About The Big Outside

Welcome to the number one resource for backpackers and hikers.

Welcome to the best resource for backpacking, hiking, and other outdoors adventures—The Big Outside.

Readers like you return to The Big Outside again and again for…

  • Expert reviews of the best backpacking, hiking, and other gear and apparel.
  • Compelling stories and images from America’s best backpacking, hiking, and other adventures with tips on planning those trips.
  • Expert skills tips to make your adventures more enjoyable and safer.
  • Three decades of experience, including 10 years as a field editor and lead gear reviewer for Backpacker magazine.

Here are the many ways you can get full value from The Big Outside:

  • Sign up now to my FREE email newsletter for updates about new stories AND receive a free e-guide download.
  • Visit my All Trips Page for a menu of stories at The Big Outside.
  • Join now for unlimited access to The Big Outside, including many stories about trips that feature expert tips on planning them yourself, and get a free e-guide (with a one-year subscription).
  • Download expert e-guides to America’s greatest multi-day treks.
  • Get personalized, comprehensive, custom trip planning for your next adventure.

what members are saying

I’m an avid outdoorsman and have read just about every adventure blog on the Internet. The Big Outside is the best blog out there. Michael is an excellent storyteller. He has accomplished many of the world’s greatest routes. Thanks for all you have done with this site, Michael. You and your family are truly inspirational.


Your blog has given me inspiration for so many of my family’s backpacking trips. Thanks for all you do—it certainly makes a difference in our lives, and it’s reassuring knowing that we have such a knowledgeable resource to turn to when we plan our trips into the backcountry with our kids.


The Big Outside is the BEST place for backpacking and hiking information! Everything from the trip reports, e-guides, and gear reviews are really top notch. I enjoy the site tremendously and am constantly expanding my bucket list after visiting this site.

Michael Lanza of The Big Outside backpacking the Teton Crest Trail on Death Canyon Shelf, Grand Teton National Park.
Me on the Teton Crest Trail, Death Canyon Shelf, Grand Teton National Park.

Hello, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside.

For three decades, I have worked as a professional backpacker and adventurer.

After 10 years as the Northwest Editor and primary gear reviewer at Backpacker magazine, I launched The Big Outside with a simple mission: to offer stories, images, and expert trip-planning advice on America’s and the world’s best outdoor adventures—including many that are ideal for families—and expert reviews of the best gear.

Most importantly, these stories are based on my on-the-ground, first-hand knowledge from having done all the trips myself.

For many years, I’ve made a living identifying, planning, and writing about great trips. I think you’ll find The Big Outside is uniquely authoritative for that reason.

While some stories and all gear reviews are free for anyone to view, a paid subscription gives you access to all stories at The Big Outside, including the many stories about trips I’ve taken. See my Custom Trip Planning page to learn how I can help you plan all the details of a trip and my downloadable e-guides to some of America’s very best backpacking trips.

I was able to create the life I dreamed about. The main reason I created The Big Outside was to help other people—no matter what their experience level, aspirations, or fears—to live their dreams, too.

I hope you enjoy my stories and pictures at The Big Outside and find them inspirational and helpful in planning your own adventures. Write to me at the email address below if I can answer any questions for you.

Thank you for reading my blog. Have fun and be safe out there.

Michael Lanza
[email protected]

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236 thoughts on “About/Contact”

  1. Michael has incredible knowledge of all the gear you could need for multi-day hiking, and is generous with his time and advice in helping me work out the best options for my trips. Given the importance of balancing weight, quality and practicality, I am hugely grateful for having Michael’s help.

  2. I really enjoy mountains and nature photography, and hiking was the way to combine those two 🙂 but I always felt like I needed more connection with nature, and I knew that only backpacking can bring you that serene feeling of being one with nature and mountains.

    So finally, after purchasing all the gear, 3 years ago, I started planning my first-ever backpacking trip to Glacier NP. I was searching internet for itineraries and stumbled upon your website, and I really liked your way of telling a story to a reader, through your beautiful photography and detailed description of the area you were backpacking in, so I purchased your itinerary for Glacier NP and found it very useful! Next year I also purchased your itinerary for Grand Teton NP, and again, I found it really helpful, it made my planning much easier, and I enjoyed all the campsites you mentioned and side hikes you advised.

    So I can’t recommend enough your guides to anyone who is planning an adventurous backpacking trip!

  3. OMG! I can’t believe I did not discover your website sooner!!! Your “New England hiking” book was my bible in the 90’s hiking in the White Mountains NH. I just happened to pull it out a few days ago and rediscovered what a great book it is!!!! My teen son just started hiking the whites with me and I wanted him to pick our next hike. I decided to Google the author and wow ….. I have missed out on so much great content over the years!!! To this day it’s still my favorite hiking guide for NH!

  4. We used Michael’s guide for a backpacking trip in the Sawtooths. His guidance and insight were incredibly helpful. We plan to use his trip guides in the future for more adventures and possibly trip planning. We appreciated the level of detail – it made the trip much easier! I also appreciate Michael’s product reviews and have followed his advice on a few items. Thanks for being a great resource!

  5. Planning my first Yosemite Backpacking trip in three weeks with three friends and your plan in your eguide has been amazing. When we have completed our trip my husband and adult son will be joining me Sunday mid morning and fly out Tuesday afternoon. I’m looking for what would be the best backpack hike I could do with them for those two nights–rangers said that they would be able to use my permits after my friends left. I was looking at the Yosemite Valley to Tuolumne Meadows hike but wanted to know if you have any suggestions at all–would love something with river, lakes, mountain views (and Yes, I’m sure I just described all of Yosemite 🙂 ). Thanks for any suggestions you can give!

