snowstorm isn’t out of the question!
What To See in Great Basin National Park: Top Great Basin Checklist: Great Basin National Park Itinerary
Best Hikes in Great Basin National Park
Easy Great Basin National Park Hikes: Great Basin National Park Hiking with Kids
- ALPINE LAKES LOOP TRAIL – 2.7 miles RT, 472 ft elevation gain. One of the most popular in the park, and for good reason! It goes by two stunning lakes and is just pretty stunning the whole way with views of Wheeler Peak. The trailhead is at the end of Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive.
- BRISTLECONE TRAIL – 2.8 miles RT, 500 ft elevation gain. A gorgeous trail that leads to a grove of ancient bristlecone pine trees. A truly unique and special experience. It’s truly a magical place when hiking Great Basin National Park.
- MOUNTAIN VIEW NATURE TRAIL – 0.4 miles RT, 42 ft elevation gain. This short little trail starts just behind the Lehman Caves Visitor Center and is a lovely and quick way to get a feel for the flora and fauna of the park. It’s a perfect one to do if you have a bit of time before taking a cave tour!
- SKY ISLAND FOREST TRAIL – 0.3 miles, 19 ft elevation gain. A wheelchair-accessible loop trail that begins at the end of Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive and meanders through a high alpine conifer forest.
Moderate Great Basin National Park Hikes: Best Hikes in Great Basin National Park
- BRISTLECONE & ALPINE LAKES LOOP – 5.3 miles RT, 1020 ft elevation gain. This trail combines the Alpine Lakes Trail with the Bristlecone Trail to create a truly stunning loop. If you have time and ability and are only doing one hike in the park, this is the one I would recommend. It’s absolutely one of my favorite Great Basin National Park hikes.
- GLACIER TRAIL – 4.8 miles RT, 1040 ft elevation gain. After reaching the bristlecone pine grove on the Bristlecone Trail, you can choose to continue walking to the only glacier in Nevada. A beautiful and unique hike.
- BAKER CREEK TRAIL – 3.3 miles RT, 850 ft elevation gain. If you’re staying at Baker Creek Campground, this is a nice, moderate trail that goes along forests, meadows, and along Baker Creek.
Hiking in Great Basin National Park with Older Kids: Best Great Basin National Park Hikes
- LEHMAN CREEK TRAIL – 6.4 miles RT, 2050 ft elevation gain. You can access this trail from either end, and it takes you through a variety of habitats and ecosystems during the climb up or down.
- WHEELER PEAK TRAIL – 8.6 miles RT, 3100 ft elevation gain. This strenuous hike is one you should only attempt if you both have some experience and also are prepared to start very early in the morning due to the risk of afternoon thunderstorms. You’ll be summiting the second-highest peak in Nevada, so definitely come prepared. It requires some scrambling at the end and also has some intense elevation gain at altitude, so don’t underestimate the difficulty.
Best Things to Do in Great Basin National Park with Kids
1. Great Basin Scenic Drives
Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive is breathtaking! It’s a 12-mile paved road that is fairly steep and winding. (However, please note trailers and RVs over 24 feet long are not allowed past Upper Lehman Creek Campground at mile marker 3.) The upper sections are typically open from June-October, and are closed for the rest of the year due to snow. Then visit the Mather Overlook and Wheeler Peak Overlook as they both are beautiful viewpoints.
2. Great Basin National Park Cave Tours
Lehman Caves are a wonder and one of the best things to do in Great Basin. You may only enter the caves on a ranger-led tour, which you can book right here. The tours do often sell out so be sure to reserve it in advance if possible. It’s so fun to learn about the history and formation of the caves, including some indigenous history. We loved it! They do also have baby carriers for loan in the Lehman Caves Visitor Center in case you forgot your own.
We took the Parachute Shield Tour and it was perfect with kids. We got to see several of the major formations and rooms and it was the perfect length (1 hour). You can find more info about the different tours and requirements to take them on the NPS website.
3. Great Basin Junior Ranger + Junior Ranger Night Explorer
4. Stargazing at Great Basin Nevada
Great Basin National Park is one of the best places in the contiguous United States to go stargazing! The park boasts some of the darkest night skies in the country. The Baker Archaeological Site is a great place, as is the Mather Lookout. But most areas have great viewing – just try to get far from any light sources and try to go on a clear, moonless night for best viewing conditions.
The Great Basin Star Train provides an incredible and unique opportunity to view the stars. Dark Rangers from Great Basin National Park even come on board with you!
If you’d like to really dig deep into stargazing, the annual Great Basin Astronomy Festival in September is a perfect time for it. The festival will include guest speakers, ranger activities, discussions, telescope viewing, and more. Such an amazing event for the whole family.
Here’s what to pack for stargazing with kids:
- Blanket (this is my VERY favorite blanket)
- Jacket (my favorite warm jacket for kids and for women)
- Warm hat
- Red light headlamp
- Star chart
Here’s more info on stargazing at Great Basin as well as info on night sky ranger programs.
5. Wildlife Viewing at Great Basin
6. Snow Play + Winter Sports
Here’s more info on winter activities at Great Basin.
7. Photography in Great Basin
Here’s the photography equipment we bring along:
8. Fishing in Great Basin NP
Fishing is actually allowed within Great Basin National Park! You can head here to find out all the information about permits and licenses. (Be aware that you cannot get them in the park.) Baker Creek and Lehman Creek are popular areas to fish.