The Alpine Lakes Loop at Great Basin National Park is a beautiful trail that takes hikers to two high-mountain lakes. Hiking this short loop is a great way to experience the higher life zones on mountains in the Great Basin Desert.
Finding the trailhead
The Alpine Lakes Loop begins at the same trailhead as the Bristlecone Pine, Glacier, and Sky Island Forest trails at Great Basin. This trailhead is at the end of Wheeler Peak Road, just before you enter the Wheeler Peak Campground.
Trailhead to Stella Lake
You begin your hike by following the same path for all the trails at this trailhead. After 0.1 miles, you come to an intersection where you can either go to the right or straight. It doesn’t matter which way you go. Because it’s a loop, you are going to end up back at this point anyway. I chose to hike it counterclockwise, making the turn to the right.
The Alpine Lakes Loop takes meanders its way up through pine and aspen trees that are typical of the mountain life zone. It has several long switchbacks that make the short climb up the mountain easier.
After about 0.4 miles you begin to get views of Wheeler Peak towering above. You also get peaks into the alpine life zone as the forest thins with meadows and rock glaciers. Around mile 0.7, you come to a beautiful mountain meadow with an amazing view of Wheeler Peak. This is one of my favorite views in the whole park. And I would love to go back when the aspens are in their golden glory.
The Alpine Lakes Loop intersects with the Summit Trail, which takes you to the top of Great Basin National Park. The Summit Trail follows along the Alpine Lake Loop for a short way before splitting to the right around mile 1. Here you want to continue straight.
Stella Lake to Teresa Lake
You come to Stella Lake around mile 1.05 and there is a bench for you to sit and take in the view. Wheeler Peaks looms high above the lake, and it is such a beautiful view. You can also walk around the lake for more views and different angles.
After you finish exploring Stella Lake the trail makes it way through the forest for about a half mile under the base of Wheeler Peak.
Around mile 1.8 you come to Teresa Lake. When I visited the park it was early September and Teresa Lake seemed low to me. But it still was beautiful with Wheeler Peak standing tall behind it. Teresa Lake also has a bench for relaxing.
Teresa Lake to trailhead
The Alpine Lake Loop skirts around Teresa Lake providing you with even more beautiful views of Great Basin National Park. It then continues to head downhill back to the trailhead. As you hike through the mountain forest, keep your eyes peeled for bristlecone pines. This is below their normal elevation, but I did see at least one.
Around mile 2.1, the Bristlecone Pine and Glacier Trail intersect, branching off to the left. Here you want to go straight to complete the loop. The trail makes its way through the forest of pine and aspens. Around mile 2.65, you come back to the first intersection. And here, you retrace your steps back to the trailhead.
Alpine Lakes Loop Great Basin
Hiking the Alpine Lakes Loop at Great Basin National Park is a great way to explore the mountain life zone. The two small lakes fill with snow melt and occasional summer storms in depressions carved out by glaciers long ago. Because the lakes are shallow and freeze nearly to the bottom in winter, there are no fish.
- 2.7 mile loop
- Elevation gain and loss 475 feet
- Dogs not allowed
- Backcountry camping not allowed