    • Hi Wendy,

      Thanks for the comment and I’m glad you found one of my Yosemite e-guides amazing. Since you’re talking about backpacking in late July, your options for backpacking may depend in part on how much snow remains in the high country and will definitely depend on what you can get for a walk-in/first-come permit.

      You are correct that you described much of Yosemite but that said, there are many great options that vary in character and the difficulty of getting a permit. It’s hard to make specific recommendations without knowing more about what kind of backpacking trip you’re looking for, the length, etc., but it may be harder to get a permit for backpacking from Yosemite Valley to Tuolumne Meadows than for any other trip in the park.

      Check out my stories “The 8 Best Backpacking Trips in Yosemite” and “How to Get a Yosemite Wilderness Permit Now.” And if you go to a park wilderness center for a walk-in permit, ask a ranger for a recommendation based on available permits. Also, I’ve helped many readers get a last-minute Yosemite wilderness permit just weeks ahead of their trip. See my Custom Trip Planning page.

      Good luck and enjoy your Yosemite trip.

      • Thank you for your response! My permit is for happy isles half dome (no Donahoe pass) . My permit is for four people; the ranger told me I can swap out people as long as I’m the lead. My girlfriends and I plan on following the route provided in your eguide in four days. When we finish my husband and son will join , essentially taking over their permitted spots. That is where I am interested in what to do with them. My understanding with my permit is I am not allowed to backtrack so I will want a new route for them , starting Sunday ( this trip is in 3 weeks) and being done Tuesday.. Any advice you have I will take and huge thanks for your reply!

  6. I’m looking for a sun shirt for a different environment than what you are covering. I have an antique convertible car in Texas that really enjoy driving, but sometimes it can get to a bit over 100*. I plan on doing a fair amount of traveling in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, California, Oregon & Washington for the next 4 months. Do you have any suggestions?

    Peace, Pat

    • Yes, Pat, since you’re not engaging in a physical activity but will be regularly exposed to sustained, intense heat, I’d suggest getting one of the cooler sun shirts in my review, like the Mountain Hardwear Crater Lake Long-Sleeve Hoody, Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Hoody, or Outdoor Research ActiveIce Spectrum Sun Hoodie.

      Good luck.

  7. Michael. Let me offer two suggestions that I think would appeal to you.

    First, the South Rim Trail loop combined with Emory Peak in Big Bend National Park. Challenging 16-mile route in the Chisos Bason. The Chisos Mountains are the only mountain range in the U.S. fully contained within a National Park. Hike offers a picturesque 5-mile uphill route to Emory Peak with about 2,500 foot elevation. Final ascent to the peak requires rock/boulder scrambling to spectacular 360-degree views of Texas and Mexico landscapes. Continue on another 2.5 miles through Boot Canyon to South Rim which offers incredible views into Mexico. Loop down to the Chisos basin parking lot via Laguna Meadows trail. I have hiked rim to rim in the Grand Canyon and the vista at South Rim is different but comparable in scope to panoramic views of the canyon.

    The second suggestion is Marufo Vega trail. It is at the very eastern edge of Big Bend park along the Rio Grande/border and might be the most remote hike in the National Park system. A 13-mile lollipop loop with some stark desert terrain so not to be attempted in summer. There are steep descents and ascents into and back out of canyons and in between you traverse a 200-ft ridge along the Rio Grande. Great views of the Dead Horse mountains in Texas and Sierra del Carmen in Mexico. This hike could be the least-traveled hike in the National Park system, which really appeals to me. Tip: after a rigorous day of hiking, head to Starlight Theater in Terlingua for an agave margarita, an appetizer of fried Brussels sprouts and tequila-marinated quail as your entree. You’ll thank me later.

    • Hi Nico,

      I love it when readers suggest great hikes to me. Thanks for these suggestions, they sound really interesting. I’ve added them to my list of trips I want to take. Please keep in touch!

  8. Hi Michael,

    I just wanted to let you know how great I think your blog is. I am an avid backpacker and have worked for many years as a backpacking/adventure guide and photographer. I’m always trying to learn more about the best techniques and gear, and I have found your gear reviews and skill tips to be very helpful – it’s actually some of the best content in the hiking/backpacking niche that I have found on the internet. I appreciate the authenticity of your blog and how your articles are based on your extensive first-hand experience. Your blog definitely stands out from the sea of clickbait that I unfortunately end up reading too much of, and I wanted you to know that I have gotten a lot of value out of it.

    Thanks again and take care,


  9. I would like to backpack saw tooth loop trail and I am looking to hike others as I think doing alone is not safe .Can you help how I may go about finding other hikers that are like minded .thank you

  10. Hey Michael,

    Would love to see a post on your recommendations for best dog-friendly backpacking trips. Although all your recommendations are great, dogs aren’t allowed in National Parks unfortunately. Just a suggestion :).

    Take care,
    Mike A.

    • Hi Michael,

      Thanks for the suggestion and I know dogs are not permitted in national parks. But as you probably know, they are permitted in many national forests and other public lands. I don’t have a dog so I’m afraid I would not be a good authority to answer your question. Good luck.

