NV – Great Basin NP, How Cold is too Cold?

This was my second or third time driving across America’s Loneliest Highway.  I’ve yet to find any great distractions to break up the drive. So after waking up in western Nevada, I drove east to Great Basin National Park. I was hoping to catch a Lehman Cave tour but arrived about an hour too late. I’d planned a snowshoe outing but found insufficient snow. So I took a bit of a walkabout up the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive Road. I realized as I was walking that I could camp on or near the road and enjoy stellar sunset and sunrise views. I rushed back to the visitor center to get a permit, grabbed my camping gear and hiked back up the road. 

Temperatures dropped to 14F. My body was not acclimated to cold so I was a bit uncomfortable even bundled in double layers of down. It didn’t help that I was camped on snow. I used my emergency blanket to insulate my tent floor. I didn’t have a nalgene bottle so couldn’t use that as a heater. Since this was a spontaneous spur-of-the-moment decision I wasn’t prepared. But I didn’t die. I knew I could run down to my car if I got too cold. I was rewarded with perfect alignment for this giant orange kiss to go along with my hot cup of coffee. 

Even with a stellar snow year, Wheeler Peak at 13,063′ didn’t have much remaining snow in early March. One of these days my timing will be such that I can hike to the top. 

Adventure Dates:

  • March 1-2, 2017




4 thoughts on “NV – Great Basin NP, How Cold is too Cold?

  1. 14 is so cold but wow those are some fabulous views. I like that you decided to take a risk and camp there. I was there in late fall a few years ago, camped at the camground, and really enjoyed the bristlecone pine trees and seeing the “rock glacier”. Definitely need to go back too!

  2. It is always fun to read about your adventures, yours and Joan’s. I hope to get to Great Basin some day since I am now in Las Vegas. I’m not fond of real cold weather, but I camped with Boy Scouts down to 15 degrees once. It was car camping, not backpacking, so I was able to bring extra layers for under my sleeping bag/mattress. One of the leaders had a bunch of chemical had warmers left over from a fund raiser. They helped keep my feet and hands warm at night and then during the day when we went sledding. This was in northern Illinois, north of Chicago.

    • Thank you for reading and comments. I carry those hand warmers for chilly camping and winter day hiking. They are great! I just read that they can be reused by putting them in a plastic bag. One of the best cold weather warm-ups is boiling water and placing in a Nalgene bottle, then into a sock, then into your sleeping bag. It stays warm all night then is ready to heat for coffee in the morning. No worry about frozen water!

      By the way, I spent a year living in Galesburg Illinois about 20 years ago. I managed a 4-state region including Iowa, Kansas, Arkansas, and of course Illinois. I moved there in January so quickly learned about a different kind of cold and lots of blowing snow.

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