Downed bristlecone pine on The Table, Mount Moriah Wilderness

Downed bristlecone pine on The Table, Mount Moriah Wilderness

The best-kept secret of Great Basin National Park is its incredible backcountry. If you would like to hike through stands of ancient trees as old as civilization, to walk along a cascading mountain creek, to camp in a cool mountain forest, or to hike a high ridge with 100-mile views, then this chapter is for you. There are walks for beginners and non-hikers as well as hikes for experienced backpackers. While this chapter centers on Great Basin National Park, it also covers hiking in the Mount Moriah Wilderness in the North Snake Range.

Backcountry Guidelines

Permits and Registration

Although permits are not currently required for day hiking or backpacking within the park, it’s a good idea to check with the park rangers at either visitor center for current trail and backcountry conditions, or you can call 775-234-7331 x 7510. The park encourages backpackers to register for safety reasons.

Access and Seasons

The Wheeler Peak and Lexington Arch Day Use Areas and all ancient bristlecone pine groves are closed to camping. June through September is the primary hiking season in the park and Mount Moriah Wilderness because snow lingers at the high elevations of most of the trails. The Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive is not plowed and may not open until mid-June. Unimproved roads may be muddy and impassable until late spring.

On the Trail

Stay on trails whenever possible. The alpine environment is fragile and easily damaged. When hiking cross-country, stay on rock, sand, or gravel surfaces. Off-trail travel in the park and Mount Wilderness requires map, compass, and GPS skills to find faint trails and follow ridges, drainages, and other natural features.


Pets are not allowed on trails in Great Basin National Park, with the exception of the Lexington Arch Trail, where leashed pets are allowed. Leashed pets are allowed on trails in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest and Bureau of Land Management Lands, including the Mount Moriah Wilderness.


Bicycles are prohibited on all trails in the park and Mount Moriah Wilderness.


Firearms are allowed under certain conditions in the park. See the park's Firearms Regulations, www.nps.gov/grba/parkmgmt/firearms-regulations.htm,
for more information. Hunting is not allowed in Great Basin National Park; it is allowed, subject to Nevada hunting regulations, in the Mount Moriah Wilderness, the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, and on Bureau of Land Management lands.


Smoking while traveling is illegal in the park and on the national forest. Smokers must stop and remain in one location until they have extinguished all smoking materials. All smoking materials must be packed out. During periods of high fire danger, smoking may be prohibited.


Day hikers should carry all the water they need. Backpackers should carry enough water to reach an alternate water source if a planned source is dry. In the Snake Range, water is most abundant in the spring after snowmelt. By late summer, many springs and stream may be dry. All water must be purified before use to remove harmful organisms, which can be present in any water source. Stay hydrated! In this dry climate, your body often loses water insensibly, without sweating. Drink more water than is required to satisfy your thirst.

Human Waste Disposal

If facilities are available, use them. In the backcountry, human waste must be disposed of at least 100 feet from any trail or water source. Human waste should be buried in a "cat-hole" 4 to 6 inches deep. Toilet paper must be packed out and disposed of in restroom facilities.


Backcountry camping is not permitted within 0.25 mile of roads, buildings, or campgrounds, or within the Wheeler Peak and Lexington Arch Day Use areas, or within any ancient bristlecone pine grove. Camping is prohibited at all parking areas, trailheads, and along all other roads, except for the designated primitive campsites along the Strawberry Creek and Snake Creek roads.

Campsites must be a minimum of 100 feet from a stream, spring, lake or other natural body of water and at least 500 feet from any obvious archaeological site, such as mines, cabins, rock shelters, and pictograph sites. Camp on mineral soil if possible, and avoid camping above timberline. The stay limit at any campsite is 14 days.

Group Size

Groups are limited to 15 persons and/or six pack animals in the backcountry. Larger groups must split into smaller groups to meet these limits and must camp at least 0.5-mile apart. Within the park, larger groups may request an exception to these limits in the form of a Special Use Permit.


