Great Basin National Park

Great Basin National Park

To the east, west and south, Nevada is surrounded by states with numerous national parks. There are five in Utah, nine in California, and three in Arizona. So, since you should already visit the region for these other amazing national parks, there is no excuse not to travel to Great Basin National Park on your road trip. Great Basin National Park is smaller than many of its neighboring parks, covering just over 77,000 acres and receiving approximately 90,000 visitors a year. But just because it is small, doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty to see and do.

From Lehman caves to the 13,000 ft summit of Wheeler peak, this national park is filled with diverse landscapes. So plan to explore the subterranean passages and then change gears to hike on Wheeler Peak among some of the oldest trees in the world. The Bristlecone Pines that call Great Basin National Park home are thousands of years old. How old are these trees? Well, the Great Basin Visitor Center contains a cross section of the Prometheus tree, which was cut down when it was over 4,000 years old. 

Wheeler Peak in the distance as we approach Great Basin National Park.

Dog Friendly Activities

Visiting Great Basin National Park with dogs is a little underwhelming. Especially if you don’t arrive in a vehicle capable of 4-wheel drive. We hiked the short (very short) dog-friendly trail at the visitors center and then drove into the national park itself.

Per Great Basin’s pet policy, dogs are not allowed in the caves, on the trails, or to be left unattended. The one exception to these regulations is the Lexington Arch Trail. However, getting to this trail requires a vehicle equipped with four wheel drive/ the ability to traverse rough roads. Our 23ft Class C RV did not qualify.

Dogs are allowed on the roads however, and there is a nice scenic drive up the side of the mountain. This scenic drive prohibits vehicles over 24 ft in length, so we elected not to tackle it in our RV and instead only explored the lower portions of the park. At least we were able to see Prometheus at the visitor center. 

Camping

Dogs are allowed in the campgrounds at Great Basin National Park, so your dog can camp with you at any of the five developed campgrounds: Upper Lehman Creek, Lower Lehman Creek, Baker Creek, Grey Cliffs, and Wheeler Peak. 

We did not stay at Great Basin National Park due to the limited activities that allowed dogs. On our way to Great Basin National Park, we stayed at a free boondocking location at the Perowan Gap Petroglyphs. See our post about visiting Zion National Park for more details about this campsite. 

As we left Great Basin National Park and drove west, we searched for a campground with dog-friendly trails. After the lack of dog-friendly hiking at the national park, we were itching to stretch our legs. We first drove up to the Sacramento Pass Recreation Area. Unfortunately, all of those first come first served sites were already full. 

Luckily for us, off of Highway 6, just a little further west of Great Basin National Park is the Ward Mountain Recreation Area. The US Forest Service runs a lovely campground here and only charges $4/night. The campground connects to some hiking trails on USFS/BLM lands. The trails were nothing spectacular, but there were miles of them. We all enjoyed our hike through the pine trees and sagebrush. 

Activities in the Surrounding Areas

Check out the nearby national parks – Utah’s are closest, but Arizona’s are the most dog-friendly. Or explore more of the BLM land nearby, like Ward Mountain discussed above. Additionally, Nevada contains the largest National Forest in the lower 48, Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, which is much more dog friendly than Great Basin National Park.

Final Thoughts

If you are traveling with dogs in an RV, Great Basin National Park isn’t really worth the stop. But if you are traveling in a car or without the pets, didn’t skip Great Basin. This unique park has a lot to offer. And don’t forget to check out the other more dog friendly areas of this state’s often overlooked outdoor opportunities.

Another view from along the trail at Ward Mountain Recreation Area.

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