5 Great Adventures You Can Still Pull Off in 2017

May 15, 2017  |  In Backpacking, Family Adventures, Hiking, National Park Adventures   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   14 Comments
Ramona Falls, along the Timberline Trail around Oregon's Mount Hood.

Ramona Falls, along the Timberline Trail around Oregon’s Mount Hood.

By Michael Lanza

So you didn’t plan far enough in advance to reserve a permit for backpacking this summer in Yosemite, Grand Teton, Glacier, or another popular national park, eh? So, now what? Where will you take a big outdoor adventure in 2017? Here are five backpacking trips that even slackers still have time to plan and execute this year. Three of them are in top-tier national parks, and the other two are multi-day hikes with national park-caliber mountain scenery.

But don’t sit on your hands any longer. Read through this list now and start the gears turning to make one of these trips happen this year. You’ll be much happier if you do. You can leave a comment at the bottom of this story to share your thoughts about these suggestions (or offer others), and write to me later to thank me.


Wildflowers and a creek along the Timberline Trail, Mount Hood, Oregon.

Wildflowers and a creek along the Timberline Trail, Mount Hood, Oregon.

Circumambulate Mount Hood

If you’re looking to up the ante in terms of challenge while drinking a big glass of scenery just about every step of the way, backpack around Mount Hood. The 41-mile Timberline Trail around the 11,239-foot volcano presents serious creek crossings and one washed-out stretch of trail (that hasn’t been repaired for years and won’t be for the foreseeable future), as well as fields of wildflowers in mid-summer, waterfalls in abundance (including Ramona Falls, the lead photo at the top of this story), and blow-you-away views of Hood around every bend. Given this year’s big-snowfall winter, August will be the time to see wildflowers and avoid encountering too much snow on the trail.

See my story “Full of Surprises: Backpacking Mount Hood’s Timberline Trail.”


After the Timberline Trail, hike the other nine of “My Top 10 Favorite Backpacking Trips.”


Lisa and Mark Fenton on the Tonto Trail in the Grand Canyon.

Lisa and Mark Fenton on the Tonto Trail in the Grand Canyon.

Hike Into the Grand Canyon

I’ve hiked into the Big Ditch enough times to understand two fundamental backpacker truths about it: First, no other place compares to it, period—there’s only one Grand Canyon; and second, every trip there deserves five stars, each so scenic and special that it’s hard to imagine ever getting enough of this place. Of course, many other backpackers share that view, so competition for backcountry permits is stiff, especially for the popular Bright Angel and South and North Kaibab trails. Now is the time to plan a backpacking trip for October, a prime month for hiking in the Grand Canyon. Mark your calendar for June 1 to apply for a permit for October.

See my numerous stories about the Grand Canyon, including hiking across the canyon from the South Rim to the North Rim and back, a four-day, family backpacking trip from Grandview Point to the South Kaibab Trail, a three-day hike from the New Hance Trailhead to Grandview Point, and backpacking the remote and rugged Royal Arch Loop.


Get the right tent for you. See my “Gear Review: The 5 Best Backpacking Tents
and my “5 Tips For Buying a Backpacking Tent.”


My daughter, Alex, hiking the High Sierra Trail, Sequoia National Park.

My daughter, Alex, hiking the High Sierra Trail, Sequoia National Park.

Backpack Into the High Sierra of Sequoia National Park

With some of the highest mountains in the contiguous United States and scores of beautiful backcountry lakes—not to mention consistently sunny days in summer—California’s southern High Sierra unequivocally belongs on any list of top backpacking destinations in America. On a six-day, 40-mile loop hike from the Mineral King area of Sequoia National Park, my family hiked through a quiet, backcountry grove of giant Sequoias, and over 10,000-foot and 11,000-foot passes at the foot of 12,000-foot, granite peaks, and camped at two lakes that earned spots on my list of 25 favorite backcountry campsites. I still consider it one of the most photogenic places I’ve ever hiked. And while permit quotas for popular trailheads like the High Sierra Trail get booked months in advance, there are still many summer dates available for starting at Timber Gap.

See my story “Heavy Lifting: Backpacking Sequoia National Park,” about my family’s backpacking trip there and all of my stories about Sequoia National Park and California national parks at The Big Outside.


Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, the creator of The Big Outside, recognized as a top outdoors blog by USA Today and others. I invite you to get email updates about new stories and gear giveaways by entering your email address in the box in the left sidebar, at the bottom of this post, or on my About page, and follow my adventures on Facebook and Twitter.


View from the Appalachian Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

A view from the Appalachian Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Backpack in the Great Smokies

On a multi-day hike in the Great Smokies, you can drink heartily from the mug of the Southern Appalachian Mountains experience, going from bracing swims in low-elevation streams that tumble through one cascade after another, to classic views of an ocean of blue ridges. The Great Smokies have 1,600 species of flowering plants, including 100 native tree species, with over 300 species of native vascular plants considered rare. Watch for my upcoming feature story about my solo, 34-mile backpacking trip through Great Smoky Mountains National Park, hiking a loop on the North Carolina side that took me from lower elevations near Fontana Lake up to a stretch of the Appalachian Trail over 6,643-foot Clingmans Dome and the park’s highest bald, 5,920-foot Andrews Bald. Meanwhile, see my existing stories about the Great Smokies at The Big Outside.

