Friday, July 1, 2016

Great Basin National Park: What to do with Kids

Last Summer Ben and I took the kids to three different National Parks (and a couple of State Parks) and I wrote up little guides of what we did and what I had researched beforehand. I figure I'll write this Great Basin post up in the same style. It's an easy 1 hour and 45 minute drive from my parents place in Delta, UT.

Easy unless you get stuck behind an extra wide load that takes up the only two lanes on Highway 6 & 50! I've never seen such a big haul in my life. It had three flashing trucks up in front, warning oncoming traffic to pull completely off the road, and two flashing cars (one a state trooper) behind it. Thankfully, after about 30 miles, it pulled over and let us pass. Otherwise we may not have made it!

Lehman Cave Tour

Kids of any age can go on the Ranger guided 60 minute Lodge Room Tour. You cannot take strollers, so if you have young kids that need to be carried you'll need to have a pack or something. The walk itself is less than 1/2 a mile, but you stop several times in the more open areas of the cave and learn about cave creation and cave life.

Our group included four adults, a 9 year-old, two 5 -year-olds and three 3 year-olds. All of the 3 year-olds did super. None needed to be carried. Our guide was amazing with little kids and when Nell and one of her fellow 3 year-old cousins snuck up ahead of the parents the guide just let them lead the way. It was adorable. Of course, he shouted back at us for permission, but once it was granted Nell and Hudson were leading the pack.

Another thing worth note is that kids cannot touch anything. This can be hard on anyone, especially littles, but I noticed little hands constantly pulling themselves back when they realized they'd gotten too close. I was really impressed with the practice in self control our young explorers demonstrated.

The cave has been touched plenty, so a few slip ups won't alter geology. Early explorers had a "if you can break it you can take it" policy and park workers have paved a nice pathway through the main parts of the cave. So it certainly isn't 100% primitive. In fact, they once rented the cave out under a Hollywood contract and some film about Mars was created. They flooded one of the bigger rooms and spent lots of time making it look like the astronauts were floating on Mars. Special effects of the 70s, they were something!

There is a longer tour that will take you to a couple extra rooms, but kids must be 5 and older to go on that one. All tours require tickets and YOU MUST order them at least one day before going. If you take the chance of getting tickets when you arrive you will be left behind. I booked our tickets on Monday and at the time every slot on Thursday was wide open. That morning we called to see if we could add two more and we couldn't. Every tour was filled up within an hour of the parks opening.

Easy Hikes for Kids
Hikes in Great Basin will remind you how primitive this part of the desert really is. The Bristle cone pines are older than Jesus! And most of the park has little to no traffic. While the park certainly offers developed and easily accessible trails, it feels a lot less traveled than the other major parks found in Utah.

The Mountain View Nature Trail is a quick loop around the cave area. You can even hop in the ranger station and ask for a guided tour. We did this entire loop in less than 20 minutes after we were done with the cave. The kids loved looking for lizards and cacti and the views were pretty good as well.

Taking a quick break on the Mountain View Nature Trail

When Reid was just a toddler and Nell was tucked safely into my belly, Ben, Reid and I went on the Sky Islands Forest Trail. It was late June and it snowed on us! That's how high up you are, you get snow ... in Nevada ... in June. The trail is wheelchair accessible, so even with the snow our little 18 mos old did most his own walking. There were nice little markers that identified life on the rugged mountains of the Great Basin. I remember feeling very lost in the high forest, wait ... maybe lost isn't the right word. We knew where we were (even with the snow falling down on us), I mean lost in the sense that it was just the three of us on this entire mountain range, deep in its beautiful forest. All these years later I still really enjoy the memory of this hike.
June 2012

I've also done the Osceola Ditch hike during other visits. This is hands down the park I've been to the most in my life time. My family has it's own history with the park. My ancestors used the Osceola ditch (maybe even helped build it?) and my paternal Grandfather gave tours of the cave when he was just 9 years-old. I love Great Basin and am very dissapointed I've never camped there!

Though I haven't camped in Great Basin, Ben and I certainly plan to in a few years when our kids are a bit older. Unlike Capitol Reef, Great Basin doesn't have a lot of developed campsites but you are guaranteed to see more stars than you can find just about anywhere on the planet if you happen to stay on a clear night. It is the Milky Way National Park. There is no light pollution and you are nearly on top of the highest peak in Nevada. I can't wait to stay a night there some point in the future. It will take a lot of preparation, but the pay off will be worth it.

Nearby Accommodations
There are not many towns near the park. The only one you'll go through after leaving Delta (if you come to the park from Utah) is Baker Nevada. There are two other towns in the valley, but each are as small (even smaller) than Baker. So you'll probably want to pack a picnic, or you'll end up eating all your meals at the Border Inn.

Which is just what we did when it was time for dinner!

The kids had fun playing with this old gas pump, and the heavy load we'd followed out to the desolute desert was parked on the lot -- probably waiting for the NV highway patrol to come take it to it's next destination. If you are visiting the park from Utah (and you don't want to camp), I'd recommend staying a day and night in Delta. There is plenty to do in my lovely childhood community. 

Overall the entire afternoon was one of my kids' favorites from our two week long stay at Grandma and Gramps. Thanks for planning and paying Pa and thanks for watching the two toddlers Ma! 

1 comment:

Grandpa B said...

Love the pics with all the grandkids. Where was Noelie Olie?

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