Fall colors have been delayed this year, which means October will likely be brilliant! There’s a whole mountain, from Baker at 5,300 feet to Wheeler Peak at 13,063 feet, to change. The Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive beyond Upper Lehman Campground stays open until snow closes it down. That’s often about mid-October for the upper parts, but the last two years it has stayed open longer due to late snows.
Some of the best places to observe fall colors in Great Basin National Park are along the Wheeler Peak Summit Trail, the mining cabin area on the way to Johnson Lake in the Snake Creek watershed (and later all along the Snake Creek road), and the Baker Creek area.
Strawberry Creek Trail Rebuilt
Strawberry Creek, a beautiful watershed in the northeastern part of Great Basin National Park, was reopened to the public this summer. Then some heavy rainfalls created debris flows that covered the newly reopened the trails. The park’s trail crew worked hard to re-establish the trails and put in foot bridges to make the trail even easier to visit. A gravel road leads from Highway 6/50 about five miles to the trailhead. From there, head west to access the Sagebrush-Steppe loop, a delightful loop less than two miles long. An added bonus of hiking this trail in the fall is the possibility of seeing elk. Strawberry Creek is one of the places in the park where they congregate in large numbers, and the bugling of elk in the canyon makes it feel like a truly wild place!
As the number of tourists dwindle, some of the local businesses are closing down for the winter. T&D’s restaurant, bar and convenience store is actually closing for good due to retirement. The business is for sale, so for anyone looking for a cool opportunity in a national park gateway town, this is the time! Kerouac’s restaurant is closing on October 20th. They provide dinners nightly and breakfasts on weekends in October. And the Great Basin Café, located next to the Lehman Caves Visitor Center, will also be closing in October, as well as the Baker’s Bean Coffee Cart. That leaves the Whispering Elms Bar and the Border Inn Café as your food and beverage choices in Baker for the winter.
Another change is new exhibits in the Lehman Caves Visitor Center. They will be installed this winter, and in order to get the area prepared, the visitor center is closing October 28. The Great Basin Visitor Center, located in Baker, will be open through February so folks traveling through will be able to get any information they need. During October, four cave tours a day will be offered through Lehman Caves.
October is a lovely time to visit, with smaller crowds and beautiful colors. Just check the forecast before you come!
— Gretchen Baker
Visit Gretchen’s fascinating nature exploration website, Desert Survivor.