Some states are blessed with abundant natural resources, such as national parks and clear night sky. Utah, Arizona, and Colorado are only a few examples. But don’t forget about Nevada, our western neighbor! Nevada has just one national park, Great Basin, which is also a fantastic spot for astronomy.
On a cross-country road trip earlier this year, I had the opportunity to visit Great Basin National Park and made sure to go out and appreciate the night sky over the park. Despite the inclement weather, I was able to observe the stars and the inky blackness of an area with little development and light pollution; Great Basin is a fantastic stargazing site!
You’ve come to the perfect spot if you want to arrange a stargazing excursion in Great Basin National Park. You’ll discover where to go stargazing in Great Basin, where to stay after an awesome night under the stars, and what to do in the days between stargazing sessions in this article.
What is the best way to go to Great Basin National Park?
The first step in arranging your Great Basin stargazing vacation is to figure out how to travel to Great Basin National Park. First and foremost, you should be aware that there is no public transit to or inside Great Basin National Park. As a result, you’ll need to drive there.
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There are three distinct entrances to the park:
- From the east or west, take US Highways 6 and 50 to Baker, Nevada, then head south on Nevada State Highway 487 for five miles. Turn west on Highway 488 in Baker and drive five miles to the park.
- From the south (Utah), take Utah State Highway 21 north past Milford and Garrison, Utah, to Nevada State Highway 487 as you cross the border. In Baker, take Highway 488 west for five miles to reach the park. Keep in mind that as you cross the Nevada border, you will be entering the Pacific Time Zone.
- From the south (Nevada), use US Highway 93 north (Great Basin Highway). Drive east to Nevada State Highway 487 and turn south at the intersection of US Highways 6 and 50. Baker, Nevada is five miles away. Turn west on Highway 488 in Baker and drive five miles to the park.
Where in Great Basin National Park Can You Go Stargazing?
Great Basin National Park has some of the greatest black skies in the Lower 48, including Bristlecone beneath the Milky Way. The park was classified as an International Gloomy Sky Place by the International Dark-Sky Association because the sky are so dark. Beautiful stargazing places may be found almost everywhere, but these three are the finest to explore during your Great Basin National Park stargazing excursion.
Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive’s Mather Overlook
Mather Overlook is named for Stephen Mather, the first head of the National Park Service, and may be found in most parks. Mather Overlook, located on Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive, offers stunning views of the night sky. Reaching Mather Overlook is a terrific opportunity to take in the park’s beauty, in addition to stunning night views. With far vistas of Wheeler Peak, Snake Range, and the little Wheeler Peak Glacier, the scenery during the trip are breathtaking. When you get to Mather Overlook, you’ll have plenty of area to park and set up your telescope for a spectacular night of astronomy.
Baker Archaeological Site
Another fantastic place to go stargazing in Great Basin is the Baker Archaeological Site, which is located near the town of Baker. The ruins of a Fremont Indian community, a pre-Columbian archaeological civilization that thrived here from roughly 1220 to 1295 CE, may be seen at this archaeological site. Baker Archaeological Site is a relatively distant, quiet site with an expansive horizon at night. Some say it’s a touch terrifying at night, but if you want full isolation while stargazing, head to Baker Archaeological Site and put up your telescope.
The Ranch Interpretive Site
Another nice site to go stargazing in Great Basin is the Ranch Interpretive Site. If you want to enjoy the Great Basin stars during the winter, most people suggest stargazing at the Ranch Interpretive Site.
The Ranch Interpretive Site is outside the park, on Highway 48, roughly midway between Baker and the Lehman Caves visitor center. A Pavilion with informative signage may be seen on the south side of the road. It has an incredible view since it is located in the valley with no mountains to the west, giving you a wide-open vista of the sky.
The Best Places to Stay in Great Basin National Park
In or around Great Basin National Park, there are several lodging possibilities, particularly for campers. You’ll find all the information you need about hotels and campgrounds around this national park in the sections below.
There are no accommodation options in the park. However, there are a plethora of possibilities in and around Baker. One of the greatest hotels to reserve a stay at is Hidden Canyon Retreat. Hidden Canyon Retreat is located 20 minutes outside of Baker and is approximately a 5-minute drive from Great Basin National Park. If you’re traveling with children, this retreat is an excellent choice since it includes a large courtyard and lots of activities for them to play.
Another wonderful place to stay is the Stargazer Inn. Despite the fact that the rooms are small, the hotel provides all of the conveniences you’ll need to make the most of your stargazing excursion. This lovely boutique motel is located about 5 miles from the Great Basin National Park entrance.
Great Basin National Park campgrounds
Visitors to Great Basin National Park may stay in one of five campsites (some close seasonally due to weather.) All campsites are $20 per night and include vault toilets, picnic tables, tent pads, and campfire grills.
