Winter Touring

A man in red coat snowshoes through an open, snow-covered meadow with trees on a mountain rising behind them.
Snowshoeing on the Baker Creek Loop

B. Mills

Experience Winter in the Desert

Solitude, stillness, and spectacular scenery greet visitors to Great Basin National Park in the winter. This quietest season of the year offers some unique experiences in the park. The Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive and Baker Creek Road are both closed to vehicle traffic, but open to skiers and snowshoers. Winter camping is available in the Lower Lehman Creek Campground, which remains open all year, or in the backcountry. Lehman Caves Tours are also offered year round, with the advantage of small group sizes during the winter months.

Be aware of the unique safety challenges of exploring a remote winter environment. Please be advised that no food service exists in the park during the winter, and goods and services in Baker are limited.

Skiing and Snowshoeing

Novice skiers can find gentle slopes for touring or experienced ski mountaineers can challenge their skills on steep and deep backcountry runs. The Lehman Creek Trail is a popular destination for snowshoers in the park and is appropriate for all ages and skill levels.

Trails and roads in the park are not groomed, though some routes are flagged with tape.

Snow conditions range from wet or hard packed snow to fresh dry powder. For current snow conditions, email us or call (775) 234-7331.

Snowshoe Loan Program

Visitors should bring their own skiis, but snowshoes are available for free loan at the Lehman Caves Visitor Center in both adult and kid sizes. Limited pairs are available on a daily basis, so be prepared when visiting on a holiday weekend for snowshoes to be in short supply.

As an accepted part of winter touring etiquette, please avoid snowshoeing on prior ski tracks, whenever it is practical to do so, especially when traveling the Baker Creek Road or Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive.

Winter Backcountry Camping

The same regulations for camping in the backcountry during the summer apply in the winter. Day use areas, such as the Wheeler Peak area, remain closed to camping all year. Visitors may camp in the closed Wheeler Peak Campground during the winter at no charge.


Winter Safety Needs

Skiing, snowshoeing, and camping offer memorable experiences at Great Basin, provided safety precautions are followed. For all winter trips, both day and overnight, registering at the visitor center and checking out at the completion of your trip is highly recommended. In such a remote area, this information is extremely useful in emergency situations.

Special Winter Concerns

Hypothermia, a condition in which a person's core body temperature is lowered, is always a potential danger. Wear proper clothing and be prepared for sudden changes in weather.

Avalanches are common at high elevations in the Snake Range during the winter and spring. Many ski trails cross avalanche paths and run outs. Skiers should be alert for avalanche hazards, carry proper equipment, and check at a visitor center for current avalanche conditions before departing.

In the Backcountry

Backcountry travelers should always:

1. Prepare for the worst

  • Research your route before going in the field
  • Check the current and forecasted weather before you leave
  • Know the capabilities of your group
  • Prepare for emergencies


2. Utilize terrain to your advantage

  • Favor the windward sides of ridges
  • Avoid the lee slopes until you have had a chance to check them out
  • Stay well out in the valley bottoms away from avalanche-producing slopes
  • Measure slope angles

3. Minimize exposure time and use safe travel procedures

  • Safe travel procedures include exposing as few people as possible to potential hazards
  • Do not travel above your partner
  • Do not travel out of sight or each other
  • Do not stop in the middle of or at the bottom of steep slopes
  • Always think about potential escape routes
  • Keep the nearest exit route in mind at all times - you may only have seconds to react


  • Favor gentle angles and the margins of slopes
  • Avoid long traverses with steep slopes above you
  • Use ridge routes but remember: ridges can produce avalanches if the terrain is steep enough. Beware of cornices.


  • Minimize your exposure by crossing on gentler slope angles or well into the run-out zone
  • If the slope is uniformly steep, cross as high as possible, above the likely failure zone.
  • If using cliff-bands for protection, cross high, close to the base of the cliffs - watch out for sluff
  • If the slope is too wide to keep partners in sight, travel from safe spot to safe spot
  • If possible, traverse slopes at a slight downslope angle to minimize exposure time; sometimes using the same traverse track will minimize disturbance to the snow, but it will depend on the snowpack
  • If you are nervous about crossing or there are no safe spots, find alternate routes


  • Start by descending slopes with gentler angles and as the day progresses, work your way onto steeper terrain
  • On steep slopes, approach them from above whenever possible
  • It is often a good idea to favor the sides of slopes rather than the middle so that you have a better chance of escaping off to the side of a slab
  • Choose slopes where you can see the entire run and which have gradual open run out zones rather than cliffs, gullies, or dense trees below
  • Make sure that only one member of the group descends at a time, while the rest of the group watches
  • Establish safe stopping points
  • Have signals so that you are sure the exposed person is clear before the next person starts to descend


Here is a quick list of “must haves” when you are winter touring in the backcountry. Some equipment requires practice in order to use properly, especially avalanche beacons. Make sure you are skilled at using these items beforehand. Repair kit items should be simple and relevant. Items that have multiple uses (straps, cord, zip-ties, duct tape, etc.) are great and have numerous applications.