Good news for procrastinators: GSMNP only accepts permit reservations up to 30 days in advance of the first night of your trip. Put one on your calendar for early summer, when streams and waterfalls are full, or in mid-autumn, when fall foliage reaches peak color. Find more info at nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/backcountry-camping.htm.


The Big Outside is proud to partner with sponsors Backcountry.com and Visit North Carolina, who support the stories you read at this blog. Find out more about them and how to sponsor my blog at my sponsors page at The Big Outside. Click on the backcountry.com ad below for the best prices on great gear.



My daughter, Alex, at Hell Roaring Lake, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho.

My daughter, Alex, at Hell Roaring Lake, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho.

Backpack Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains

Since moving to Idaho almost 20 years ago, I’ve gotten to know the Sawtooths pretty well (although I have much more hiking and climbing to do there), and every time I explore a new corner of that range, I think it may be the most beautiful spot I’ve seen there yet. That’s the impact the Sawtooths have on you. My stories about Idaho’s Sawtooths consistently rank among the most popular reads at The Big Outside, so apparently a lot of readers concur with my opinion about them.

See all of my stories about Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, including my feature stories about a 57-mile hike in the southern Sawtooths and backpacking to three of the range’s most accessible and prettiest lakes, this photo gallery of some of the many gorgeous mountain lakes in the Sawtooths, and my Ask Me posts answering reader questions about where to backpack in the Sawtooths and the best dayhikes and backpacking trips there.


No time for a big trip this year? Really? You need to read my “10 Tips For Getting Outside More.”


This blog and website is my full-time job and I rely on the support of readers. If you like what you see here, please help me continue producing The Big Outside by making a donation using the Support button at the top of the left sidebar or below. Thank you for your support.


You’ll also find ideas and inspiration at my All Trips page and my Ask Me page, and in these stories:

New Year Inspiration: My Top 10 Adventure Trips
My Top 10 Family Adventures
10 Tips For Getting a Hard-to-Get National Park Backcountry Permit
Tent Flap With a View: 25 Favorite Backcountry Campsites


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14 Responses to 5 Great Adventures You Can Still Pull Off in 2017

  1. Eric   |  July 6, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    What about the bears?

    • MichaelALanza   |  July 6, 2017 at 1:23 pm

      Do you have a specific question about bears, Eric?

  2. Lynn   |  November 30, 2016 at 7:18 am

    Definitely looking forward to taking my kids to Zion, Arches, or Bryce (or two of the three, still working out options) this spring break. Thanks for making the research so easy! 🙂

    • MichaelALanza   |  November 30, 2016 at 7:33 am

      Good for you, Lynn. Zion and Bryce are, of course, closer to each other than to Arches. Although that doesn’t prevent combining, say, Zion and Arches in the same week, to reduce driving time, I have tended to pair Arches and Canyonlands together, and Zion and Bryce together. See a menu of my stories about those parks, as well as Capitol Reef and other public lands in southern Utah, by scrolling down to Utah at https://thebigoutside.com/all-trips-by-state/. Good luck!

  3. Dustin   |  November 28, 2016 at 5:45 am

    This is superb! I already have a plan for my family adventures next year but this gives me more idea. Anyway, where did you take the first photo? It looks absolutely beautiful. Kind of unreal, I’d say.

  4. Sassy   |  May 16, 2016 at 9:52 am

    Visiting Arches, Canyonlands, and the other three National Parks in Utah, in 2 weeks! This post got me feeling much more excited. Thanks for sharing! Hope to get to visit the other suggested places this year, too.

    • Michael Lanza   |  May 16, 2016 at 10:08 am

      Hey Sassy, have a great trip. Good time to be there.

  5. zgr322   |  November 11, 2015 at 11:56 am

    I’ve always thought your Idaho trips, Sawtooth + others, consistently rank amongst your most popular stories because they’re not national parks. There’s so much information out there about trips to national parks that it gets repetitive. I enjoy reading about national forest trips because they appeal to me because of the lack of crowds, and there’s less information. I’ve been to Idaho twice in the past few years, which is a small feat considering I’m in NC, and I loved the Sawtooths and the Pioneers. Your hikes to Eagle Cap and Glacier Peak have put those at the top of my to-do list. Personally I’d love more posts on off the beaten path national forests in the NW.

    • MichaelALanza   |  November 11, 2015 at 1:06 pm

      Thanks, that’s great feedback and gives me more ideas. Much appreciated.

      • zgr322   |  November 11, 2015 at 2:12 pm

        No problem this is one of my favorite outdoor sites. I went backpacking in the Pioneers up Broad Canyon in September for my friends mini-bachelor party, very awesome and I was surprised how remote it was and yet the trail system was excellent. There are so many interesting spots in Idaho, it amazes me.

        • michaellanza   |  November 11, 2015 at 3:09 pm

          You’re reminding me that I’m overdue to get back to the Pioneers again. Lots of potential in there, and big, remote peaks with gorgeous valleys. Idaho has huge potential for exploring. Thanks again for writing.

  6. Philip Kollas   |  November 2, 2015 at 11:57 am

    Great idea for an article, Michael, and good suggestions. Thanks much for doing this!

    Philip Kollas

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