Great Basin National Park

Just west of the Utah line, U.S. 50 crosses the Snake Range of east-central Nevada, among the highest mountain ranges in the Great Basin; indeed, Wheeler Peak, 13063 feet, which caps the southern portion of this Range, is the second highest summit in Nevada and the 12th most isolated peak in the U.S. (it is 232 miles to the closest higher summit). Like the other fault-block ranges of the Great Basin, the Snake Range is oriented north-south and formed along a fracture in the Earth's crust; the rise of the Sierra Nevada batholith, to the west, and the uplift of the Colorado Plateau and Rocky Mountain corridor, to the east, have stretched (and continue to stretch) the crust of this region.

Since 1986, Wheeler Peak has been the centerpiece of Great Basin National Park, which highlights the varied life zones of this stark landscape, from the high desert to the alpine tundra. Introduced at the Visitor Center, in Baker, Nevada, and accessed by the State's highest paved roadway (which ascends to 10,161 feet) the Park harbors a wide range of plant and animal life, drawn to the "sky islands" of this arid region. Among the Park residents are mountain lions, elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, bobcats, porcupines and ring-tailed cats. Various bat species inhabit more than 40 caves in this scenic Park, the most famous of which are found in the Lehman Caves group, eroded from Cambrian limestone during the wet climate of the Pleistocene.

North of U.S. 50, which summits the Snake Range at Sacramento Pass (7154 feet), is the Mt. Moriah Wilderness Area. Harboring the same life zones and wildlife as the National Park, this region is reknowned for its massive alpine tableland, bordered by groves of bristlecone pine. The longest-lived trees on our planet, some of these pines germinated 5000 years ago.