By Michael Lanza

Was 2014 a good year for you? After poring through thousands of photos I shot on more than a dozen trips this year, including return visits to iconic national parks like Yosemite and Zion, and a couple of adventures that have been on my to-do list for years—backpacking the Timberline Trail around Mount Hood and trekking in Italy’s Dolomite Mountains—I picked my 10 favorite images of the year. I’ll write about these trips in upcoming stories at The Big Outside. For now, let these pictures give you a little inspiration to make 2015 a great year outdoors.

 

Big Spring-Squaw Pass, Needles District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah.

Big Spring-Squaw Pass, Needles District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah.

Backpacking in The Needles District, Canyonlands National Park

My kids and a family friend cross the pass connecting Big Spring Canyon and Squaw Canyon on the first afternoon of a two-day hike in the backcountry of The Needles District at the end of March. Reaching the pass from the Big Spring side involves following a winding “trail” over steep slickrock and a short section of exciting, third-class scrambling.

 

Chesler Park Trail, Needles District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Chesler Park Trail, Needles District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah.

Dayhiking to Chesler Park, Needles District, Canyonlands

On that same spring-break family trip to Canyonlands, we dayhiked out to the best-known area of The Needles District, Chesler Park, a sprawling desert amphitheater ringed by hundreds of colorful towers known as hoodoos. I shot this photo as we neared the spot where the trail enters Chesler Park, with the sun behind a tall hoodoo.

 

 

 

Jeff Wilhelm reclines in Partition Arch, Arches National Park.

Jeff Wilhelm reclines in Partition Arch, Arches National Park.

Hiking in Arches National Park

The Devils Garden area of Arches harbors some of the park’s most famous formations, like Landscape Arch, but also has some pretty cool arches farther out that fewer hikers reach—like Partition Arch, which my friend Jeff reclined in on a blustery spring day when sunshine alternated with snow squalls.

 

City of Rocks National Reserve, Idaho.

City of Rocks National Reserve, Idaho.

City of Rocks National Reserve, Idaho

My son and daughter and four friends ham for the camera atop a rock formation at the City of Rocks, during an annual, June camping trip we take with a few other families, where we do some hiking and climbing in one of my favorite spots in Idaho—and the kids spend hours each day exploring and scrambling around this granite playground.

 

Alice Lake, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho.

Alice Lake, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho.

Alice Lake, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho

As the first part of our annual “boy trip,” my 13-year-old son, Nate, and I, joined by two friends, backpacked in late June to Alice Lake in the Sawtooths. We found a few feet of snow on the ground and the lake still largely frozen over—but open water near our campsite that became glassy-still in late afternoon. There’s nothing like a lake reflecting mountains. (See all of my stories about Idaho’s Sawtooths.)

 

On the Wildcat Ridge Trail above Carter Notch, White Mountains, N.H.

On the Wildcat Ridge Trail above Carter Notch, White Mountains, N.H.

Big Dayhike Through the White Mountains

In early July, my friend Mark Fenton and I, joined by his 16-year-old daughter, Skye, and my 18-year-old niece, Anna, and 16-year-old nephew, Marco, made a one-day traverse of Wildcat Mountain and the Carter-Moriah Range in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Covering 19.9 miles and 7,200 feet of vertical gain and loss, it’s a tougher day, I think, than the comparable Presidential Range “Death March.” Everyone completed it—exhausted, impressed, and proud. This photo was taken from Wildcat Mountain’s overlook of Carter Notch, just a few hours into the day.

 

Trekking the Alta Via 2 in Italy's Dolomite Mountains.

Trekking the Alta Via 2 in Italy’s Dolomite Mountains.

Trekking Hut to Hut Through Italy’s Dolomite Mountains

The Dolomites were one of the most photogenic places I’ve ever visited, as you’ll see when I post a story next year, with many more photos from our weeklong, family hut trek on the Alta Via 2 in mid-July. I shot this image of my wife, Penny, on an exposed section of the AV 2 north of Ball Pass, and this story’s lead photo (at top) also not far from Ball Pass. Both were on a stunning stretch of the trail through Parco Naturale Paneveggio Pale di San Martino.

 

Imogene Lake, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho.

Imogene Lake, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho.

Imogene Lake, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho

The Sawtooths gave me the gift of beautiful lake reflections this year. I shot this one, of my 11-year-old daughter, Alex, at Imogene Lake, on our annual “girl trip” in early August, when we backpacked to Hell Roaring Lake and dayhiked from there to Imogene—the latter one of the nicest spots to pitch a tent in the Sawtooths, in my humble opinion.

 

Timberline Trail on the east side of Mount Hood, Oregon.

Timberline Trail on the east side of Mount Hood, Oregon.

Timberline Trail, Mount Hood, Oregon

I expected the 41-mile Timberline Trail around Mount Hood to be nice—but it far exceeded my expectations. My friend Jeff Wilhelm and I made a quick trip over to Oregon in late August for a three-day hike on the trail that loops Hood, and we were blown away by the almost constant views of the mountain, beautiful forest, meadows bursting with wildflowers, and a few exciting river fords.

 

May Lake, Yosemite National Park, California.

May Lake, Yosemite National Park, California.

Northern Yosemite National Park

I thought I’d already seen the best of Yosemite on several previous trips, including thru-hiking the John Muir Trail, hiking Half Dome and to The Valley’s famous waterfalls, climbing Cathedral Peak, and three other backpacking trips. But I was wrong, as I discovered when my friend Todd Arndt and I took a four-day, 86-mile backpacking trip through the park’s remote northern sector, including a stop at May Lake on our last evening.

 

The Subway, Zion National Park, Utah.

The Subway, Zion National Park, Utah.

Hiking Zion’s Subway and Narrows

Okay, I lied: I picked 12 favorite photos from this year (including the lead photo at top of this story) because I couldn’t narrow my picks to 10. This one, from Zion National Park’s famous slot canyon known as The Subway, was taken on an early November trip, when my friend David Gordon and I hiked The Subway, backpacked The Narrows overnight, and capped off a whirlwind, three-day trip with a late-afternoon hike of Angels Landing (with few other people up there at that time of year). It was a fantastic close to a good year.

Below is a gallery of the above photos. Click on any image to view them in slide show mode.

Looking for trip ideas for 2015? You should check out my All Trips page at The Big Outside, and all of my stories about Family Adventures and in national parks.