Fall Foliage Challenge Finale

Fall colors in Great Basin National Park, Nevada

On Friday we asked our readers to identify which U.S. State sports these awesome fall colors. Had we not taken the photograph ourselves we’d have had a hard time choosing among Colorado, Wyoming and Idaho. All three are solid candidates with rugged mountain vistas like the one hinted at in the photo. Perhaps more telling is the dominance of brilliantly golden Aspen leaves that distinguish fall in the Rocky Mountain region from the more varied colors of New England. It’s no wonder our readers overwhelming selected Colorado (44%) as our Fall Foliage spot.

But as much as this looks like a Rocky Mountain scene, it isn’t. The surprising location for this photograph is Nevada; or more specifically, Great Basin National Park about 290 miles north of Las Vegas.

Great Basin National Park, Nevada, Landscape, Fall Colors

While hiking through a forest of 4,000 year-old bristlecone pines toward the 13,063 foot alpine summit of Wheeler Peak, we had to keep reminding ourselves we were actually in Nevada. This area, while arid – getting only about 10 inches of precipitation per year, mostly in the form of snow – looks nothing like the flat and dusty landscape we normally associate with Nevada. In fact, the experience made us discard all of our preconceived notions about the state; something that happens more frequently the more we travel.

Congratulations, by the way, to the 2 people who correctly identified Nevada as the site of this photograph.

Disturbing park fact: Thriving in harsh environments inhospitable to other faster growing plants, the often dwarf-sized bristlecone pine tree is the world’s longest living organism. The oldest known specimen currently lives in the White Mountains near Bishop, California and is estimated to be about 4,600 years old. California retains the title as host to this world’s oldest living organism only because a 4,900+ year-old bristlecone living in Great Basin’s Wheeler Peak grove was cut down by a graduate student in 1964 for research purposes.

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6 Comments on “Fall Foliage Challenge Finale”

  1. anorwen October 22, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

    I just visited Great Basin National Park this September, and I agree the fall colors are as amazing as they are surprising. Nevada is not one of the states where you expect to see this, yet there it is! :)

  2. cindy knoke October 22, 2012 at 8:23 pm #

    Gorgeous photos. How about Boulder Mountain Utah? Best I have seen!

  3. Ingrid October 23, 2012 at 10:16 am #

    Wow, when we lived in Vegas I had always wanted to visit Great Basin, but there just never seemed to be enough time. Hope to finally get there in the next year or two. Definitely not the scenery you would expect to see in NV….great photo!

  4. P. C. Zick October 24, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

    Never would have picked Nevada! Now I know better.

  5. Arizona girl October 26, 2012 at 2:54 am #

    Who knew? We’ve never made it out to Great Basin NP, but it looks like we need to add it to our short list for when we’re back in the US. I love the idea of it creating a different picture of Nevada in the mind’s eye!

    • Brian October 26, 2012 at 9:46 am #

      We found that most of Northern Nevada didn’t look like the Nevada we had expected. But then it dawned on us that nature didn’t draw state lines so it’s not surprising that Southern Idaho / Oregon bleeds into Northern Nevada.

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