  11. Hi Michael
    Thank you for your article on grand canyon hikes. We are hoping to get backcountry lottery for Oct/Nov 2023 trip and your posts included precisely the sort of information we needed.
    We are contemplating a S Kaib/N Kaib/Thunder/Deer/Bright Angel trip (7-9 night) in Oct/Nov, and I am however, not finding a decent map showing all (most) hiking trails. I have several NPS and GC Concservancy trail mas, but dont see Thunder River/Deer Creek.
    Do you have map/planning recommendation?

    • Hi Paul,

      I’m glad my blog is helping you with planning your Grand Canyon trip and thanks for subscribing to The Big Outside. When logged in, you can access the trip-planning tips at the bottom of my feature stories about trips, where there’s always a map recommendation. The Trails Illustrated Grand Canyon East map includes the Thunder River-Deer Creek Loop.

      I’m a little confused by your description of the route you’re planning because the Thunder River-Deer Creek Loop is nowhere near the North or South Kaibab or Bright Angel trails.

      I can also give you a personalized trip plan for that trip or any you read about at The Big Outside. See my Custom Trip Planning page to learn how.

      Good luck with your trip!

      • Thanks for the reply. We are contemplating South Kaibab – North Kaibab – shuttle/cab frpm N Rim to other trailhead – Thunder/Deer (and back up) – shuttle to NRim – North Kaibab – Bright Angel. Perhaps 5 to 8 nights.

        My question is specifically twofold – is it reasonable think that we can shutte or cab from N Rim to Bill Hall or Thunder River trailheads (and back couple days later), secondly, is there a single map showing all those trails (plus roads between N Rim and other N trailheads) that I can use for planning,(or finding other reasonable trail combos?


        • That’s a cool plan, especially in fall, when all those North Rim trailheads should be easily accessible with good road conditions. The TI Grand Canyon East map shows all of those trails but certainly not the roads to the Bill Hall or Thunder River Trailhead. And I don’t know of any cab or shuttle that would take you to the Bill Hall area. Kaibab Lodge also offers North Kaibab shuttles, you could try them. Or ask whether any employee there or at the Grand Canyon Lodge at the North Rim wants to make some extra cash dropping you off and picking you up. That may be a very hard ride to find. But I’d love to hear if you succeed. Good luck.

  12. Hi Michael,

    Hope you are well.
    Just touching base with you on what you thought of the glacier permit system this year? I had quite an odd experience, but managed to get the full northern loop permit in early August. I think it will be easier next year.

    One question I had….. I was considering doing the Rockwall or Wind River Range (Cirque Towers and Titcomb Basin) – any recommendations on these?
    Both would be amazing….. but your pick?


    • Hey Michael,

      Good to hear from you again. Congrats on your Glacier permit, that’s awesome. I got a permit for a sort of northern loop variation, exactly what I wanted, for mid-Sept., so I’m happy about that. I’ve heard from people who succeeded and others who failed and were frustrated.

      Rockwall vs. Wind River Range: both are amazing. Rockwall is more managed, with designated backcountry campgrounds that are busy, though backpackers spread out on the trail and it doesn’t feel busy.

      But personally, since the Winds don’t require a permit rez, I’d apply for the Rockwall and go if I got that because it’s hard to get, and the Winds are an awesome backup and a trip you can do anytime.

  13. Hi Michael — Just a note that I used your Glacier National Park e-guide this morning as I booked your recommended five-night/six-day hike from Logan Pass to Siyeh Bend this August. I followed your itinerary exactly, with the stop in Glenns Lake Head instead of Stoney Indian Pass on day three. Your guide was super helpful, and I would have had a very hard time navigating things without the advice. I’m very grateful and am looking forward to this trip!

    • Hey Keith,

      Thanks and I’m really happy for you getting that permit. You have a magnificent trip awaiting you. Congrats on that and enjoy. I appreciate your comment. Get in touch anytime.

  14. Love the Big Outside posts. Michael provides firsthand and honest impressions about the locations and trips. He does a great job in his storytelling to make it relatable when looking at future adventures. Really like that it’s not just super intense, extreme trips, but things that skilled weekend and vacation day warriors like us can achieve, as well as with our younger kids.

  15. Hi Michael,
    I purchased your “Backpacking the Continental Divide Trail Through Glacier National Park” e-guide and have found it full of useful info, as I do your website in general. I am planning a trip to Glacier NP this year and – should we fortunate enough to get permits – hope to do at least a portion of the hike you describe starting from Chief Mountain Customs Trailhead. Apparently the actual border crossing here has been closed since the start of the pandemic and there does not seem to be any timeline for it to reopen. CBSA told me today when I called them that it was unlikely to open in 2023. What I am wondering – and what I can’t seem to find out – is if MT-17 from US-89 up to CME on the US side is still open. I am unable to input this as a destination in any mapping programs (i.e. Google Maps or Apple Maps)… almost as if the road is closed entirely (have tried inputting a summer date for travel to confirm it’s not a seasonal closure issue). Do you know if the Chief Mountain Customs trailhead still accessible even though the border is closed?

    • Hi Derek,

      Thanks for buying that Glacier CDT e-guide and good luck with your permit application. That’s a great hike.

      I’ve been aware of the border closure at Chief Mountain Customs station since Canada first closed the entire U.S.-Canada border during the pandemic. I honestly don’t understand why this crossing has remained closed but as far as I can see, that has not affected access to the Chief Mountain Trailhead at any time and would not affect access to that trailhead in 2023. Even the Montana road conditions report indicates that US 89 is currently open but MT 17 appears to not be open currently, presumably because it’s winter. I’m pretty certain I heard from readers who backpacked in from that trailhead in 2022 and I’d fully expect it to be accessible by this summer if not by spring.

