Great Basin’s Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive: 10 Things You Will Experience!

Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive

Are you ready for a breathtaking road trip filled with stunning vistas, rugged wilderness, and incredible natural wonders? Look no further than the Great Basin’s Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive! This iconic route winds through the heart of Nevada’s majestic mountainscape and offers access to some of the region’s most spectacular sights.

From soaring peaks to shimmering lakes, ancient forests to vibrant wildlife, this drive has it all! So pack your bags and buckle up – here are 9 things you simply can’t miss on your journey along the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive. Let’s hit the road!

The Route From Nevada Highway 488

The Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive is an adventure that starts at the park boundary on Nevada Highway 488. As you enter the Great Basin National Park, the excitement starts to build. You can feel the anticipation rising as you make your way towards the entrance of the drive. 

Nevada Highway 488 Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive

The first few miles of the journey are breathtaking, with stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The vast open space of the desert stretching out in front of you and the road ahead leading to the unknown, it is a journey full of surprises.

The road winds up the mountain, switchbacking its way up to the summit of Wheeler Peak. Views of meadows, pine forests, and alpine lakes decorate the drive. As you climb higher, so do the trees. Soon you are surrounded by snowcapped peaks towering above you on all sides. It is a spectacular sight and one that will stay with you long after your journey has ended.

After winding your way through the forests and across alpine meadows, you reach the summit of Wheeler Peak – one of Nevada’s highest points at 13,063 ft (3970m). From here, you can look out over a seemingly endless expanse as far as your eyes can see. To the east is Snake Valley, to the north are more dramatic mountainscapes of Utah; it is nothing short of majestic.

Also Read: 9 Things About The Great Basin National Park You Need To Know Before You Go

As you make your descent down the backside of Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive, take some time to soak in all that the National Park has to offer – from stark but beautiful desert expanses to snow-covered peaks dotted with vibrant wildflowers in springtime; it truly is an unforgettable experience!

Takes you through 12 miles

The Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive is a beautiful 12 mile out and back road that takes you to the face of Wheeler Peak, the tallest mountain in Nevada. Along the way you will experience stunning views of the Great Basin, as well as wildlife such as deer, pronghorn, and elk. The road is well-maintained and suitable for all vehicles.

Takes you through 12 miles Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive

The winding road through the mountains offers a truly spectacular drive, with views of the surrounding peaks and valleys that are nothing short of breathtaking. 

The journey is an out and back trip, and every mile is filled with excitement and anticipation. Every turn in the road offers a new vista, and you can’t help but be mesmerized by the beauty of the landscape around you.

Gain over 4,000 feet in elevation, into the clouds!

The Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive is not for the faint of heart. With a gain of over 4,000 feet in elevation, the drive takes you up into the clouds. As you climb higher and higher, the air becomes crisper, and the views become more breathtaking. 

Gain over 4000 feet in elevation into the clouds

The journey takes you through some of the most beautiful terrain in the United States, with towering mountains and stunning valleys stretching out as far as the eye can see. The experience of being so high up and surrounded by such magnificent beauty is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

If you choose to take this adventure, be sure to come prepared with warm layers, snacks, and plenty of water. The drive is steep and winding and can become slippery in inclement weather. Drive slowly and safely and don’t forget to stop at the designated scenic overlooks along the way for some spectacular photo opportunities!

Incredible Wildlife as you Leave the Desert

As you climb along the road, you’ll leave the desert behind and enter a world of wildlife. Mule deer, marmots, coyotes, and jackrabbits are just some of the animals you might encounter on the journey. 

Incredible Wildlife as you Leave the Desert

The drive takes you through a variety of ecosystems, each with its own unique flora and fauna. You’ll see these animals in their natural habitats, roaming free and living as they have for centuries. 

It’s a truly humbling experience to witness these creatures in their natural environment.

Mule deer are generally shy animals, but they can be curious at times. If you see a mule deer while driving, be sure to give it plenty of space.

Marmots tend to live in burrows and eat a variety of different plants. If you see a marmot while driving, be sure not to startle it as it may run into the road.

Coyotes are known for their howls and their ability to adapt to changing environments. Coyotes typically hunt in packs and can take down prey much larger than themselves. If you see a coyote while driving, do not approach it as they may view you as a threat.

Initially drive through never-ending Sagebrush oceans

The first thing you will experience when driving through the Great Basin’s Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive is never-ending sagebrush oceans. These sagebrush ocean start from the eastern side of Nevada and they continue all the way to the Salt Lake Valley in Utah. The scenery is truly amazing and it is hard to believe that such a place exists.

Sagebrush oceans

The vast open spaces of the desert stretching out in front of you are an experience in themselves. As far as the eye can see, there are rolling hills and sagebrush as far as the eye can see. 

The vastness of the desert is both humbling and inspiring, and it sets the stage for the rest of the journey. As you leave the desert behind and climb higher, the landscape changes, and the views become even more spectacular.

