By Michael Lanza
How was your 2022? I hope you stayed healthy and got outdoors as much as possible with the people you care about—and you enjoyed adventures that inspired you. I’m sharing in this story photos from four major trips I took this year (besides the usual dayhiking, climbing, skiing, etc.): backpacking a five-day loop through a great area of the Wind River Range; six days exploring a couple of relatively obscure and much less-busy routes in the Grand Canyon; 130 miles over nine days through the High Sierra, including a premier section of the John Muir Trail; and spending nearly three weeks in Iceland with my family, trekking the Laugavegur and Fimmvörðuháls trails followed by driving Iceland’s Ring Road and taking dayhikes along it.
The photos in this story are favorite images from those trips. Whether you want to take any of them or just find some inspiration for your adventures, I think you’ll enjoy this little escape. As always, these experiences reminded me of what’s most important in my life.
Scroll through the photos and short anecdotes from each trip below. Some include links to stories about those places that I’ve already posted at The Big Outside—many of which require a paid subscription to The Big Outside to read in full, including my tips and information on how to plan and take those trips. Watch for my upcoming stories about other the places described below.
Click any photo to learn more about that trip.
And I can help you plan any of these trips or any other you read about at The Big Outside—giving you the benefit of my three decades of professional experience identifying, planning, and successfully pulling off great adventures. See my Custom Trip Planning page to learn how I can help you, and my downloadable e-guides to some of America’s best backpacking trips.
I’d love to hear what you think of any of my photos or the places shown in them, or upcoming plans you have. Please share your thoughts in the comments section at the bottom of this story. I try to respond to all comments.
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Backpacking in the Grand Canyon
In April, four friends and I saw two very different faces of the Grand Canyon on a six-day, nearly 42-mile backpacking trip. We began and finished the hike on its two busiest trails—the step-for-step beautiful South Kaibab and Bright Angel, which have never grown ordinary, in my experience—and passed through the park’s two busiest backcountry campgrounds. But we also explored one off-trail route and another good trail that see very few people, seeing no one on more than half of our hike. And on three of our five nights in the backcountry, we had camps to ourselves.
For starters, we traversed an off-trail route largely unknown to most backpackers. Not for the faint of heart, the Utah Flats Route ascends 1,500 vertical feet in the first mile up a canyon wall of cacti and loose scree, with some interesting scrambling up a gully choked with giant boulders. After crossing a rolling plateau below the towering Cheops Pyramid and Isis Temple, we tentatively followed a faint path down another steep canyon wall to a beautiful, perennial creek. On our layover day, we explored that side canyon and soaked in the creek.
The second half of our trip, out the Clear Creek Trail, will appeal to many more backpackers—and it can be hiked without including the Utah Flats Route. Starting out by turning off the North Kaibab Trail and climbing out of Bright Angel Canyon, it traces the base of cliffs with views from a thousand feet above the Colorado River, then crosses a plateau with vistas spanning from the river to the South Rim. From our camp for two nights beside Clear Creek, we explored up and down that canyon and cooled ourselves in its rushing waters. We spent our last night on the plateau, where the evening and morning light displayed its magic and the Milky Way lit up the night sky.
See my story about that trip, “Finding Solitude Backpacking the Grand Canyon’s Utah Flats and Clear Creek,” plus “7 Epic Grand Canyon Backpacking Trips You Must Do,” “How to Get a Permit to Backpack in the Grand Canyon,” and “The 10 Best Backpacking Trips in the Southwest.”
The right gear makes any trip go better.
See “The 10 Best Backpacking Packs”
and “The 10 Best Backpacking Tents.”
Trekking Iceland’s Laugavegur and Fimmvörðuháls Trails
I have enjoyed the considerable good fortune of hiking many of America’s and the world’s great trails over the past three-plus decades. But very few compare with the world-famous, roughly 54k/33-mile Laugavegur Trail and the 25k/15.5-mile Fimmvörðuháls Trail.
Trekking those two trails back-to-back, from hut to hut, over a week with my family, every day presented fresh, new, jaw-dropping vistas: highlands littered with steaming hot springs and fumaroles. River valleys and small, starkly barren peaks, some vividly green despite their lack of vegetation more than calf-high. A high plateau carpeted with snow and black lava rock. And a river with more thunderous waterfalls than I have ever seen in one day on one trail. It’s almost impossible for words to help anyone fully visualize the landscapes along these trails.