      Good luck! I hope you get to take that hike. Please get in touch if you do, I’d love to hear about it.

  16. Hi Michael-

    Thanks for putting out great content over the years! I’ve done a couple of your 10 favorite backpacking trips but they’re all on my bucket list.

    I wanted to reach out and see if you have any advice, resources, or recommended blog posts for backpacking with a baby? My wife and I have a 10 month old and I’m feeling a sense of urgency to get out as a fam while he’s still young and small enough to toss in our Osprey Poco Plus Carrier. He’s ~20lbs right now but will obviously be heavier this summer when it’s prime backpacking season. I’m planning on having my wife carry our son and I’ll take all our gear but it’ll be a substantial change regardless. I’m thinking that we’ll just have to tone it down on the miles and elevation but would love any recs you may have.

    For context, we took him on a couple of backpacking trips last summer in Redwoods NP and State Park. Perfect climate for backpacking with an infant. We live in LA and I’m keen to get out into the Grand Canyon, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon as a family. I actually might take you up on a trip planning at some point soon. We’re doing a PNW road trip and I’d love to hear your take on the best backcountry sites with relatively short mileage going in for setting up a basecamp. I think that’ll be more out speed this summer opposed to high mileage loops.

    Thanks again for great content and appreciate any recs you may have!

    • Hi Isaac,

      Thanks for the nice words, glad you like my blog.

      And good on you for planning to get your kids out in the wilderness with you. Our kids are now 22 and almost 20 and very experienced backpackers, climbers, skiers, kayakers, etc.; I have a lot of experience with taking kids backpacking from infants and toddlers on up to teenagers.

      Check out my stories “10 Tips for Taking Kids on Their First Backpacking Trip” (which may be what you’re looking for, although it doesn’t focus just on infants) and “10 Tips for Raising Outdoors-Loving Kids.”

      For when your kid’s a bit older, you might like “The 5 Best Tips for Hiking With Young Kids,” “The 10 Best Family Outdoor Adventure Trips,” “12 Tips for Getting Your Teenager Outdoors With You,” and “Why I Endanger My Kids in the Wilderness (Even Though It Scares the Sh!t Out of Me),” as well as this menu of all of the stories I’ve written about my family’s adventures at The Big Outside.

      I think the biggest tips are dial expectations way back for distance and days. More than 2-3 days and you’re toting some really heavy packs with your own food and gear, all his stuff, and hauling out his filled diapers. And you already know how long every little task takes at home—compound it in the backcountry where you don’t have the conveniences of home.

      Still, it’s cool. We took our son to the summit of an 11,000-foot peak in WY when he was 11 months old during a month-long road trip around the West. Ultimately, though, car-camping and dayhikes may enable you to do and see more than backpacking.

      If you consider a longer backpacking trip with a baby or toddler, I’d say if your short shakedown trips go really well, excellent. Think hard about everything you’d want to include in a first-aid kit for a baby/toddler because there’s so much more unpredictability that’s potentially very problematic in a remote place. A device for communicating/calling for help in an emergency, like a Garmin inReach, would give some reassurance.

      Good luck and get in touch if you’d like my Custom Trip Planning. I’ve definitely put in my time with kids of all ages.

      Thanks for the great question.

  17. Hi Michael,
    I bought the guide for Best First Backpacking Trip in Yosemite and think I’m going to try to set it up for August but I had a question. In the getting there section you listed several airports one could fly into to get to the park, however you did not list the Fresno airport which, as far as I can tell, would be the closest option. Was that intentional? Is there a reason the Fresno airport was left off the list or was that just an oversight? Unless there’s a good reason not to go to that airport I would definitely add it to the list as it seems to be by far the closest major airport to the park.

    • Hi Vince,

      Good point and no reason to avoid Fresno, I simply listed the larger airports nearest to Yosemite, which presumably have more flights than Fresno. But if that works for you, great.

      Have a good hike and thanks for buying that e-guide.

  18. Hi Michael,
    I stumbled on the Wallowas in Northeast Oregon while reading Scott Stillman’s “Nature’s Silent Message” I was wondering if you have hiked there?

  19. Hi, Michael. I enjoy your site and newsletters.

    Me and my son have secured a backcountry permit in the Grand Canyon on the route you described – we are starting at Lipon Pnt. and exiting on S. Kaibab. I’m struggling a bit with planning for water purification. I’ve read that the water directly from the CO River can be so silty that it will clog a purifier. Do I need to use some other sort of system, like a bag to let sediment settle and then purify out of the bag?

    Any insights appreciated!


    • Hi John,

      Thanks for the nice words and congrats on your Grand Canyon permit for backpacking from Lipan Point to South Kaibab, that’s a great hike.

      As you probably know, the only water source along the Escalante Route, from Red Canyon to Tanner Beach, is the Colorado River, accessible at several points where the trail drops to the river level. The Colorado can vary from silted to relatively clear and easy to filter; when it’s heavily silted, it would quickly clog any filter and render it useless. If that’s the case, you may have to let river water settle out in pots before using a pump filter to treat it, and settling water out can take hours.

      You’ll have to plan where and how you’ll get water every day and carry according to your hiking time and when you’ll reach water sources. A ranger should be able to tell you what the Colorado is currently like when you pick up your permit, but the river’s condition can change suddenly, too.

      Good luck!

