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Great Basin National Park: Lexington Arch remote, but worthwhile

Posted by Peter Jaret on July 01, 2011
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  • Lexington Arch underneath in Great Basin National Park Nevada picture
    Photo credit
    Photo: Peter Jaret
    Photo caption
    From under the arch, the view takes in a sweep of a scenic landscape.
  • Lexington Arch in Great Basin National Park Nevada picture
    Photo credit
    Photo: Peter Jaret
    Photo caption
    Lexington Arch is worth the long remote drive.

Road Journals Blog—Traveling to Great Basin National Park, on the remote eastern border of Nevada, is daunting enough. It’s hundreds of miles from San Francisco, Salt Lake City, and Las Vegas.

Exploring one of its most impressive features, Lexington Arch, is even more challenging.

To reach the arch—one of the few such natural formations formed of limestone in the U.S.—you have to leave the park, cross into Utah, travel some 10 miles south, then cross back into Nevada where you pick up a dirt road that traverses the desert for 14 miles, ending at a 1.7 mile trail that leads up to the arch.

A high-clearance vehicle is a must, according to the park service map I consulted. The good news: I was driving a Honda CRV with four-wheel drive. The discomfiting news: the car was 12 years old and had 115,000 miles on it. There was also the consideration that heavy rains had swept through the area over the previous few days; the rangers at park headquarters couldn’t vouch for the condition of the dirt road.

I was traveling with my husband Steve and our 13-year-old dog, who had almost as many miles on her as the car. If anything were to happen we could forget cell phone service—we hadn’t had a signal since we entered the park.

Should we take the chance?

We didn’t give it a second thought—until we had to cross a muddy seasonal creek flowing across the dirt road. The farther we traveled, the narrower and more rugged the road became. In places, we barely squeezed through thick underbrush; if the road became impassable we’d have had to back out. Luckily, we didn’t pass a single car.

By the time we reached the trailhead even the old dog was raring to hit the trail, which climbed steadily up through pinyon pines and juniper into Lexington Canyon. There wasn’t a soul around. Hawks floated on the air.

Looking back, we could see the road we’d come on, and beyond it the Snake range.

A mile on, we had our first view of the spectacular arch, six stories high, nestled into the narrow opening of the canyon. It was awesome. From an overlook on the edge of the canyon wall we continued hiking down to the riverbed and then back up, very steeply, to the arch’s base. It would be a perfect place for a picnic lunch were the weather better, but with a storm front moving in we paused only long enough to take a few photographs and then retraced our steps.

If Lexington Arch were easier to reach, it would be mobbed with tourists. It’s that spectacular. The long drive there seemed a very small price to pay for having it all to ourselves.

This blog post was first published in July 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.