Campfires are not allowed above 10,000 feet. Backcountry users may only use liquid-or gas-fueled stoves above 10,000 feet, and are strongly encouraged to use them everywhere. Baker and Johnson Lake are above 10,000 feet and campfires are prohibited at both lakes.

Below 10,000 feet, only dead and down wood may be collected. Bristlecone pine wood may not be burned, even if dead and down. Bristlecone wood lasts for centuries and can be tree-ring dated by researchers for studies of past climate. During periods of high fire danger all fires may be prohibited, including smoking and charcoal.

Fires may only be built in areas of of bare mineral soil at least 10 feet in diameter, or in a shallow snow pit. Vegetation must be naturally clear of this 10-foot circle to prevent escape of the fire. Metal fire pans or blankets may also be used for additional protection. Clearing of vegetation is prohibited for any reason. Construction of rock fire rings is prohibited. Fires must not exceed two feet in diameter and must be attended at all times.

Before leaving, all fires must be completely extinguished by dousing with water and mixing until the ashes are cold to the touch. Burying a campfire under dirt does NOT put it out. All ashes must be widely scattered.

Pack Animals

Pack animals, including horses, mules, burros, and llamas are allowed on certain trails in the park and in the national forest. Scatter manure piles at trailheads and campsites. Picket, hobble, or graze animals at least 100 feet from any water source. All packed feed must be certified weed-free. For more information, see the Horseback Riding page.


All backcountry users must be experienced, equipped, and prepared for wilderness hazards, including hypothermia, dehydration, altitude sickness, and sun exposure.

Abandoned mines are common and can be unstable and extremely dangerous. Never enter any shaft or tunnel.


Elevations in the Snake Range vary from 6,000 to 13,000 feet. Weather conditions are variable and can change rapidly. Above timberline, life-threatening thunderstorms, lightning, high wind, and snow storms can occur any time of the year. Dress in layers and bring extra clothing.

Using the Hike Descriptions

Many of the trails in the park and the Mount Moriah Wilderness are not maintained, faint, obscured by cattle trails, or confused by old jeep tracks. Except on the Wheeler Peak, Alpine Lakes, Bristlecone-Glacier, Baker Lake, and Lexington Arch Trails, hikers should carry the USGS topographic maps of the hike, and be familiar with map reading and land navigation.

Each hike description contains the following information:

Hike number and name: The hike number is also shown on the hike location map.

Distance and type of hike: This section lists the total distance of the hike in miles, including the return for out-and-back hikes. Out-and-back hikes use the same route for the return. Shuttle hikes are one-way hikes requiring a second vehicle left at the end of the hike and the distance given is one-way. Loop hikes return to the starting point and the distance is the length of the loop. All hikes are day hikes, unless noted as backpack trips. Distances were carefully meassured with digital topographic maps for consistency but may not agree with official mileages and signs.

Time: This is the approximate time required in hours for day hikes and days for backpack trips.

Difficulty: All the hikes are rated as easy, moderate, or strenuous. This is a subjective rating, but in general, easy hikes can be done by nearly anyone and take a few hours at most. Moderate hikes take all or most of a day and require moderate physical abilities. Strenuous hikes are long with significant elevation change, requiring a full day or several days to accomplish. These hikes should be attempted only by experienced hikers in good physical condition.

Elevation or elevation change: If the trail is level, this gives the trail elevation. For trails that are not level, this line lists the total altitude change in feet. Elevation change does not include minor ups-and-downs along trails and routes.

Season: The best time of year to do the hike.

Permits: Whether or not permits are required

Water: A listing of springs, creeks, and lakes along the trail, primarily for backpackers but also for emergency use by dayhikers. Remember that any water source can dry up. All backcountry water should be purified.

Maps: The USGS 7.5-minute topographic maps covering the hike.

