Entering the Great Basin

We packed up and exited the Grand Staircase-Escalate NM, heading west along picturesque HWY 12. We ran into Bryce Canyon NP and stopped in for a nice Father’s Day lunch at the lodge. We’ve bought the NP annual pass for the last three years, which allows us free admission into all of the parks. During our travels the pass has paid for itself many times over. It’s nice knowing you can just run into a national park, have a good lunch, refill your water, catch a few incredible sites and leave without feeling like you should have done more.

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Bryce, while extremely beautiful, was filled with a zoo of people. More folks were jammed into the parking lot and visitor center area than we had seen in total since leaving Arizona a week ago. We were glad to exit the park after only a couple of hours.

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We camped a little west and at a little higher altitude compared to Bryce at White Bridge campground next to Panguitch Creek. The next day was our laundry day so we headed to Cedar City. The road took us past Cedar Breaks NM so we stopped in for a look before we dropped down from 10,000 feet into Cedar City.

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After laundry, food and gas provisioning in Cedar City we headed back up to Cedar Breaks for a nice afternoon hike. The last time we were in Cedar Breaks was nearly 20 years ago when we were skiing at Brainhead, which is nearby, and took an afternoon off from downhill to cross-country ski into Cedar Breaks during the winter. It looks even better with snow on the colorful rocks.

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We camped the night at Cedar Canyon campground, on the hill between Cedar Breaks and Cedar City. We learned it’s never a good idea to camp near a 12% grade hill.

We took off the next day across western Utah using a less traveled route; the Lund Hwy and the Pine Valley Road to get to Baker, NV. Both roads are nice dirt roads that pass through some very beautiful country.

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We stopped for lunch along the way. No need to worry about traffic out here.

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We entered Nevada and The Great Basin National Park. Neither of us had been there before and really had no idea what to expect. We were both nicely surprised. While the great basin is the bowl surrounded by mountains that encompasses most of Nevada, the park itself sits in the 13,000-foot Wheeler Mountain range, and not in a lower altitude basin.

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The Wheeler campground is at 9,800 feet and was nice and cool given the heat wave hitting the rest of the southwest. There were many trails from the campground and we did the hike to the high altitude bristlecone pine forest, where the trees are over 2000 years old; the oldest close to 5000 years old.

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The hikes to the alpine lakes were gorgeous too.

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The park also has beautiful limestone caves that are full of beautiful cave structures.

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The second day we even got a little rain during a hike to one of the lakes.

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There were a lot of deer in the park enjoying the cool weather and the new grass.

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The sunset from our camp was not bad either. It’s so out of the way that the park was not crowded and definitely a place to revisit.

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We then took off west across central Nevada on HWY 50, known as “The Loneliest Highway in America”. The central Nevada countryside was beautiful with large green valleys covered in sage and desert brush, between the many mountain ranges that run north to south.

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We pulled off the highway past Ely, NV to have lunch at Garnet Hill Rec Area. We didn’t find any garnets, but it is a huge mining area and the garnets are around according to the information board there.

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We continued on just a little further west to Illipah Reservoir for the night, a BLM campground that was pretty and quiet.

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In the morning we headed into the hills to the mining ghost town of Hamilton, NV. Once a silver mining town of 12,000 people, the town is now just a memory since the mine stopped producing in 1870.

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We did see a herd of wild horses on the road into Hamilton.

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We made our way to Hickison Petroglyph Rec Area west of Eureka, NV for the night. We hiked the trials to see the great basin petroglyphs and the scenery.

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We’re about in the center of Nevada now and will be making our way to the California border and Lake Tahoe.

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