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The Best Time to Visit Great Basin National Park in 2023

The Best Time to Visit Great Basin National Park in 2023

Located far from any big city life in the middle of nowhere, the Great Basin National Park is truly a hidden treasure. Whether you’re looking for some peace and quiet or are on the lookout for wildlife or hiking opportunities, the area has you covered.

While the park’s open year-round, many aren’t sure what the best time to visit Great Basin National Park is. Let’s solve your dilemmas in this detailed Great Basin National Park guide.

Why You Should Visit Great Basin National Park in 2023

Neat view of a high mountain peak pictured towering over a grassy hill for a piece on the best and worst times to visit Great Basin National Park

Real Window Creative/Shutterstock

The US is full of stunning national parks, each with its own beauty, features, wildlife, and areas worth exploring.

However, why should you bother visiting the Great Basin National Park, one of the least-visited parks in the US? What makes it so special, and what does it offer visitors?

Let’s find out together!

  • First and foremost, the Great Basin National Park provides visitors with many hiking trails of different difficulty levels. We suggest Wheeler Peak, which — although a more adventurous option — offers awesome views. Be on the lookout for the ancient bristlecones pines if you hit this trail!
  • You can’t visit the Great Basin National Park without taking the Lehman Caves tour. Not only is it exciting, but you also get to look at formations created more than 500 million years ago! What’s more, get ready to enjoy ranger-inspired stories about stalagmites, cave bacon, cave popcorn, and stalactites from a knowledgeable guide.
  • While the park is seemingly in the middle of nowhere, the nearby towns surrounding it are a nice addition to your itinerary. 
  • The Great Basin National Park boasts some of the best pristine sky-gazing views in the entire US. In fact, the park has been designated an International Dark Sky Park. Make sure to also check out the astronomy events and workshops.
  • There are two alpine lakes, two of which are easily reachable — Teresa Lake and Stella Lake.
  • The park allows for a plethora of family adventures. Other than cave tours and hiking, the park has:
    • Awesome fly fishing spots from May through July.
    • You can enjoy a picnic meal at the somewhat isolated Pole Canyon Picnic Area.
    • Visit the Baker Archeological Site and see the excavated Fremont Indian Village.
    • Enroll your kids in the Great Basin Junior Rangers program.
  • The park sees moderate crowds. Even during the park’s peak periods, the area doesn’t see an influx of tourists as other US national parks do, which allows travelers to enjoy the area the way nature should be enjoyed — in peace, quiet, and solitude.

Now that you know why this hidden gem of a park is worth your visit, let’s see when you should plan your trip.

Overall Best Time to Visit Great Basin National Park

Father and son in long sleeves and shorts on a hiking path under the treeline hiking towards Wheeler Peak

Ventu Photo/Shutterstock

The prime time to head to the Great Basin National Park is either in summer (June–August) or in fall (September–November).

June is a warm summer month with average temperatures varying between 48.9°F and 77.4°°F. It’s also the month with the least rainfall, with 22 mm of precipitation.

With almost 15 hours of daylight on average, June is also the month with the longest days. July is another hot summer month, with average temperatures hovering around 57.4°F during the day and 85.6°F at night.

Being the last summer month, August also sees hot temperatures, with an average high of 83.3°F and an average low of 55.8°F.

What makes summer an attractive period is the comfortable weather and all the outdoor activities being convenient. This is when stargazers stand a chance to spot the Milky Way Galaxy on a clear night — with the naked eye.

Naturally, this makes summer a busy season, which translates into higher accommodation prices and people rushing early in the morning to find a campsite or get cave tour tickets.

Avoiding the notorious afternoon thunderstorms is yet another reason why the early bird gets the worm in the Great Basin. September welcomes guests with average temperatures fluctuating between 74.5°F and 46.9°F.

October is a comfortable fall month, with average temperatures ranging between 37°F and 61.7°F. A frosty month, November sees temperatures varying between a maximum of 48.4°F and a minimum of 25.9°F.

Great autumn weather allows for a plethora of activities, such as soaking in the views from the iconic Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive’s upper area.

But you can also attend the well-known Astronomy Festival (did you know visitors get access to up to 30 different telescopes?), hit the trails, or simply enjoy the golden-yellow merge of fall foliage.