Finding the trailhead: Driving directions from the town of Baker to the trailhead, in miles. GPS coordinates are also listed, in Universal Transverse Mercator coordinates (UTM) based on the WGS84 datum.

Key Points: Except for very short trails and nature trails, this section lists key points along the hike, such as trail junctions and important landmarks. Distances in miles are given from the start of the hike. Where useful, GPS coordinates are given in UTM, using the WGS84 datum.

Hike description: The detailed description of the hike, along with interesting natural and human history. The description uses references to landmarks rather than distances wherever possible.

Recommended Hikes

Click on a hike for the full description and map:

Easy Day Hikes

2 Strawberry Creek-Osceola Ditch, 7 Alpine Lakes

Early Season

1 Osceola Tunnel, 3 Osceola Ditch Interpretive Trail, 9 Mountain View Nature Trail, 12 Pole Canyon, 13 Can Young Canyon

Hikes for Families

1 Osceola Tunnel, 3 Osceola Ditch Interpretive Trail, 7 Alpine Lakes, 9 Mountain View Nature Trail, 16 Snake Creek

First Night in the Wilderness

12 Pole Canyon

Long Day Hikes

4 Lehman Creek Trail, 8 Bristlecone-Glacier Trail, 10 Baker and Johnson Lakes, 11 Timber Creek, 14 Johnson Lake, 15 Dead Lake, 17 South Fork Big Wash, 21 The Table

Hikes for Photographers

5 Bald Mountain, 6 Wheeler Peak, 7 Alpine Lakes, 8 Bristlecone-Glacier Trail, 10 Baker and Johnson Lakes, 14 Johnson Lake, 18 Lexington Arch, 21 The Table

Hikes With Lots of Side Trips and Exploring

10 Baker and Johnson Lakes, 11 Timber Creek, 14 Johnson Lake, 19 Smith Creek, 20 Hendrys Creek, 21 The Table

Hikes for Peak Baggers

5 Bald Mountain, 6 Wheeler Peak, 19 Smith Creek, 20 Hendrys Creek, 21 The Table

Hikes for Backpackers

10 Baker and Johnson Lakes, 11 Timber Creek, 14 Johnson Lake, 15 Dead Lake, 17 South Fork Big Wash, 19 Smith Creek, 20 Hendrys Creek, 21 The Table

Hiking in Great Basin National Park

These hikes are in the South Snake Range, in and around Great Basin National Park. Dogs are not allowed on trails in the park, with the exception of Lexington Arch Trail, where pets are allowed on leashes no longer than six feet. Horses and pack animals are allowed on all trails except: Wheeler Peak Day Use Area trails, Osceola Ditch Trail, Lexington Arch Trail, and Baker to Johnson Lake Cutoff Trail. For the latest trail information, contact the park- see Resources.

Click on a hike for the full description and map:

1 Osceola Tunnel
2 Strawberry Creek-Osceola Ditch
3 Osceola Ditch Interpretive Trail
4 Lehman Creek Trail
5 Bald Mountain
6 Wheeler Peak
7 Alpine Lakes
8 Bristlecone-Glacier Trail
9 Mountain View Nature Trail
10 Baker and Johnson Lakes
11 Timber Creek
12 Pole Canyon
13 Can Young Canyon
14 Johnson Lake
15 Dead Lake
16 Snake Creek
17 South Fork Big Wash
18 Lexington Arch

Hiking in Mount Moriah Wilderness

These hikes are in the North Snake Range, in and around Mount Moriah Wilderness. Dogs are allowed on these trails but must be kept under control. Horses and pack animals are allowed. Be warned, however, that most trails shown on the Forest Service and USGS maps are little-used, faint, and difficult to find. Most travel in the Mount Moriah Wilderness should be considered cross-country. For the latest trail information, contact the Humboldt-Toyaibe National Forest with the information in Resources.

Click on a hike for the full description and map:

19 Smith Creek
20 Hendrys Creek
21 The Table