  20. I think your site is terrific. Being in my 70’s my rigorous backpacking is behind me. I can relate to many of the photographs on your site. Today’s picture from Yosemite brings back memories of my 2 trips over Clouds Rest and Half Dome. The permitting was difficult in the 80s thru 2010. It must be extremely difficult now.

  21. Thank you for making your website! I’ve been a member for a week, but it’s exactly what I’ve been looking for. I joined Backpacking Light for the technical UL gear reviews (and the awesome community gear swap). But they don’t have as many detailed trip plans as I was hoping for. And likewise, Backpacker is great for finding new and quirky trip ideas, but they’ve been publishing so long, it can be hard to find write-ups for the “classics” in their new editions. (Sort of like subscribing to Bon Appetit and looking for a classic bolognese recipe).

    Your site, however, has all the showstopper bucket-list trips that I want to do up front, all in the trip lengths and mileages I would want to do them in, and is well written to boot. And you respond quickly and thoughtfully. So thank you; I’m definitely a happy subscriber!

    • Hey Ethan,

      You’re very welcome and thank you very much for the kind words and the feedback. I’m glad you find my blog enjoyable and helpful. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch anytime.

  22. Michael-

    I downloaded your Sawtooth Mountains trip guide, which was an invaluable resource for our trip! The route from Redfish to Pettit Lake was amazing! Thank you so much!


  23. The Big Outside has been the inspiration for so many of my backpacking trips, from the high Sierras, to Southern Utah and the Grand Canyon, to the Dolomites, to the Grand Tetons. Michael’s stories (complete with gorgeous photos) and his expert planning tips are invaluable and absolutely trustworthy, which is why I subscribe. I’ve learned so much about these places from this site and how to get the most out of my trips. He also responds to comments and questions quickly and helpfully. If he’s written about it, it’s guaranteed to be a spectacular adventure. I’m constantly eyeing his site for ideas for my future trips!

    Thanks, Michael!
    Elisa W.

  24. Hi Michael,
    I organized a 5-day running/hiking trip in southern Utah (which we completed just a couple weeks ago), and it has certainly left us with the desire for a second edition. We would gladly spring for your services for planning it if you had a good idea that fits our style. We’re all accomplished trail runners, but it’s difficult for us to ascertain just how runnable a lot of the trails are and how we can string together an interesting series of days that don’t require camping. For reference, our recent trip started with the Zion Traverse (37 miles) and finished with the Chesler Park Loop in the Needles section of CNP – both of which we thought offered adequate terrain for running. In between we did shorter hikes and runs in Bryce, Capitol Reef, and San Rafael Swell.

    I found your site while researching The Maze. We thought we might try that after an opening day doing the R2R2R. But, I was totally unable to figure out how much running we could do and whether we could string together 1-3 days of, say 25 miles each day. Care to take a stab at spending a few minutes to propose some ideas? I guarantee you I would certainly use your services if you come up with a interesting idea and we decide to do the trip. I spent way too much time on the last trip figuring out a complete trip! (Wonderland Trail, for example, would be a good idea, but a lot of us have already done that – ditto for Lake Tahoe)

    • Hello Gene,

      Your five-day running-hiking trip in southern Utah sounds fantastic. It’s the kind of trips I very much enjoy taking with long days exploring different trails. I think I could give you some great suggestions for similar trips around the West through my Custom Trip Planning. I’ll email you about and we’ll take it from there. Thanks for getting in touch.

  25. I plan to have a backpack trip in June 18 – 25th time period. Looking for a trip of 20 miles – 40 miles range, any recommendation? Originally I would like to Teton Crest Trail, but it seems it’s too early for the hike.

    Appreciate your recommendation! Love the trails you have covered.


    • Hi Roxanne,

      Thanks for that question. June 18-25 is tricky because it’s already hot in the Southwest but often still too snowy in mountains like the Tetons.

      But the southern Olympic coast, while just 18 miles, is a great three-day hike and should have good weather, certainly mild temps and no snow. Zion’s Narrows would probably be a good one then, too, but it’s likely too late for you to reserve a backcountry permit for June. You’ll see on a map of Yosemite that there are middle-elevation areas, such as north and northwest of Yosemite Valley, where trails can be snow-free or mostly so by late June. Lastly, I have backpacked in the Sawtooths in late June, but you would definitely encounter snow above around 8,000 feet.

      See “America’s Top 10 Best Backpacking Trips.” And I know of specific routes in Yosemite that would likely work for you then; see my Custom Trip Planning page to learn how I can help you plan your trip.

      Good luck!

  26. I imagine I am missing the obvious but very excited to read more of your blog posts about hiking (longer distances), training for, etc. can you direct me?

    I enjoyed your Bear’s Ear’s to Big Sandy post. That is one of the adventures I have on the list for this summer.

  27. Michael’s E-Guides are amazing. They give a great outline for the backcountry hike you wish to undertake, e.g., TCT, Yosemite, Glacier and Wonderland Trail. Recently, I bought the Teton Crest Trail Guide, which gave great tips on not only the hike, but also getting a permit!

    I was lucky enough to be online to get a permit in early September for the TCT and the e-guide helped me prepare with the campsites. It also gives you some alternatives, if you don’t get a permit.

    Definitely recommend to anyone looking at backcountry trips! A valuable resource!

  28. Hi Michael,

    First of all — thank you!!! The Big Outside is a really great blog and I am so glad that folks like yourself take the time to put such an amazing resource out to the world. I’ve been browsing through your blog and I am having a really hard time picking between all the options!

