Category Archives: National Park Adventures

Stories and images from my many hiking, backpacking, kayaking, canoeing, skiing, and family adventures in national parks in the U.S. and around the world.

November 26, 2015 Lower Yellowstone Falls and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, Yellowstone National Park.

Giving Thanks For ‘The Best Idea We Ever Had’

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By Michael Lanza

From Lookout Point, along the North Rim Trail in Yellowstone National Park, you gaze down hundreds of feet into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, with its crumbling walls of golden, gray, and cream-colored rock and patches of evergreens framing the roaring river. Just upstream, 308-foot-tall Lower Yellowstone Falls explodes through a notch in the cliffs, sending a plume of water and mist shooting into the canyon. Every time I see it, as I did again earlier this fall, I feel the same sense of awe that I felt the first time I saw this view.

Big more than that, I think about the foresight behind the creation of America’s national parks—what the writer Wallace Stegner called “the best idea we ever had”—including the first one, Yellowstone. That’s one of the many things I’m thankful for on this Thanksgiving day. Continue reading →

November 23, 2015 Royal Arch Loop, Grand Canyon.

Photo Gallery: Backpacking in the Grand Canyon

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By Michael Lanza

A twisting gorge 277 miles long and averaging about 10 miles wide and a mile deep. A national park spanning more than 1.2 million acres. More than 100 named rapids on the Colorado River. The Vishnu Schist comprising the canyon’s inner gorge is some of the oldest exposed rock on Earth, some two billion years old, or about half the age of the planet. Statistics, however impressive, barely begin to describe the experience of hiking down into the canyon. But pictures help, as I think you’ll see in this gallery of photos. Continue reading →

November 19, 2015 At Trail Crest on the John Muir Trail, Mount Whitney, Sequoia National Park.

Video: Thru-Hiking the John Muir Trail

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By Michael Lanza

It’s a little challenging to feel inspired about the idea of hiking or backpacking when days are short and cold and warmer weather is months away. But the cure for that level of lethargy, I find, is to dream big. Contemplate the grandest adventure you can imagine taking, and you may come to realize that the dark weeks before and after the winter solstice are actually a good time to start planning a huge trip.

How about thru-hiking “America’s most beautiful trail” the John Muir Trail? Take your first step on that adventure right now by watching this video of images from my thru-hike of the JMT. Because dreaming about it is half the fun. Continue reading →

November 15, 2015 The Narrows, Zion National Park, Utah.

10 Tips For Getting a Hard-to-Get National Park Backcountry Permit

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By Michael Lanza

The first time I backpacked in Yosemite National Park, more than 20 years ago, I applied months in advance for a permit to start at the park’s most popular trailhead, Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley—and I got it. I had no idea at the time how lucky I was. I’ve since been shot down trying to get permits for popular hikes in parks like Yosemite, Grand Canyon, and Glacier. But I’ve also learned a few tricks for landing coveted backcountry permits in those flagship parks—which all receive far more requests for permit reservations than they can accommodate. Continue reading →

November 12, 2015

Climb Mount Whitney With Me and Help Kids Get Outdoors

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By Michael Lanza

How would you like to join me on a guided, technical climb of the highest peak in the Lower 48, Mount Whitney in California’s High Sierra? I’m happy to report that I’ve partly filled my climbing team—which includes my 15-year-old son, Nate, and me—for a four-day ascent of the Mountaineers Route on Mount Whitney, April 15-18, 2016. We’re doing it to raise money for Big City Mountaineers, an outstanding organization that introduces urban kids to the outdoors through backpacking and other adventure-based programs.

But I still have slots left on my climbing team. This is your chance to join me on a guided climb of California’s Mount Whitney. Read on.

Continue reading →

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