Cheapest Time to Visit Great Basin National Park

The Great Basin National Park has no entrance fee, so discussing the cheapest time to visit makes little sense. However, finding affordable hotels or airfare deals, depending on where you’re coming from, might make the difference.

In general, If you wish to go easy on your wallet, consider visiting in spring in the March–May period.

The hotels on the Great Basin National Park’s outskirts charge much lower rates than in summer. Also, air travel is fairly limited during the spring’s shoulder season.

Marking the beginning of spring, March sees average temperatures fluctuating between 48.7°F and 25.5°F. March is also the rainiest month, with 35 mm of precipitation.

Being a mild month, April has temperatures varying between 31.5°F and 56.7°F. Wrapping up spring’s season, May is fairly comfortable, with temperatures ranging between 39.9°F and 66.6°F.

While spring isn’t exactly an overnight transition to warmer days, temperatures begin to rise. However, much of the park remains closed until well into the summer.

Snow slowly melts into the streams, and many winter activities remain popular, such as cross-country skiing, at least at the beginning of the season. Spring is also the ideal time for bird watching, and people are in anticipation of spotting western meadowlarks or bald eagles.  

Least Busy Time to Visit Great Basin National Park

Woman in a green puffer coat standing on an observation pint looking at the mountainside during the winter, the overall least busy time to visit Great Basin National Park


The least busy time to visit Great Basin National Park is in January or February, but that’s because these two months are the coldest and snowiest.  

Hands down the coldest month of the entire year, January has average temperatures ranging between 40.5°F and 18.9°F.

Being the last winter month, February is also a cold month like January, with average temperatures going as high as 42.8°F during the day and as low as 21.2°F at night. Cold weather isn’t the best tourist bait, so the park is near-empty.

However, if you wish to experience Great Basin National Park in solitude and trace the wildlife tracks in the snow without being bothered by large crowds, winter in Great Basin National Park will suit you.

Worst Time to Visit Great Basin National Park

While all seasons provide a different level of adventure, we still believe that going in winter isn’t the best decision.

Access to higher elevations may be limited, certain trails might be closed, and snowfall may ruin most (if not all) of your park-related plans.

More importantly, the Scenic Road is closed to vehicles, which in all honesty, is one of the main reasons to visit Great Basin National Park in the first place. Most hiking trails are snow-blocked too. December has average temperatures varying between 41.2°F and 19.6°F.

With almost 10 hours of daylight on average, December also sees the shortest days. Either way, the most adventurous park visitors may engage in snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

Also, the Lehman Caves Visitor Center stays open throughout the entire year, including winter.

And while it goes without saying that winter is cold in the park, there’s a special kind of frozen beauty that none of the other seasons experience.  

Things to Consider

Woman on a switchback in Great Basin National Park with gorgeous trees on either side of the gravel walking path

Kelly VanDellen/Shutterstock

Going to the Great Basin National Park is exciting, but to ensure you make the most out of it, follow our tips below:

  • Pets have to be on a leash less than six feet and aren’t allowed into the Lehman Caves or at any of the evening programs.
  • Cell service is hit or miss, drones are prohibited, and there’s no public WiFi network in the park.
  • Make sure to always carry water with you — you can’t buy plastic bottles anywhere in the park.
  • You can get National Park Passport stamps at the visitor center.
  • Pack layered clothing, rain gear, waterproof shoes, hiking shoes, a headlamp, and camping equipment if you’re spending a night in the great outdoors.
  • Bringing insect repellent is always smart when you’re staying near water.
  • It’s common to get altitude sickness at such elevations, so get some prescription drugs if this is something you struggle with.
  • If you’re attending the Astronomy Festival and some of its workshops or additional programs, make sure to be informed of what you need to bring ahead of time. For instance, the required equipment for the Art in the Dark program includes warm clothing, blankets, and binoculars (optional). Lastly, cave tours sell out quickly, sometimes even a few weeks in advance, so making an online reservation on Recreation is recommended.
  • If you’re doing the Lehman Cave tour, make sure to go through all the rules and regulations. For starters, you need to arrive 15 minutes before the tour starts to undergo a mandatory screening for white-nose syndrome.
    • You’re not allowed to touch the cave.
    • No food, liquids, bags, purses, selfie sticks, or tripods are allowed either.
    • In case you experience claustrophobia (as the space’s quite tight), you’ll be escorted out.
  • Double-check road and weather conditions before you plan any activities or tours. Ask for advice from park rangers if necessary.
  • If you’re taking photos, the best time to do so is in the early morning. Of course, nothing beats the charm of sunset photos.
  • While you can bring your own food and groceries, eating in some of the nearby places is also a good idea, as their menus are great. Check out the Cafe at Lehman Caves Visitor Center (GBNP), Mr. Ginos Restaurant & Bar, Cellblock Steakhouse, and Great Basin Cafe.

