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Wheeler Peak – Great Basin National Park
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Overview
Location

Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Sights

Wheeler Peak, Great Basin National Park, beautiful scenery

Distance

About 8 miles round trip

Parking Lot Elevation

10,185 ft

Summit Elevation

13,065 ft

Elevation Gain/Loss

2,880 ft

Time Required

6-8 hours round trip

Pets

Not allowed

Fees

No entrances fees for the entire Great Basin National Park

Water Info

Bring 2-3 liters of water

Best Season

Late spring, summer, early fall

Hours

Open year round

Sun Exposure

Lots of sun exposure but here are plenty of trees that provide shade for the first 2 miles of the hike.

Trail Condition

Good dirt trail until you pass the timberline then you will be hiking on dirt and bigger rocks

Restrooms

At the campgrounds

Visitor Center

Yes. Two Visitor Centers

Camping

Only allowed in campground areas and by reservations

Food

Bring meals and snacks

Equipment

Waterproof and windproof jacket, good high-top hiking shoes/boots, hat, sunglasses, crampons (if there is snow), sweaters, good windproof pants, thick socks, backpack for food and water, trekking poles.

GPS Coordinates:

Trailhead: 39.017153°,-114.303322°
Wheeler Peak: 38.985640°, -114.313726°

Trail Map


Driving Directions

Please keep in mind that the road to the Summit Trailhead is seasonal from about early spring to late fall.


The Trail:

In late October we took a quick trip down to Great Basin National Park to explore around the area.  The last time I visited here was more than 20 years ago and my memories of this place were quickly fading – so I wanted to come back and check it out again.

To start I want to emphasize that it is possible that you could get high altitude sickness – the trailhead begins at about 10,185 feet! Our fellow Trek Planner member Hawkeye-TP relayed a story about how he got high altitude sickness here at Wheeler Peak so it is important to drink lots of water, take it slow, take many breaks and make sure you take deep and full breathes often to compensate for the lower oxygen levels as you gain altitude.  With that said, let the fun begin!

The trailhead begins at a small parking lot which is big enough for about a dozen vehicles.  There is a registration kiosk here and I recommend you fill it out before and after your adventure.

Parking lot

Parking lot

Information kiosk

Information kiosk

The trailhead

The trailhead

Wheeler Peak

The first part of the trail winds around through lots of pines and aspen trees.  We found a few bristlecone trees along the way too.

This part was pretty easy and even though most of the aspens had already lost their leaves, we were grateful to have incredible views of Wheeler Peak through this section.

Wheeler Peak Wheeler Peak Wheeler Peak

Bristlecone Tree

For about 2 miles, you will gradually gain elevation.  I quite enjoyed this part of the hike because it felt very casual and there weren’t any switchbacks at this point.  Another cool thing about this hike is that Wheeler Peak is almost always in sight for the entire duration.  We all took plenty of pictures of all the different angles and views of the mountains and valley below.

Wheeler Peak

We crossed paths with many aspen trees

We crossed paths with many aspen trees

Wheeler Peak

At about a mile into the hike you will come to a sign which points you to Stella Lake and Wheeler Peak.  Take this route which continues up the trail.

Wheeler Peak Wheeler Peak

After a little ways you will come to another sign – to Stella Lake or to Wheeler Peak.  We took the right trail up to Wheeler Peak.  If you have time then I suggest you check out Stella Lake.  We visited the lake on the way down and it was worth the extra tenth of a mile there.

Wheeler Peak Wheeler Peak

We didn’t see snow on the trail until about the 2 mile marker.  Obviously, you can see the summit of Wheeler and you could clearly see all the snow so we came prepared with wind breakers, sweater, down jackets, crampons, hats, sunglasses, wind proof pants, good sturdy shoes and even trekking poles – and you should do the same as well!

Wheeler Peak Wheeler Peak Wheeler PeakAt this point in the hike we were all hot!  We were surprised by how warm it still was considering it was late October.  This is a good lesson to always dress in layers when you are exerting energy outside.

Wheeler Peak Wheeler Peak

Looking down towards Stella Lake

Looking down towards Stella Lake

We just about reached the 2 mile marker and we saw the first snow on the trail.  It wasn’t too bad until we hiked passed the timberline.  Every time another hiker would pass us coming down we would ask them about the weather conditions going up.  We were told it was very windy and cold and it was VERY windy at some points!

Wheeler Peak

Just passed the 2 mile point you will hike above the timberline and be at the mercy of the wind and snow. The trail was still visible thanks to previous hikers’ footprints in the snow.

From here on out the trail is steep and narrow.  Just remember to take your time and remember to breathe!

Wheeler Peak Wheeler Peak Wheeler Peak

You can see all the windmills in the valley to the west

You can see all the windmills in the valley to the west

Wheeler Peak Wheeler Peak

Pausing for a picture

Pausing for a picture

Wheeler PeakBecause the wind can be extremely strong up here, these rock shelters were built so you can find a temporary refuge.  While the wind was very strong, it probably didn’t reach more than 20 MPH.  If you find that the wind is extremely strong, turn back and hike another day.  It is not worth the risk.

Wheeler Peak

From these rock shelters, you still have more than a mile of hiking left.  From now on out there are steep switchbacks and one very dangerous and exposed area where if you slip you could tumble down several hundred feet so be careful!

Wheeler Peak Wheeler Peak

Wheeler Peak Wheeler Peak Wheeler Peak

Wheeler PeakWheeler Peak

Here is the very exposed area near the top

Here is the very exposed area near the top

Wheeler Peak summit

Wheeler Peak summit

The summit has several larger rock shelters but surprisingly it wasn’t too windy this time.

The views are absolutely incredible.  It felt like you could see the other side of Nevada from on top.

Wheeler Peak Wheeler Peak

Looking down in the adjacent valley and mountains

Looking down in the adjacent valley and mountains

Wheeler Peak

Signing the guest log that was inside the "mail box:"

Signing the guest log that was inside the “mail box:”

The Return:

After eating some more snacks we came back down and were glad to finally be on dirt again instead of snow.

Wheeler Peak Wheeler Peak Wheeler Peak

Personal Thoughts:

Wheeler Peak was a great hike all around.  I really enjoyed hiking up to 13,000+ feet and seeing the surrounding areas.  It would have been really neat to see all of the aspens before the leaves fell but we still had a blast.  It was really peaceful in Great Basin National Park and I hope to visit again soon.

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Ratings (out of 10)
Trek Planner Rating
User Rating
Rate Here
Difficulty
6.7
6.3
Technicality
6.0
6.5
Enjoyment
8.2
8.8
The Bottom Line

Difficulty is basically the length, duration and stress of the Trek. If the Trek is really long then it will receive a higher rating. If the Trek is short then it won't receive that high of a rating. However, difficulty rating also includes how tired we were at the end of the Trek.

Technicality is how strenuous the Trek is. If there is lots of bouldering or if there is bushwhacking involved then the rating will be higher. Technicality also includes if there are steep inclines or the need for ropes and other equipment.

Enjoyment is strictly how much fun we had doing the Trek. Regardless of how tired and exhausted we were, if we had a ton of fun doing the Trek then it will receive a higher rating.

8.2
Trek Planner Rating
7.2
User Rating
2 ratings
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About The Author
Jeff Johnson
Questions or comments? I'd love to hear from you! JeffTJohnson@ymail.com

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1 Comment on "Wheeler Peak – Great Basin National Park"

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Jman
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Such a great hike! That was a perfect day for it.