great basin desert

Great Basin Desert Featured Destination:

Great Basin National Park
Baker, Nevada

On "the loneliest road in America," on the way to the Great Basin National Park, you may be lucky enough to spot an American icon, the mustang. Highway 6 cuts through a desolate stretch of the dusty Great Basin desert in a no man's land between Utah and Nevada. Spotting a herd of mustangs here would be a welcome sign of life.

Maybe the majestic creatures are pointing the way to more animal life in Grand Basin National Park. Remarkably, more than 70 percent of North America's animals live in this parched place. But it works if you are a pygmy rabbit that can survive without so much as a sip of water. The world's smallest rabbit, and a Great Basin native, survives by getting the smallest amount of water from the sagebush it eats. They'll be hard to spot in the park since the sagebush they like to eat is sparse.

But following the tracks of mountain lions, bobcats and coyotes, may result in a cool big cat or canine sighting. Some other animal prints to track include porcupine and pocket mouse.

Best Time to Visit:

Not many people visit the Great Basin National Park, so you could almost have it to yourself anytime of year. The valley will be hot in the summer with sharp drops in temperature at night. The visitor center is open April through September.

What to Do:

Bring a sweater and escape the desert heat by going underground. The park offers guided tours of Lehman Cave, a cavern at the base of Snake Range that is fantastically decorated with stalagmites, stalactites and other ever-growing limestone formations. There are three unique tours that visit otherworldly spaces called the Gothic Palace and the Music Room. Get Directions

Other Great Basin Desert Destinations:

  • Lehman Hill Caves. A system of caves running underneath the Great Basin Desert, thought to have been formed by a single drainage network. The Lehman Caves are the only caves open to the public in Great Basin National Park. Get Directions
  • Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge. An expansive open-water marsh with 17,000 acres of wetlands. Known as an Important Bird Area by the Audubon Society, it is particularly well-known for the waterfowl that nest throughout its marshes. Get Directions
  • Lexington Arch. A 75-foot high arch that is particularly rare because, unlike most natural arches formed throughout the American West, this arch is made of limestone rather than sandstone. Get Directions
  • Clear Lake Wildlife Management Area. Over 6,000 acres of wetlands and uplands fed by more than 100 natural springs, this area has one of the most productive biological ecosystems on the planet. Get Directions
  • Crystal Peak. Formed over 33 million years ago as a product of a bygone volcano, this rock formation is composed of rhyolite tuff rock, which contains large amounts of quartz crystals. Get Directions

Explore the Great Basin Desert:

 

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