Frequently Asked Questions

Pretty purple flowers called Parry Primroses in the middle of a green field pictured for a piece titled the Best Time to Visit Great Basin National Park


What is Great Basin National Park famous for?

The Great Basin National Park is famous for many things, such as:

  • Abundant wildlife;
  • One of the oldest trees found on Earth;
  • The second tallest peak in Nevada;
  • The darkest night skies in the entire country;
  • It’s home to at least 10 bat species;
  • Drastic altitude changes;
  • Native species of fish, known as the Bonneville Cutthroat Trout.

How many days do you need in Great Basin National Park?

To fully experience the park and its highlights, you need at least two days in the Great Basin National Park. You can check out the main sites, explore nature, and leave the park with a having-seen-all-of-it kind of mood.

Can you sleep in Great Basin National Park?

There are several accommodation options depending on your accommodation preferences. For starters, you can camp at the park. All campsites have their set of tents, picnic tables, toilets, and grills.

You can check out:

Most camps have a reservation-only policy, with Baker Creek being the exception operating on a first-come,first-serve basis. There are also options outside the park premises.

They include:

If you’re not into camping, you can always opt for hotel accommodation instead. To do so, you’ll have to check out Baker, the nearby town, and search for accommodation that matches your budget and criteria.

What is the closest city to the Great Basin national park?

Sunrise abo and old-time hut with an outdoor wash basin in Baker Nevada, one of the closest towns to Great Basin National Park

Kit Leong/Shutterstock

The closest city is Baker. Located just five miles east of the Great Basin National Park entrance, Baker is a common exploration base for park visitors who don’t like camping and are looking for a “normal” lodging alternative.

What types of animals are in Great Basin National Park?

There’s a wide range of animals in the park, including:

  • California Myotis
  • Silver-haired Bat
  • Big Brown Bat
  • Long-tailed Weasel
  • Short-tailed Weasel
  • Badger
  • Ringtail Cat
  • Red Fox
  • Coyote
  • Mountain Lion
  • Bobcat
  • Black-tailed Jack Rabbit
  • Rock Squirrel
  • Cliff Chipmunk
  • Least Chipmunk
  • Beaver
  • Little Pocket Mouse
  • Dark Kangaroo Mouse
  • Long-tailed Vole

So, When Should You Visit Great Basin National Park?

We’ve looked at the best time to visit Great Basin National Park, but a quick recap might be just what you need to decide which season is right for your itinerary.

  • To make the most of your visit to the Great Basin National Park go either in summer (June–August period) or in fall (September–November period). These are peak tourism seasons, as that’s when outdoor activities are in full swing. Being able to see the Milky Way Galaxy with the naked eye is an added bonus too.
  • While there’s no entrance fee to visit the park, you can save on other things such as hotels or airfare if you visit in the shoulder season, that is, in spring, in the March–May period. While the weather may be unpredictable, visiting the Great Basin National Park is more than worth it in the shoulder season.
  • If you wish to explore the park in solitude, consider going in January or February. Just note that although you’ll manage to avoid large crowds, you won’t be able to avoid the harsh winter temperatures, as these two months are both the coldest and the snowiest.
  • Visiting the Great Basin National Park in winter may not be the best option. Many trails are closed, and certain high elevations are inaccessible. The well-known Scenic Road is closed to vehicles as well, which is also why many travelers avoid visiting the park in winter.

All in all, whether you decide to visit the Great Basin National Park during the best, cheapest, the least busy period of the year (or even the worst!), make sure to enjoy it as much as you can, but also arrive prepared for the conditions you may encounter.

As Utah’s Office of Tourism site says, “Well-prepared travel is responsible travel,” and we can’t agree more. So, with so much to see and do, what are you waiting for — book your trip today!