Most of the Eastern and Southern area surrounding Great Basin National Park are Bureau of Land Management. There is plenty of exploring to be done and dispersed camping is allowed. However, most of the roads require 4-wheel drive, high-clearance vehicles.
Highland Ridge Wilderness Area lies directly South of the park so you must stay on designated trails. For more information on the area and camping rules, visit the BLM website: Highland Ridge Wilderness, Ely District Information.
Snake Creek Road
Note: 11/2014 Snake Creek Road is currently closed at the park boundary while the campsite is being renovated.
Snake Creek Road is approximately 12 miles South of park headquarters in Garrison, Utah. A dirt road will take you to a free, primitive campsite located near the end of the road.
From this campsite, you will be able to access Dead Lake (via an unmaintained route) and trails to Johnson/Baker Lake as well as Timber Creek and Pole Canyon. For information on those trails, including backpacking advice, check out our Baker Creek Area blog.
The area surrounding Lexington Creek Road was ravaged by a fire in 2012. Major snag hazards still exist. For this reason, the road was closed several miles from the trailhead. Currently, the National Park Service says the road is closed. A cautionary “road closed in 1000 feet” sign is placed approximately 4 miles from highway. There is a large pull-out there which is where we chose to camp.
Note: There are no more closure signs, gates, or other stop measures on the road. Sedans would not be able to make it much further but 4WD, high-clearance vehicle operated by experienced drivers might be able to.
Snag dangers continue to exist along the road and on the trail to Lexington Arch so use caution, especially in high winds.
From the trailhead the arch can be attained via a 3-mile, 1,300 feet of elevation gain hike (one-way). If you start from the “road closure”, your round-trip distance will be closer to 15 miles. Every step is worth it.
The arch itself is a wonder to behold. Hiking up Arch Canyon, you would never know that this geologic gem exists until, after a buildup of anticipation, the arch reveals itself to the hiker. There’s an excellent overlook at the point of first view, and there’s even a fire ring there. Since here you’ll still be on BLM land, you can set up camp. We’re sure that a sunset backdrop for the arch would be magnificent.
The formation is unique because unlike most of the sandstone arches in the US, this one is carved into limestone. This fact, along with flowstone found in this area, leads some experts to believe it was once a chamber in a cave system. With 40 caves scattered throughout the park, this does not take much of an exercise in imagination. Staring at the arch and the ridge to the East, we could even envision a long tunnel.
Getting to the Western Edge
Since most of the land on the Eastern and Southern edges of the park are managed by the Bureau of Land Management, you are able to drive, via high-clearance roads, to Mount Washington in the South Western portion of the park.
This will be an adventure. You will be able to see the highway but the hike to reach it will be considerable. Make sure you have an appropriate vehicle, tools to make repairs, and plenty of water.
We have mapped out a POSSIBLE route. However, we advise common sense. Roads that were passable when we were there might no longer be passable.
Visit our National Park Service Guide for more adventures.
Other Great Basin National Park Blogs