View from Appalachian Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Fall Hiking in North Carolina’s Mountains

A paradise of waterfalls, lush forests, and big views in the Great Smoky Mountains and others peaks awaits in one of America’s hiking meccas.

Fall Hiking in North Carolina’s Mountains
Above Crack-in-the-Wall, Coyote Gulch, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah.

Hiking Southern Utah’s Escalante

Slot canyons, a 126-foot waterfall above a swimming hole, and a gorgeous, 3-day backpacking trip. See these photos from Utah’s Escalante.

Hiking Southern Utah’s Escalante
Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park.

Hiking Yellowstone in Autumn

The best time of year for hiking in Yellowstone? Right now. See why in this photo gallery from the world’s first national park.

Hiking Yellowstone in Autumn

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Gear Review: LifeStraw Go Water Bottle With 2-Stage Filtration

October 20, 2016  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
LifeStraw Go Water Bottle With 2-Stage Filtration.

LifeStraw Go bottle with 2-stage filtration, Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Water Filter Bottle
LifeStraw Go Water Bottle With 2-Stage Filtration
$50, 8 oz.
22 ounces/650ml bottle capacity

On an 80-mile, five-day backpacking trip in the North Cascades National Park Complex in September, I stopped filling my pack’s bladder by the second day. I didn’t need it—I could just top off my LifeStraw Go bottle every time we passed one of the frequent creeks along our route, and continue hiking with hardly a pause. Rare is the piece of gear whose convenience and utility actually change the way I behave, but the LifeStraw Go does exactly that. Continue reading →

Gear Review: Marmot Ion 20 Sleeping Bag

October 19, 2016  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment
Marmot Ion 20 sleeping bag.

Marmot Ion 20 sleeping bag.

Sleeping Bag
Marmot Ion 20
$419, 1 lb. 13 oz. (regular)
Sizes: regular and long ($439)

Heading into Washington’s North Cascades National Park for an 80-mile backpacking trip in the last week of September, I didn’t want to take a chance on gear and clothing that might not stand up to cold, wet weather, maybe even sub-freezing nights and snow in that notoriously soggy mountain range. The hybrid-insulation Ion 20 fit the specs for that mission, thanks to its blend of high-quality down feathers and synthetic insulation and super warmth for such a lightweight bag. Continue reading →

Review: 6 Super Versatile Layering Pieces

October 18, 2016  |  In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   1 Comment


Outdoor Research Deviator Hoody

Outdoor Research Deviator Hoody

By Michael Lanza

Whether climbing peaks, taking an ultra-dayhike or trail run, Nordic or backcountry skiing, or backpacking, the more time I spend in the backcountry, the more I value and wear lightweight jackets and vests that pull double duty as middle and outer layers. Unlike with heavier, warmer, and less-breathable jackets, you can often wear this type of garment while on the move—while your body is producing heat, but you still need some warmth. That makes you more comfortable and, ultimately, safer in widely ranging mountain weather. Plus, you get more bang for your buck from versatile layers like these because you use them more.

Here are six of the very best. Continue reading →

October 17, 2016 View from the Appalachian Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Photo Gallery: Fall Hiking and Backpacking in the North Carolina Mountains

In Backpacking, Hiking, National Park Adventures   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   4 Comments

By Michael Lanza

In a light mist drizzling from the fog embracing the mountains along the Blue Ridge Parkway in western North Carolina, I followed a well-worn trail downhill through a mixed deciduous forest just beginning to show its fall colors. A mile and a half down that path, I stood on rocks in the stream below Crabtree Falls, which plunges a nearly vertical 70 feet over numerous, shallow ledges. The photogenic waterfall seemed an auspicious start to a week of exploring one of America’s hiking meccas, the mountains of western North Carolina.

My trip culminated in backpacking a 34.3-mile loop in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (the lead photo, above, was taken along the Appalachian Trail in the park). In between, I dayhiked the rigorous, 12-mile Black Mountain Crest Trail, over 13 named 6,000-footers, to the summit of the highest peak east of the Mississippi River, 6,684-foot Mount Mitchell; hiked to numerous beautiful waterfalls from the Blue Ridge Parkway to Gorges State Park and the tallest in the East, 811-foot Whitewater Falls; explored mystical corners of the Southern Appalachians like Moore Cove; and hiked to glorious views of the Pisgah National Forest’s lush mountains at Looking Glass Rock and 6,214-foot Black Balsam Knob on the Art Loeb Trail. Continue reading →

October 16, 2016 Our rafting and kayaking party in Lodore Canyon, Dinosaur National Monument.

3-Minute Read: Rafting Through Dinosaur National Monument

In Family Adventures, National Park Adventures, Paddling   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,   |   Leave a comment

By Michael Lanza

Our flotilla of five rafts and two kayaks drifted lazily toward what looked like a geological impossibility: a gigantic cleft a thousand feet deep where the river appeared to have chopped a path right through the Uinta Mountains of northeastern Utah. Cracked cliffs of burgundy-brown rock framed the gap. Called the Gates of Lodore, its’ a canyon as famous today for its scenery and whitewater as it was once infamous for the crises that befell its first party of explorers, led by a one-armed Civil War veteran, who set out in wooden boats a century and a half ago to map the West’s greatest river system.

Continue reading →

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