WE WENT in early September and had no problem with crowds, parking, or finding food. This park has low visitation numbers already and September is edging into the off-season. Just be prepared for it to be much colder in both the caves and at most of the trailheads because of the high elevation! I wore leggings and put my sweater off and on (I run hot) during these hikes. 

WE STAYED at the Border Inn Casino. What's great about GBNP is that it has a well-established town (Baker) just minutes from the park entrance. At most, you'll have to drive 45 mins from Baker to get to the trailheads like Wheeler Peak. There are a handful of restaurants (We tried Sugar, Salt, & Malt and Sandra's Mexican food truck and loved both!) and motels to stay at. We use travel points for these trips and the Border Inn was perfect for what we needed -- there's also a UT sign right at the lot that I'd always wanted a picture with! 

LEHMAN CAVES: An absolute must! We booked the Grand Palace 90 min tour exactly one month in advance, which was the soonest we could, for $15/person. There might be still be tickets day of but very worth booking advance. We put this at the very beginning of our day so that we wouldn't have to plan hikes around it. The caves are located just behind the VC and tours are the only way to get inside. They are strict on timing so make sure you're there early (we nearly missed ours to run back for a sweater) and dress warm because it's cold in these caves. Then we ate lunch at the diner inside the visitor's center which wasn't too bad for some chicken tenders!

HIKING: Then we headed up into the alpine mountain to loop these three hikes together, around 6 miles total. The lake loop is the main trail, with a detour to go up to the pine grove and glacier, which is an out-and-back trail. 

  • Bristlecone Pine Grove
  • Rock Glacier: The snow up here never melts! 
  • Alpine Lake Loop

BRISTLECONE PINE GROVE: You'll start seeing these trees the higher you get but this grove (which will be your first stop if you do the trail clockwise) is the perfect introduction to them. Bristlecone Pines are iconic to GBNP because they grow at high elevation and wind & weather forms their twisty shapes. The one pictured above is 3000+ years old. This short walk-through of the grove has lots of signage and information identifying the ages and background of these trees. 

ROCK GLACIER: The glacier itself isn't the craziest thing to see but this was my favorite part of the trail we hiked the entire day. You're in a valley under the cliffs, Wheeler Peak right above you, and the trail is winding through forest, snow, and wildflowers all at the same time. Very worth the extra mile or two to see this. 

The snow up here never melts!

ALPINE LAKE LOOP: The hiking gets easier from here on out with very low elev gain! So take it easy and enjoy Lake Theresa & Lake Stella. 

Lake Theresa

Lake Stella

The only wildlife we saw was deer but...I love deer

STAR GAZING: GBNP is an international dark sky park so if you have time, come back in the evening for stargazing! We caught a 7:30 astronomy show (times vary-- check visitor's center). The ranger did a short presentation about women in astronomy before hand and then they cracked out some heavy-duty telescopes for everyone to use. The clouds weren't very forgiving but the rangers were very good at still finding planets/star clusters for us to look at. 


Wheeler Peak: The main thing we missed! We had plans to do it our second day but had to back out because this park/trail is at a high elevation. My husband was recovering from a cold and even driving up to the trailhead put his sinuses through it -- and we live in Utah! This hike is not only a high elevation gain (almost 3k feet) but it starts at high elevation (10k ft), so it's no typical hike. 

Wheeler Peak from the trails below

Back to blog