Best national parks: Avoid the crowds

Get outdoors and skip the lines during the high season

Great Basin, NV
Photo by Macduff Everton; written by Peter Fish

Great Basin, NV

Annual attendance: 90,000

Why it’s awesome: California’s Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks have giant trees, but this park has ancient ones—like 4,000-year-old Great Basin bristlecone pines. And you can drive most of the way up 13,065-foot Wheeler Peak for extraterrestrial views of northeastern Nevada and Utah.

Trail to yourself: Lexington Arch Trail zigzags 3.4 miles to an amazing six-story limestone arch.

OMG moment: The bristlecone pines, especially when they glow in the morning sun on their namesake trail.

Where to pitch a tent: At 10,000 feet, you’ll feel the altitude, but the vistas at Wheeler Peak Campground ($12) are worth a minor headache.

Where to book a room: The options are slim in the gateway town of Baker. Whispering Elms Motel (from $57; greatbasinmotel.com) is adequate. Rustic Hidden Canyon Ranch B&B (from $139; 775/234-7172) lies on 380 acres outside the park.

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