Made our way to Idaho via Great Basin National Park

David and I left southern Utah and headed north to Idaho through northeastern Nevada. We spent three nights at a very nice, free BLM campground near Baker, Nevada, and made a short visit to Great Basin National Park.

After leaving Kodachrome Basin State Park in Utah, David and I traveled up north to Idaho. We need to do a major grocery shopping before heading into central Idaho. We planned to overnight at Walmart Supercenter in Jerome, Idaho as our first stop in the state. That’s over 500 miles away. So, we had to split up the drive into two days and find a place on our route to spend a night.

As you can see in the map of suggested routes below from Apple Maps, two of the options would take us through Salt Lake City on the Interstate-15. The slowest option would go through the northeastern corner of Nevada, away from major metropolitan area. That’s an easy decision. It’s the U.S. Highway 93 route rather than the “faster” route via Salt Lake City. We would spend a night in a free BLM campground at Sacramento Pass near Baker, Nevada, just outside of Great Basin National Park, and were to continue our travel to Idaho the next day. But, the plan changed…

RVers know that the fastest route isn’t necessary the best route.
Taking Utah Highway 21 through western Utah
It’s a drive to middle of nowhere. The scenery and the lack of crowd were wonderful.
Our camp site in a free BLM campground at Sacramento Pass Recreation Area, Nevada.
The campground is beautiful. We luckily had the last available spot. If you arrive when the campground is full, there is a large parking area that I don’t think anyone minds if you stay there for a night.

The BLM campground at Sacramento Pass Recreation Area is a very nice campground, better than many paid campgrounds we had stayed. The lower loop has 5 sites and one group site. The upper loop is an equestrian loop and has 4 sites. There is no fee to camp. The stay limit is 14 days. There are vault toilets at each loop, great if you need to stretch your holding tank. We liked the campground so much that we decided to stay for a few days to explore the area and visit Great Basin National Park.

Great Basin National Park, Nevada

If you never heard about this national park in Nevada, you’re not alone. Great Basin National Park is one of the least visited U.S. national parks. The park received 168,028 visitors in 2017. It ranked 49th of 59 national parks in the numbers of visitation. It’s far away from any major metro areas. What is the Great Basin? This National Park Service page contains useful information about the Great Basin of the western U.S.

View of snow-capped mountains near the park entrance
Valley view from Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive
Mather Overlook. This wasn’t the view I expected to see in the middle of the Nevada desert.
Wheeler Peak (13,063 ft), the highest point in the park, seen from Wheeler Peak Overlook

We only spent a day in Great Basin National Park mostly just sightseeing. The park has several hiking trails, including the Wheeler Peak Summit Trail (8.6 mi round trip, 2,900 ft elevation gain). For a fee, you could take guided tours of Lehman Caves (reservation recommended). Although the caves could only be entered through the guided tours, there is no entrance fee for visiting other parts of the park. The town of Baker, just outside the park, has limited services (a gas station, very small grocery store, and maybe a couple of restaurants).

Personally, I think the park is too far away from everything and too little to do in the area to be a destination for vacationing. However, if it can be combined as part of a road trip to explore this part of Nevada, it is a worthwhile stop. Or maybe it’s just that I wasn’t in the mood to explore after all what we did in southern Utah.

Baker Archeological Site

We also visited Baker Archeological Site (aka. Baker Village), which contains the remains of a Fremont Indian village. The site was excavated by Brigham Young University, in cooperation with the BLM, from 1991 to 1994. After the excavations, the site was backfilled with the dirt that was removed during excavation, in order to protect the remaining cultural features. This means you couldn’t see the foundation and the remains of the village. The walls visible in the picture above are modern walls, built in 2002 to prevent erosion of the backfilling dirt. Brochures at the information kiosk provide a useful information about the village and the Fremont culture learned from the excavations.

Have you been to Great Basin National Park? What else did you do in the area?

References:

National Park Service Visitor Use Statistics: https://irma.nps.gov/Stats/

Baker Archeological Site: https://www.blm.gov/visit/baker-archaeological-site

2 thoughts on “Made our way to Idaho via Great Basin National Park

  1. Not the view I would have expected either for the Nevada desert – and those are big peaks! I would also gladly take an hour longer of a drive if it meant no crowds. Hope you have fun in Idaho! I’ve only driven through the state, no exploring yet, so I look forward to your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

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