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We followed that with a week driving around of Iceland’s Ring Road and taking many of the best dayhikes and walks along it—and again, I cannot think of another scenic drive I have taken over the years that rivals the splendor of that mostly very remote highway. Those travels took us to Iceland’s second- and third-tallest waterfalls, the highest-volume waterfall in Europe; both the deepest and the longest fjords in Iceland and the longest river canyon; probably Iceland’s most famous glacial lagoon; a great dayhike to waterfalls and overlooks high above glaciers in Iceland’s largest national park; and in a more casual vein, a walk along a black-sand beach.
See “Trekking Iceland’s Laugavegur and Fimmvörðuháls Trails—A Photo Gallery” and “9 Great Hikes and Walks Along Iceland’s Ring Road” and watch for my upcoming feature story about trekking the Laugavegur and Fimmvörðuháls trails.
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Backpacking 130 Miles Through the High Sierra
In August, my longtime adventure partner David Ports, my 24-year-old nephew Marco Garofalo, and I took a nine-day hike of nearly 130 miles that rivaled the very best High Sierra backpacking trips I’ve ever taken—even including my thru-hike of the John Muir Trail. That’s in part because we hiked one of the best sections of the JMT, through the magnificent Evolution Basin, over Muir Pass, and into LeConte Canyon.
But this trip featured many more highlights than that piece of the JMT. Backpacking through corners of the Ansel Adams and John Muir Wildernesses and Kings Canyon National Park, we passed the lovely lakes at the feet of the row of jagged pinnacles and peaks called the Minarets, did a bit of off-trail hiking, hiked through Dusy Basin and over Bishop Pass—and enjoyed, on our very first night, at Thousand Island Lake, one of the best wilderness sunsets I’ve ever witnessed.
And as with any multi-day hike through the High Sierra, of course, we passed by one sublime alpine lake after another and had no shortage of roaring waterfalls and creeks.
Read my feature story about that trip, “High Sierra Ramble: 130 Miles On—and Off—the John Muir Trail,” and see “10 Great John Muir Trail Section Hikes,” “How to Get a Yosemite or High Sierra Wilderness Permit,” “Thru-Hiking the John Muir Trail: What You Need to Know,” and all stories about backpacking the John Muir Trail and backpacking in the High Sierra at The Big Outside.
Plan your next great backpacking trip in Yosemite, Grand Teton, and other parks using my expert e-guides.
Backpacking the Wind River Range
In the week right before Labor Day, my wife, Penny, our good friend Chip, and I backpacked a five-day, roughly 43-mile loop from the New Fork Trailhead, less than a 30-minute drive north of Pinedale in Wyoming’s Wind River Range. It marked the third straight summer I’ve returned to the Winds… and I’m ready to go back again.
Mostly hiking trails I had yet to walk in several trips in the Winds, we crossed terrain mostly above 10,000 feet amid classic Wind River Range scenery of alpine lakes set against a backdrop of the peaks on the Continental Divide, among them the Cutthroat Lakes and No Name Lakes, Elbow Lake on the Highline Trail, Peak Lake, and tiny Dale Lake, a gorgeous mountain pond nestled amid towering cliffs and peaks, below which a rugged trail led us through big talus in the upper canyon of the Green River.
We also crossed passes over 11,000 feet and enjoyed some great camps: Our second, a short walk from a tarn along the Highline Trail, overlooked a lake basin below towering Mount Oeneis and Sky Pilot Peak. From our third campsite near the shallow lake at Vista Pass, we watched the sunset slowly redden a row of rocky peaks defining our skyline.
As I’ve written before at this blog, the Winds can make you ask yourself: Why would I go anywhere else?
Watch for my upcoming feature story about this trip. Meanwhile, see all stories about backpacking the Wind River Range at The Big Outside.
As you plan your 2023 trips, see “America’s Top 10 Best Backpacking Trips,” “The 25 Best National Park Dayhikes,” my 25 all-time favorite backcountry campsites, and my Trips page at The Big Outside.
2 thoughts on “10 Photos From 2022 That Will Inspire Your Next Adventure”
My 3 horseback trips in theThe Wind River Range in the 1990’s were specular. We covered about 60 miles on each trip exploring different areas. Island Lake was my favorite. The elevation upto 12500 feet and crossing swift moving streams was a little risky. 4 wheeling a horse was a first for me.
Sounds like you saw some fabulous areas of the Winds. I’ve sometimes felt envious of horsepackers I see with all their gear weight on their horses, but I know there’s hard work involved in that, too. It’s just different from backpacking. Thanks for sharing that.