Great Basin National Park is probably the coolest national park you haven’t heard of. Situated in the remote and barren West Desert, this park is off the radar for the vast majority of outdoor enthusiasts. It’s a shame, really, because Great Basin has some of the biggest mountains in the Mountain West, with peaks rising well over 6,000 feet above the valley floor. Peaks this large coming out of the desert create a wide range of climate zones and scenery. From sagebrush to above treeline, Great Basin is a park for mountain enthusiasts of all types.
Wheeler Peak, which is the second highest peak in Nevada, is the great attraction of the park. Don’t be fooled, however, because most of the other peaks in the range are similar in appearance and scale. Baker Peak, which is connected to Wheeler by a long ridge, is just as stunning and rugged, and it sees vastly fewer people. The hike up to Baker Peak is longer, more interesting, and more remote than its counterpart up Wheeler. If you are an adventurous, fit hiker, then this is a great day hike.
The hike begins at the Baker Lake Trailhead, which is a very well graded trail that takes you to Baker Lake. Baker Lake sits below a very impressive cirque that is tall, rugged, and typical of this part of Great Basin. From the lake, the hike gets much more difficult. It will take 2 miles of off-trail scrambling and rock hopping to reach the peak. Do not be fooled by the summit on the hiker's right while climbing up the talus; Baker Peak is actually out of sight tucked back to the left (west).
Simply climb up, tag the summit, and retrace your steps. The cirque below Baker Peak facing north is massive, rugged, and rarely seen up close. The view from the summit makes this long hike worth every step.
Do not plan on having cell phone service on this hike, and do not expect to see people, especially once off the trail. It is important to be self-sufficient and, as always, carry a map and be knowledgeable of your surroundings.