    I am very much looking forward to planning a father & daughter trip for my dad’s 60th!

  29. Hi Michael,

    Firstly, I’d like to thank you for your amazing e guides—they are excellent sources of knowledge for backpacking trips and my go to info for any trip I’m planning.

    Couple of questions I do have are:

    1. Online Teton Camping reservations—do I select the Group Ones? Or Mountain Camping Zones? Any difference?
    2. Solo camping in Glacier—I have solo hiked there before on various trails, however, what are your thoughts on multi-day backpacking through Glacier solo? I don’t really have an option for a group.


    • Hi Michael,

      Thanks for the kind words and I’m glad you find my e-guides helpful.

      The variations in how individual national parks issue backcountry permits can make the process a little confusing. For Grand Teton NP, when applying for a permit at recreation.gov, you’d choose the Mountain Camping Zones under Area for a backpacking party of up to six people for camping zones/areas in the park’s core, for example, all of the zones along the Teton Crest Trail; and you’d select Mountain Group Sites for a backpacking party of seven to 12 people for those same camping zones/areas in the park’s core.

      As for solo backpacking in Glacier National Park, that’s definitely a tricky question. I honestly don’t recommend backpacking solo in grizzly country and I’ve never done that myself (even though I’ve backpacked solo many times in black bear habitat). Your personal decision may depend on your experience and comfort level, but if you decide to go solo in Glacier, I think you’d at least be marginally safer by sticking to areas of the park where there are more backpackers, like trails emanating from Many Glacier, or long sight lines, like the Highline Trail. More-remote areas of Glacier, where you’d see fewer people, might create more risk simply because when you’re alone you don’t make as much noise or create as much odor as even a small group of hikers. And perhaps avoid any areas where the park is warning of an active grizzly bear, even if the park hasn’t closed that area yet.

      See this blog post, where I elaborate in more depth on that question.

      Thanks and good luck. Keep in touch.

  30. Michael,
    Thanks for the quick response answering the questions I posed in the comments of your post “10 Pro Tips for Staying Warm in a Sleeping Bag.” I am very impressed with your responsiveness as well as with the information in the original post and the advice you gave me about my current sleeping bag and about the Feathered Friends Egret 20. Since you were about to depart on a trip when I contacted you, I had not anticipated any response until after your trip. It seems like you must have gotten up very early to respond before your trip. You deserve a five-star rating for customer service!

    Thanks to your advice, I’m sure I will be more comfortable on cold nights in the mountains in my new sleeping bag,

    Happy Trails,

  31. Hi Michael!

    I bought your Yosemite guides last year and hiked the two loops you recommend- one starting and ending at Tuolumne including a Half Dome summit, and the other starting at Tuolomne and ending at May Lake- as a 12-day trip in July. I just wanted to say thank you for helping me plan an awesome trip!

    Red Peak Pass, the Sawtooths, and the Grand Canyon of the Tuolomne were all highlights! I also couldn’t believe how much solitude I experienced in Yosemite in July. Thanks again!

  32. Michael,

    In Nov. 2019, your blog was the first one I found when I decided I would start solo hiking and I remember there was so much information, I kept reading and reading. I soon realized I was ill-prepared for even the simplest hike and your blog helped me get mentally and physically prepared and also gave me great information on gear. I was starting at point zero and your blog opened up new doors for me. It’s my go-to for anything hiking-related. Even with COVID last year, you helped me plan some great hikes in several national parks. I appreciate receiving the emails with articles ranging from best places to hike, best gear, affordable gear, etc. I also LOVE the pictures that are always included with the articles and on your blog. They are spectacular!

    I’m not on social media, so I don’t belong to any hiking groups. Your blog gives me plenty of useful information and I appreciate it a lot. Your writing style is easy to understand and it’s clear you have a wealth of knowledge and experience. Subscribing to your blog is the best investment I have made and it has helped me become more confident in my hiking.

    On a personal note, this year has been challenging because I injured my knee in April and I haven’t been able to hike since Memorial Day. When I shared my frustration and disappointment with you over not being able to hike and now awaiting surgery, you offered words of encouragement. This is just another reason why your blog is more than a blog. Thank you!

  33. Hi Michael. New subscriber but love what I see!

    I’m planning a backcountry trip to the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness in mid-September. It will be my first trip to the S-B Wilderness. Primarily for solitude reasons and somewhat for safety considerations, I typically try to avoid hiking during big-game hunting seasons. Since we will be in the Wilderness our largest concern will be with guided/outfitted hunters on horses. Do you have any thoughts on this, either in general or specifically for Selway-Bitterroot? I think we can choose carefully and avoid gun season, but will likely be hiking during archery hunts. Interested in your thoughts and thanks in advance.

    • Hi Mike,

      Thanks for the good question. I’ve backpacked a couple of times in the Selway-Bitterroot, though not specifically during any hunting season, but I have hiked and backpacked in various parts of the country during one or another hunting season.

      To be honest, I’ve seen what I consider two kinds of hunters in the backcountry: the ones who stand or camp beside a dirt road waiting for game to walk past them and those who actually ride a horse or hike for miles into the wilderness and put real effort into finding their game and hauling it out (and appropriately clean up the site of their kill after butchering their game to carry it out). The first category of hunters scares me more because I don’t see them as ethical or “serious” hunters—and they usually carry rifles, making them more dangerous. The “serious” hunters who venture deep into the backcountry are generally, I believe, more careful about identifying their prey and avoiding accidents.