Always carry:

  • Properly fitted backpack or lumbar pack (loaded weight less than 35 lbs.)
  • Energy bars, power gel packets, and/or MREs (2 each)
  • Water (2 quarts)
  • Extra clothing (especially extra socks and gloves)
  • Radio (with spare battery)
  • Flashlight or headlamp (with spare batteries)
  • Fire starter kit (with waterproof matches, flint and steel, and dry starter material)
  • Light weight stove, fuel, and small, light-weight cook pot
  • Signal kit (with mirror, chem-light, flagging, whistle)
  • Navigation Kit (with GPS, compass, altimeter)
  • Repair kit with the following:
    • 2 Nylon straps
    • 8 zip-ties each (12 inches)
    • 30 feet of parachute cord
    • 12 feet of thin, high-strength, stainless steel wire
    • 6 feet of duct tape
  • First aid kit with extra meds (relevant to the season, terrain, and number of persons)
  • Space bag-blanket and/or bivy shelter
  • Multi-tool (with #3 Screwdriver tip to fit bindings)
  • Non-clogging, all-temp ski wax (spray, stick, gel, etc.)
  • Handkerchief and/or baklava
  • Sunscreen and lip balm
  • Goggles and sunglasses

In avalanche terrain, always carry:

  • Snow shovel (aluminum or carbon-fiber material blade construction)
  • Avalanche beacon
  • Avalanche probe

Optional items:

  • Snow saw
  • Ice axe
  • Extra skins and/or cramp-ons
Ski tracks in the snow
Lehman Creek Trail covered in snow during a winter day.


Winter Trail Descriptions

The more popular trails and routes for skiing and snowshoeing in the park are described below. Trails are not groomed. In general, there are no flat or completely level trails. They all begin by climbing uphill, and include varying degrees of downhill to return to the trailhead. Trailhead elevations begin around 7,000 ft.

Those routes that leave main roads may require map reading or orienteering skills, as not all trails are flagged. Know your abilities and limitations, and be sure to carry proper winter equipment and gear. Call (775) 234-7331, or stop at any visitor center, to inquire about trail conditions or for better directions.

Grey Cliffs Group Campground

Description: This route begins at the barricade on Baker Creek Road, and follows the road through Grey Cliffs Group Campground to the trail between Grey Cliffs and Baker Creek Campgrounds. Make this a loop by skiing up to Baker Creek Campground, and then down Baker Creek Road back to the barricade.
Difficulty: Novice to Intermediate
Trail length (round-trip): up to 4 miles
Hazards: Beware of trees lining the trail between Grey Cliffs and Baker Creek Campground.

Pole Canyon/Timber Creek Loop Trail

Description: This route follows a summer hiking trail of the same name, forming a loop back to the trailhead by way of Baker Creek Road. This route begins at the barricade on Baker Creek Road. Proceed into the Grey Cliffs Group Campground then make the first left at the bottom of the hill towards Pole Canyon. Follow the road to the Pole Canyon Trailhead. The trail continues up a canyon, over a pass, and down the other side, to the Baker Creek Trailhead. From there, follow Baker Creek Road back down to the barricade.
Difficulty: Novice to Intermediate
Trail length (round-trip): 7.5 miles
Hazards: Route finding may be difficult without orienteering skills.

Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive

Description: This route follows the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive from the point of the winter closure at Upper Lehman Creek Campground, to the Bristlecone Parking Lot at the end of the road. The lower portion of the road may have bare patches due to its south facing exposure, but conditions are almost always good for snowshoeing.
Difficulty: Novice, Intermediate
Trail length (round-trip): up to 20 miles
Elevation gain: 2,500'
Grade: 8%
Hazards: The road is often windblown and free of snow in spots. May require some walking. The descent can be fast and icy.

Upper Lehman Creek Campground

Description: The road that loops through the Upper Lehman Creek Campground is a great beginner snowshoe or ski trail. You can reach the Lehman Creek Trailhead on this route as well.
Difficulty: Novice
Trail Length: up to 2 miles

Lehman Creek Trail to Wheeler Peak Parking Lot

Description:This route follows a summer trail. To reach the trail requires parking at the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive barricade, and following the road next to the Lehman Creek Campground to the official trailhead. Note that camping is allowed in the Wheeler Peak Campground during the winter at no charge.
Difficulty: Advanced to Expert
Trail length (round-trip): 8 miles
Elevation gain: 2,500'
Grade: 13%
Hazards: This trail is steep and can become very icy. May be sparsely covered at times, with exposed rocks and vegetation. Trail is sometimes difficult to follow and the descent can be fast and treacherous with low overhanging branches.

Glacier/Bristlecone/Alpine Lake Cirque Area

Description: Reaching this loop trail in the winter first requires skiing or snowshoeing the Lehman Creek Trail to the Wheeler Peak Parking Lot (see above description), which adds 6.8 miles roundtrip, in addition to the mileage below. Camping is not allowed on this trail, as it is part of the Wheeler Peak Day Use Area. Camping is permitted, however, in the Wheeler Peak Campground at no charge.
Difficulty: Intermediate to Expert
Trail length (round-trip): 5 miles
Elevation gain: 768'
Grade: 5%
Hazards: This trail begins at 10,000ft elevation. It can be very dangerous during high avalanche danger. Travel over frozen lakes can be very dangerous. This trail is not marked or flagged and route finding can be difficult without orienteering skills.

Wheeler Peak 13,063 ft, Doso Doyabi 12,771 ft, and Bald Mountain 11,562 ft

Description: Reaching any of these trails in the winter first requires skiing or snowshoeing the Lehman Creek Trail to the Wheeler Peak Parking Lot (see above description), which adds 6.8 miles roundtrip, in addition to the mileages below. Be advised that overnight camping is not permitted in the Wheeler Peak Day Use Area. You may, however, camp in the Wheeler Peak Campground free of charge. For more information, visit our Wheeler Peak in Winter page.
Difficulty: Expert
Trail length (round-trip):
Wheeler: 8.4 mi.
Doso Doyabi: 10.4 mi.
Bald Mountain: 7.0 mi
Elevation gain: 3,165'
Grade: 19%
Hazards: These routes can be very dangerous during high avalanche danger. Snow conditions can change in minutes. These routes are not marked or flagged and route finding can be difficult without orienteering skills.

Last updated: March 15, 2024

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100 Great Basin National Park
Baker, NV 89311


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