At 8,000 feet of elevation, enter the mystic forests of the Pinyon Pine

By 8,000 feet of elevation, you enter mystic forests of the Pinyon Pine. The Pinyon Pine forest is a unique ecosystem that provides a home to various wildlife such as chipmunks, squirrels, and various species of birds. The silence in this place is captivating, with only the sound of leaves rustling in the wind. 

Pinyon Pine

The air is crisp and cool, and the view of the surrounding mountains is nothing short of breathtaking. The Pinyon Pine forest is a place where you can take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy the stunning natural beauty around you. 

The Pinyon Pine is also an important source of food for the wildlife living in the area. The pine nuts are high in fat, protein, and calories and make a great snack for birds and other animals. When searching for the elusive pine nut, you can find various other materials such as pieces of bark, twigs and dead leaves.

The Pinyon Pine forest is one of the most captivating and awe-inspiring places on earth. Hike through its trails and explore its majestic beauty while admiring the unique wildlife it holds, as well as all that mother nature has to offer.

At 9,000 feet Enter True Mountain Country

 You can smell the sweetness of the fir trees around you. 

The mountains rise steeply on either side, with rocky cliffs and towering peaks dominating the landscape. This is a place of rugged beauty, where the majesty of nature is on full display. 

fir tree forest

The air is thin, and the wind bites at your cheeks, but the sense of adventure is palpable. Here, you are reminded of the incredible power of nature, and the importance of preserving it for future generations.

During your drive, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife including mule deer, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, and even elk. If you’re lucky, you might spot one of these animals grazing alongside the road or running through the woods.

The Great Basin National Park Scenic Drive is an amazing experience that everyone should have at least once in their lifetime. So put on your hiking boots, fill up your tank, and hit the road for an unforgettable journey through some of Nevada’s most beautiful scenery.

The Last 3 Miles at 11000 feet Through Rocky Mountain alpine forest 

As you approach the final destination of your journey up the scenic Wheeler Peak drive, you will be rewarded with some of the most spectacular views in the entire Great Basin region. 

fir tree forest 1

The last 3 miles are an 11000 foot climb through a Rocky Mountain alpine forest. This section of the drive is not for the faint of heart, but those who make it to the top will be rewarded with stunning views of the surrounding area. 

You can expect to see a variety of flora and fauna along your journey, including coniferous trees such as Ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, lodgepole pine and juniper. 

You may also spot species like marmots, deer, elk and black bear.

black bear

As you climb higher up the mountain you may encounter snow on the ground and slopes, even in the summer months. Keep an eye out for mountain goats that call this region home as well!

The road will eventually flatten out as you reach the peak of Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive where you can soak in the stunning alpine views. Here you will find picnic areas and interpretive signs highlighting some of the area’s interesting geological points of interest. 

This is also a great spot for birders looking to catch a glimpse of high elevation species like golden eagles or falcons. So finish off your adventure with a beautiful view from atop one of Nevada’s highest peaks!

In 2 hours you have experienced deserts, rainforests and high altitude mountain forests. 

You have seen deserts, rainforests, and high-altitude mountain forests. You have encountered everything from birds, deer, and Bighorn Sheep to black bears and elk.

Rocky Mountain alpine forest

You have also caught awe-inspiring glimpses of the peaks of the South Snake Range, a reminder of the incredible beauty and power of the natural world. The Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive is a must-see for anyone who loves nature and adventure.

The South Snake Range

As you drive up the winding road, you’ll catch glimpses of these majestic peaks rising up in the distance. The peaks of the South Snake Range are rugged and imposing, with steep cliffs and jagged ridges. The sight of these peaks rising up against the clear blue sky is truly breathtaking.

snake range

As you continue along the road, the views of the South Snake Range become even more impressive. The road climbs higher and higher, and the peaks loom larger and larger. You’ll feel as though you’re being drawn closer and closer to the mountains, as they fill your vision and your senses.

The peaks of the South Snake Range are an incredible sight, and they serve as a reminder of the power and beauty of the natural world. They are a testament to the incredible forces that shaped this landscape, and to the resilience of the plants and animals that call it home. 

As you gaze upon the peaks of the South Snake Range, you’ll feel a sense of awe and wonder that is difficult to describe.

The Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive is an incredible journey through some of the most stunning landscapes in the Great Basin. From the never-ending Sagebrush oceans to the rocky cliffs of the Rocky Mountain alpine forest, you’ll experience the incredible diversity and beauty of this unique ecosystem. 

And the glimpses of the peaks of the South Snake Range will stay with you long after the drive is over, reminding you of the incredible power and beauty of the natural world.


Taking a road trip to the Great Basin’s Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive is an experience you will never forget. From breathtaking views of Wheeler Peak and its surrounding area, to the ever-changing landscape that runs alongside the route, there are plenty of opportunities for adventure along this scenic drive. 

With so much to see and do on your journey, it makes for an ideal way to spend some quality time with friends or family. Whether you choose to stay at one of the amazing lodges in nearby towns or explore off-road trails in order to reach new heights, you can create lasting memories that will last a lifetime!

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