      I believe hunting guides tend to be highly responsible and safe because their livelihood depends on that. I’ve met a number of them.

      There are also rifle hunters and bow hunters and the latter have less range and are more likely to make a good visual ID on their prey and try to get close enough to get in a good shot.

      Yes, I would backpack during hunting season in a wilderness and I think the most risky time is when you’re a short distance from a road, where there may be less-responsible hunters with rifles.

      You should definitely wear blaze orange very prominently—shirt and/or jacket—be loud when you’re near any roads and check the state Fish & Game website for hunting season dates.

      Good luck. That’s some big, remote, (normally) uncrowded wilderness you’re planning to explore. Have fun.

  34. Hi Michael,

    I am looking for a bucket list approx 4- to 5-day backpacking trip within a few hours of Seattle. My preference is for big mountain views, and glaciers and some solitude. I prefer trails to bushwhacking and don’t appreciate intense route-finding difficulties.

    I am considering the following:

    1. Skyline Traverse. I’d start on the Quinault and make a loop, which is nice for staging my car. There may be some navigational issues in the Kitma area.
    2. Seven Lakes Basin Area
    3. Hoh High Divide Traverse

    I’m even considering the Ptarmigan Traverse as well. I am fine to bringing crampons and one ice axe.

    What do you recommend?


    • Hi Philippe,

      Thanks for the question. I’ve backpacked a fair bit of the Olympic Mountains and all over the Pacific Northwest, possibly my favorite part of the country.

      The Seven Lakes Basin and High Divide Trail would deliver the kind of scenery you’re looking for; it’s a stellar hike, at least in clear weather, and this is the time of year to do it. The Seven Lakes-High Divide-Sol Duc loop would be much shorter than you’re looking for, but you could extend it a bit by adding the out-and-back hike to Hoh Lake and another to Appleton Pass. Try to get a camp in the Heart Lake area, where you’d have an opportunity to get up on the High Divide both early and late in the day (two separate trips, afternoon/evening and the next morning from your camp), if weather was clear only at one of those times. Unfortunately, the Seven Lakes and High Divide are probably the most popular area with backpackers and hard to get a permit for.

      The Skyline Trail is scenic but known for navigational problems along sections of overgrown or obscured and muddy trail.

      The Hoh-High Divide traverse, at least as I understand descriptions of it, would certainly be a cool hike, but mostly in rainforest, with the best views precisely what you’d have on the Seven Lakes-High Divide-Sol Duc loop.

      For the length and scenery you’re looking for, I’d recommend a trip I’ve taken in the park’s northeast corner, east of the areas you’re looking at but also in the rain shadow of the Olympics, so it gets considerably less rain than the west side. We took five moderate days to backpack the loop from Obstruction Peak to Deer Park, the Gray Wolf Valley, Gray Wolf Pass, Dose Meadows, Lost Pass, Cameron Pass, and Grand Pass. Killer views of Mount Olympus and its glaciers and the entire range.

      Also, I’ve done the Ptarmigan Traverse and may post a story about it soon. It’s a very serious alpine traverse, mostly off-trail, crossing six glaciers and requiring roped travel (with partners, ideally), with difficult navigation, potentially hard weather, and finishing with possibly the worst bushwhacking I’ve ever encountered (and I’ve encountered a lot of bushwhacking). It doesn’t sound the what you’re looking for.

      And click here to learn how I can help you plan your trip.

      I hope that’s helpful. Good luck, stay safe, and keep in touch.


  35. Dear Mr. Lanza,

    What an incredible role model you are. I especially enjoy your family focus. You are just awesome. The great outdoors on a weekly basis should be on every child’s/parent to do list.

    The peace of mind that can be had when our timing syncs with nature’s timing is a real master tool. The pace of life falls into rhythm, the mind clears, the anxiety melts away, and all is well.

    I believe we would soon experience a seismic shift in the mindsets of children across America, and a dramatic decrease in Columbine/Newtown-style killings.

    What you do is incredibly valuable, and inspiring. I will be posting a link to your web site on my website, following you on twitter, discussing your work with the coaches who work in my group, and the kids/families I coach. I will be integrating your overall vision/mission into my work.

    I operate an Executive Functions Skills Coaching group for children with Learning Disabilities & Autism, called Life Skills Corp. in the NY/CT area.

    I look forward to posting pertinent posts to my parents and followers.

    All the best,


  36. Dear Michael,

    I’m a big fan of your site and have been since I started backpacking seriously around 7-8 years ago. In fact, the Big Outside inspired some of my early multiday trips out west, including the Eagle Cap Wilderness in the Wallowas, and Spider Gap loop here in Washington. Also, without your recommendation, I never would have discovered the White Clouds, which are easily one of the coolest places I’ve ever hiked. Now I’m an avid backpacker, and it’s no exaggeration to say that Big Outside helped me get here.

    I just wanted to express my gratitude for the work you do, and I hope to follow your adventures for years to come!


  37. I just recently became a new member and had Michael plan a 4-day Zion National Park backpacking trip for me and my teenage son. The custom backpacking trip plan is very well executed and detailed. It definitely exceeded my expectations. Michael has been excellent in responding to my questions regarding our trip.

    Michael’s blog is fantastic! Each post is well-written, informative, and engaging. I am an experienced backpacker but I have been learning a lot of great information from Michael.

    I am thankful to have stumbled across Michael’s website!

