What Is the Best Time to Travel to Great Basin National Park?

Summer and winter are the most popular times to travel to Great Basin National Park, but if you want the best deals, you should visit in spring.
Written by Heather Bernhard
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Updated on May 23, 2022
Whether you’re dying to climb Mt. Wheeler, peep some autumn aspen, or try your hand at backcountry camping, the best time to travel to Great Basin National Park depends on your favorite outdoor activities. Since each season brings a unique feel to the popular destination, there is something to do year-round.
Although the park is open all year, deep snow and unbearable cold can limit winter activities. Access to higher elevations can be restricted due to snow and ice, so if you’re hoping for some high-altitude hiking, plan your trip carefully. That said, Great Basin is one of the least-visited National Parks in the U.S., so no matter when you go, you’ll find thin crowds and plenty of wide-open space. 
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The best times of year to travel to Great Basin National Park

Finding the best time to travel to
Great Basin National Park
depends on just one thing—do you enjoy the bitter cold? Most activities in the park are open year-round, except for the
Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive
and Backer Creek Road. 
Most visitors choose to go in summer and fall due to better accessibility. But if you don’t mind freezing temperatures, you’ll find beautiful solitude in winter and spring

Peak season: Summer

The good: Mild, comfortable weather
The bad: Busiest season of the year; afternoon thunderstorms are common
The weather: Highs around 85, lows around 55
Summer is largely acknowledged as the best time to visit Great Basin National Park: the weather is comfortable, and activities are in full swing. In addition, the park offers the best views of the Milky Way Galaxy in the U.S., and on many nights, you can spot it with the naked eye.  
Make sure to check out one of the various
astronomy programs
held all summer long, or head out on a
full-moon ranger-led hike
. You should also use this time to hike higher-elevation trails, such as the Sky Islands Forest Trail, which may not be accessible during colder months. 
Pro Tip Don’t forget to stop by the Visitor Center for recent updates, current conditions of roads and trails, and tips from the park rangers before you start your trip. 

Off-season: Winter

The good: Enjoy a near-empty park
The bad: Access is limited; Scenic Road is closed to cars
The weather: Highs around 33, lows around 10
Winter in Great Basin National Park
is certainly cold, but it’s also beautiful and serene. If you want an entire park virtually to yourself, this is the time to go. Access to some attractions may be limited as the Scenic Road is closed to vehicles, but you can snowshoe or cross country ski to those areas if you’re so inclined. 
Camping is available in the Lower Lehman Creek Campground or backcountry, and
Lehman Caves Tours
are offered all year round. Popular winter hikes include the Pole Canyon/Timber Creek Loop Trail and Lehman Creek Trail. 

Shoulder season: Fall and Spring

The good: Thinner crowds; great autumn weather
The bad: Access to certain areas may still be limited in spring
The weather: Spring highs in the mid-40s; fall highs in the low-50s to high-60s
Great Basin’s aspen trees explode into beautiful yellows and golds in autumn, and September is the perfect time to take in the views from the upper part of Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive. In addition, every September, the park hosts an annual
Astronomy Festival
that is three days and nights of astronomy-themed events. They even set up over 30 different telescopes for visitors to use! 
In spring, temperatures begin to warm, but much of the park is still closed to visitors. Like winter, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and cave tours are popular activities. But spring is also an excellent time for
bird watching
in the park, and visitors see Bald Eagles, Cooper’s Hawks, Western Meadowlarks, and more.

The cheapest time to travel to Great Basin National Park

Admission to the park and campsite rates are the same all year long. However, you may find that the few small hotels on the park's outskirts charge cheaper rates in the winter and spring months. The nearest commercial airport is
Salt Lake City
, UT, and flights are generally the cheapest around August. 

Find the best month for your visit to Great Basin National Park

Ready to narrow down the best month for your
vacation? Check out the table below to find the ideal time for your Great Basin adventure based on your planned activities.
Best month to visit
Visit Lehman Caves
Because they’re underground, the caves maintain a steady temperature of 50 °F all year.
Go hiking
May to September
Trails at lower elevations are usually snow-free from late spring to fall.
Explore the night skies
The Milky Way Galaxy is visible to the naked eye during most summer nights.
See the Bristlecone Pine Groves
March through November
See the oldest trees on Earth from last spring to early fall.
Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive
June through November
The road is open year-round, but the upper nine miles are only accessible from June through November (depending on weather).
Go camping
Backcountry camping is available all year, though most other sites close during winter and spring.
Hike to Wheeler Peak
Summer and fall
Summer and fall are best for accessibility.
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Pro Tip There is an almost 8,000-foot difference between Wheeler Peak and the valley floor. If you’re prone to altitude sickness, you may feel unwell as you move higher up.

How to find savings on car and rental insurance

As you’re preparing for your Great Basin National Park road trip, you’ll want to educate yourself on the best trails and times to hike and the best
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