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5 Great Adventures You Can Still Pull Off in 2019

5 Great Adventures You Can Still Pull Off in 2019

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 this year? 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 for backpacking, 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 glad you did.

I’d love to read what you think of this list of trips; leave a comment at the bottom of this story.

A backpacker on the Timberline Trail around Mount Hood, Oregon.
Jeff Wilhelm backpacking the Timberline Trail around Oregon’s Mount Hood.

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, fields of wildflowers in mid-summer, waterfalls in abundance, and blow-you-away views of Hood around every bend. The Timberline Trail typically sheds most of its snow cover by late July or early August—when wildflowers are in riot—and its season can last well into September and sometimes into October.

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

Mount Hood’s Timberline Trail is one of “America’s Top 10 Best Backpacking Trips.”

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

Explore the High Sierra in 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, creator of The Big Outside, which has made several top outdoors blog lists. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip. Please follow my adventures on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube.


 

A backpacker in Titcomb Basin, Wind River Range, Wyoming.
Mark Fenton backpacking in Titcomb Basin in the Wind River Range.

See the Best of the Wind River Range

Besides the High Sierra, there may be no mountain range in the country with as many lovely alpine lakes and tarns as Wyoming’s Wind River Range—you will lose count of the lakes you hike past. But unlike much of the High Sierra, in the Winds, you just may see fewer people than lakes, and backcountry permits are not an issue. On a roughly 41-mile loop from Elkhart Park, two friends and I spent a night in Titcomb Basin, an alpine valley at over 10,000 feet below a granite wall of 13,000-foot peaks. Our route crossed three 12,000-foot passes, one via an adventurous, off-trail route over 12,240-foot Knapsack Col that led into a mystical hanging valley. Start exploring the Winds and you may never want to stop.

See my stories “Best of the Wind River Range: Backpacking to Titcomb Basin” and “A Walk in the Winds: A One-Day, 27-Mile Traverse of Wyoming’s Wind River Range,” and all of my stories about the Winds at The Big Outside.

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A backpacker at a waterfall on The Patio, Deer Creek Trail, Grand Canyon.
Jeff Wilhelm on the Deer Creek Trail in the Grand Canyon.

Hike Into the Grand Canyon

I’ve hiked into the Big Ditch enough times—including recently spending four days on the Thunder River-Deer Creek Loop off the North Rim (which you will read about at The Big Outside soon)—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.

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See my story “Backpacking the Grand Canyon’ Thunder River-Deer Creek Loop,” and all of my numerous stories about the Grand Canyon, including my stories about dayhiking rim to rim, 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.

And watch for my upcoming feature story about my most recent backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon, a 74-mile hike from the South Kaibab Trail to the Tanner Trail.

Plan your next great backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon or other parks using my expert e-guides.

 

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. 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.

See my feature story “In the Garden of Eden: Backpacking the Great Smoky Mountains,” 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. See also all of my stories about the Great Smokies at The Big Outside.

Tell me what you think.

I spent a lot of time writing this story, so if you enjoyed it, please consider giving it a share using one of the buttons at right, and leave a comment or question at the bottom of this story. I’d really appreciate it.

 

See all of my stories about national park trips and family adventures at The Big Outside.

 

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About The Author

Michael Lanza

A former field editor and primary gear reviewer for Backpacker Magazine, Michael Lanza created The Big Outside to share stories and images from his many backpacking, hiking, and other outdoor adventures, as well as expert tips and gear reviews to help readers plan and pull off their own great adventures.

13 Comments

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  1. Avatar

    What about the bears?

    Reply
    • MichaelALanza

      Do you have a specific question about bears, Eric?

      Reply
  2. Avatar

    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! 🙂

    Reply
    • MichaelALanza

      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!

      Reply
  3. Avatar

    This is superb! I already have a plan for my family adventures next year but this gives me more ideas.

    Reply
  4. Avatar

    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.

    Reply
    • Michael Lanza

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

      Reply
  5. Avatar

    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.

    Reply
    • MichaelALanza

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

      Reply
      • Avatar

        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.

        Reply
        • michaellanza

          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.

          Reply
  6. Avatar

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

    Philip Kollas

    Reply

Welcome to the Big Outside

photo of Michael Lanza

Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside and former Northwest Editor at Backpacker magazine. Click my photo to learn more about me and my blog. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside now to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. And click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

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