- Lower Lehman Creek Campground is the only established campground in the area that is open year-round (elevation: 7,300 feet, 11 campsites)
- Upper Lehman Creek Campground is available from the middle of April until the end of October (elevation: 7,752 feet, 22 campsites)
- From May through October, Baker Creek Campground is available (elevation: 7,530 feet, 38 campsites)
- From June through October, Wheeler Peak Campground is available (elevation: 9,886 feet, 37 campsites)
- Memorial Day through Labor Day, Grey Cliffs Campground is open (elevation: 7,530 feet, 16 sites)
- To accommodate big parties, Great Basin offers four group campsites. The Grey Cliffs Campground, located at 7,115 feet on Baker Creek Road, has the majority of group campsites. Each campsite provides seclusion for groups and guarantees that campers in the normal campsites are not disturbed.
The rustic campsites in Great Basin National Park are ideal for more daring guests. One free option includes picnic tables, fire rings, and generators, but it does not provide water. Snake Creek Campground is free and accessible year-round; however, it may shut due to snow during the winter months.
Backcountry Camping in the Great Basin and Surrounding Areas
Backcountry camping is permitted in most of the park’s backcountry/wilderness areas. Backcountry camping is not permitted within a quarter-mile of any built site, including the Wheeler Peak and Lexington Arch Day-use areas, Bristlecone Pine groves, the Osceola Ditch route, or within a quarter-mile of any created site. Please verify all backcountry laws in Great Basin National Park and follow them.
What to See and Do at Great Basin During the Day
Visitors to Great Basin National Park can find a plethora of activities in addition to stargazing. Check out all the things you can fit into your schedule if you’re just there for a day or two.
The park has hundreds of paths that lead to beautiful alpine lakes, bristlecone pine forests, and mountain summits. Be aware that, due to the park’s height over 13000 feet, the hiking season is limited to June through September.
The Lehman Caves Tour is the most popular reason for visitors to come to the park. Year-round, you may explore the caverns and participate in one of the Ranger-led excursions.
Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive may be combined with your Great Basin stargazing excursion on the same day. Drive along the 12 miles towards sunset, taking in the beautiful landscape as you ascend the mountain. You’ll arrive to Mather Overlook just as the darkness begins.
Walk amid Ancient Bristlecone Pines: Bristlecone pines are one of Great Basin National Park’s most popular attractions. You’ll feel as if you’ve entered another universe with the interesting twisting features and thick wood.
Nevada’s Only Glacier: Nevada does have one glacier, and it’s in Great Basin National Park. You’ll have to travel to Wheeler Peak and climb a little distance, but it’s a unique experience that you won’t find anyplace else in the state!
Fishing is permitted in Great Basin National Park as long as it does not deplete park resources. Popular fishing spots include Lehman Creek and Baker Creek. Before you go fishing, be sure you have a Nevada fishing license.
When is the ideal time to visit Great Basin to go stargazing?
During moonless evenings in Great Basin, the optimum time to go stargazing is. When the Moon is at its brightest, the light from most stars is washed away, leaving just the brightest stars visible. Also, keep an eye on the weather forecast to avoid visiting on rainy or overcast evenings.
When stargazing at Great Basin, can you see the Milky Way? When?
Yes, you can see the Milky Way when stargazing in the Great Basin! Summer evenings are the greatest time to observe The Milky Way since it is thicker and hence easier to see.
Are the northern lights visible from Great Basin?
Unfortunately, the Northern Lights are not visible from Great Basin. The Northern Lights may be seen at a number of national parks in the northern section of the continental United States.
Is it possible to visit Great Basin National Park at night?
Yes, Great Basin National Park is available for recreation 24 hours a day! As a result, you may show up at any moment without making any prior arrangements. The Great Basin Visitor Center, like the Lehman Caves Visitor Center, has seasonal hours.
Is it possible to go on a guided night trip in Great Basin?
Yes! Great Basin offers a variety of guided night excursions. For stargazers who desire to explore the night sky, the park rangers at Great Basin provide the Star Train and Astronomy programs. The Nevada Northern Railway’s Great Basin Star Train is a wonderful train excursion with multiple stops. Park rangers put up high-powered telescopes at each site so that stargazers may observe planets and deep space objects while learning about the universe.
Is Great Basin home to a dark sky festival?
Yes! Every September, the Astronomy Festival takes place in Great Basin, with presentations by astronomers, astrophotography workshops, and, of course, amazing stargazing experiences via hundreds of real-deal telescopes. If you can’t make it to the festival, you may participate in one of Great Basin’s year-round ranger-led stargazing activities.
The namesake Great Basin, an arid and mountainous area between the Sierra Nevada of California and the Wasatch Mountains of Utah, USA, is the focus of Great Basin National Park, which spans 31,230 hectares of US public holdings.
The Park is in one of the least-populated areas of the lower 48 United States, and the Great Basin’s characteristic basin-and-range terrain helps to screen the site from skyglow from nearby towns. As a consequence, we have a genuinely remarkable dark-sky resource that ought to be protected. To that end, the Park has made steps to enhance its own lighting as well as educate Park visitors and people of adjacent towns about the value of black skies in Great Basin and the need to conserve them. While keeping the facts we shared in this article, you will be able to get the best possible experience with stargazing in here.