Great Basin National Park is located just west of the Utah-Nevada border. The park encompasses only a fraction of the basin itself, which is it’s own ecoregion and spans all of Nevada, as well as parts of Utah and California as well. Though often thought of as a barren landscape, this desert holds many treasures. Wheeler Peak towers 13,063 feet in the air as some of the most ancient living organisms, bristlecone pines, grow in its shadow. The solitude of this desert offers some of the darkest and clearest night skies in the country, and is one of the best places to view the Milky Way with the naked eye. Don’t miss out on Lehman Caves, the forgotten treasure of the park. After you’ve drunk in the night skies and deep caves, wander over to these five stunning locations as well.
Mount Moriah Wilderness Area (1 hour)
Mount Moriah Wilderness Area is 81,082 acres of desolate, wild desert mountains untouched by man. The mountain itself rises 12,067 feet towards the baking sun above a large plateau. 30 miles of trails stretch along this subalpine desert and through the rugged terrain. Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep scramble up and down the mountain and Bonneville cutthroat trout swim in the creeks. Make sure to bring all the water you need and Mount Moriah will be the perfect place to escape the modern world. But be aware, motorized and mechanized vehicles are not permitted in any wilderness area. Travelers can drive to the area and park at the trailheads outside the area boundary.
Insider Tip:This wilderness area is riddled with shallow caves, and many have yet to be found.
Sulphur Wild Horse Management Area (1 hour)
Strait out of the movie, Spirit, comes our next destination, the Sulphur Wild Horse Management Area. In the wild west of Utah roams a herd of 135 to 180 head wild horses. Theses horses can trace their ancestry to Old Spanish Type and Colonial Spanish Horses that were brought to the Americans in the late 1500s. Most are buckskin and grulla in color, and are smaller than other horses. They call home the Needle Range, about 45 miles from Millford, Utah and are protected by the BLM.
Insider tip: the best viewing areas are the Mountain Home and Indian Peak portions of the range, where most of the herd calls home.
Cathedral Gorge State Park (2 hours)
Located in Nevada, Cathedral Gorge State Park was so named for its cathedral-like spires and narrow valley. Slot canyons, scenic views, and cave like formations make this park a photographer’s (whether it be a Canon or an Iphone) dream. The park, along with all other Nevada State Parks, are pet friendly, as long as your adventure buddy is on a leash. The campground has 22 first-come sites as well as flush toilets and showers.
Insider Tip: If you are wanting to visit the more remote parts of the park, take the four mile loop trail from the picnic area.
Frontier Homestead State Park (2.75 hours)
Located in Cedar City, Utah, Frontier Homestead State Park is a museum that explores the pioneer and industrial history of southwestern Utah. The museum houses historic buildings and tools such as horse-drawn carriages, a sawmill, and the historic town bell. Along with all of these collections, the park has many hands-on activities for all ages.
Insider Tip: This summer is the opening of their Fremont and Paiute Native American Village exhibit as well as the Frontier Folk Festival June 17th and 18th. The entire park will be turned into a frontier-style street festival.
Ward Charcoal Ovens State Park (1 hour)
In the late 1800s, the area where Ward Charcoal Ovens State Park now resides was used to travel from Pioche, Nevada to a nearby railroad town. Silver ore was soon discovered in the area and mining commenced. From 1876 to 1879, beehive-shaped charcoal ovens operated turning juniper and pinyon pines to charcoal to smelt ores. After a few years, the timber supply was completely depleted and the charcoal ovens were no longer used. They became shelters for prospectors and outlaws alike from the harsh weather, or the law. The ovens are 30 feet high and 27 feet in diameter.
Insider Tip: Just because there is snow on the ground, doesn’t mean the park is a no-go. The mountain biking trails make for great cross-country ski trails in the winter months.