  38. Michael,

    Your blog most definitely provided appreciation, inspiration, perspective, and hope this year. I didn’t leave my apartment for SIX WEEKS during NYC’s lockdown, and your blog was one of the bright spots on my screen. Thanks for your always helpful reviews, suggestions, and stories. They helped save my sanity and motivated me to do my squats in my living room! Here’s to Happy Trails for all of us.

    • Thanks, Amy, I’m honored and delighted that reading my blog inspired you to do your squats. That sounds a lot like my workout routine in 2020! Yes, here’s to getting out more in 2021.

  39. Hey Michael. Hope you and your family are well. I have a question I know you can relate to and most people in my circle would think is silly because they just don’t understand our obsession.

    I’m like you in that I’m a dreamer and a planner. I have literally hundreds of bucket list backpacking trips, dayhikes, bikepacking trips, and mountain biking destinations that I want to do. Like I’ve said before, I only work one week a month and am constantly traveling but even though I dayhike and bike at least 4 days a week now, up to this point in my life my big trips with my wife have been mainly international travel and scuba diving. We have a 2-year-old son who is already obsessed with the outdoors and actually did his first 2-day hikes this week with my wife and me and hiked the whole way without being carried or pushed in a bike. I was so proud of him and want to take him all over the world.

    The problem I have is I’m 41 years old now and don’t know how to get to everything I want to do. I’m in the best shape of my life and know I have many many years to hike and bike on my dream trips. But how do you choose? Where do you start? How do you find a way while still working and having to share family time to do everything you want to do? How do you wrap your mind around it being impossible to do everything you want to do in one lifetime and how can you be content with just getting to what you get to?

    I hope you don’t find this a silly question. But I literally am kept up at night pondering how to get it all in. How do personally go about picking from your lists of must-do’s while leaving others undone?

    Thanks as always!

    Slade Smith

    • Hi Slade,

      Your comments and questions always make me smile, maybe because we think so much alike. I appreciate this question, in particular, because it brings up a quandary I’ve wrestled with for many years. Your question has also sparked an impulse to perhaps address it more deeply in a future blog post.

      I’ve kept a list of trip ideas for decades (literally, since my twenties). It now has hundreds of ideas and totals almost 20,000 words, including the notes I’ve made with each trip idea. I’m older than you and I fully realize and accept that I can’t get to them all—there are too many places to see in this country and around the world and too much to do in those places to get to them in one human lifetime—but I do think a lot about how to prioritize them.

      For starters, as I suggest in tip no. 1 in my “10 Tips for Getting Outside More,” I always plan months ahead because that gets necessary logistics done and gets it on the calendar—which is the important first step in ticking off your list.

      I consider priorities such as which trips are best with my family, what my kids could do at various ages, what my family wanted to do. I look at when I can fit a trip into my calendar and choose the adventures that are ideally suited for that time of year—for the best weather, wildflowers, fewer people, or special aspects or conditions inherent to a particular place.

      I consider where I haven’t been—or haven’t been in a while—and who’s available to join me (if not my family) and capable of a certain trip (some are harder). Circumstances beyond my control often dictate choices. In 2020, I saw five planned trips canceled because of the pandemic: a guided river trip in early June, one backpacking trip in southern Utah and two others I had permits for in the Canadian Rockies, plus another backpacking trip in the Sierra in September that wildfires prevented. As substitutes for three of those, I took my family back to a place I love and hadn’t been to in years, the Idaho side of Hells Canyon, and backpacking in two places that had been on my list for years, Utah’s High Uintas Wilderness and Nevada’s Ruby Crest Trail. All of those substitutes were wonderful, not consolation prizes at all.

      As one last point to emphasize in this response, I also have top-priority trips that I rank above others when making choices. You can see some of those that I’ve already ticked off in my stories “New Year Inspiration: My Top 10 Adventure Trips” and “The 10 Best Family Outdoor Adventure Trips.”

      And as you know, I can help you plan your trips. Click here to learn about my custom trip planning.

      Keep up inspiring that little boy of yours. He’s a lucky kid and I think he’ll reach an age—as my kids have in their late teens—when he fully understands and appreciates all you’ve shown and done with him and that history cements an irreplaceable bond between you.

      Keep in touch.

    • Hello Slade,
      If I may offer a thought, but where to start? Selection is #1. Planning is #2. After a lifetime of career and family,always having to attend to something,I finally made it to living in my dream country Italy at age 74. I selected where to live based on proximity to what I love : Dolomites and Venice. During our summer break in Covid19 I took train and bus to Puetz-Oedle and hiked for the first time EVER by myself – in the Dolomites. In a state of ecstatic disbelief. I could hike there forever and never look at another mountain. So what I’d say is “Quality of the experience is more important than quantity”. Get to know one or two routes that you love and that are really convenient, now that you have a family to take along. But do at least one of your top favorites soon. Bon Voyage!

  40. Michael,
    I have been following you for a few years now, inspired by your work, your writing and the stunning photography. Not sure where I first found you, but when The Big Outside hits the inbox everything else comes in second. I have hiked many of the trails you feature and appreciate your expertise as a backpacker (and all that can mean) and someone dedicated to introducing others to these wilderness jewels and the personal adventure that comes with getting there. Keep on!

  41. I recently discovered The Big Outside outdoor adventure blog created by Michael Lanza. I’m an avid outdoorsman and have read just about every adventure blog and travel blog on the Internet. I can honestly say that The Big Outside is the best blog out there. I was hooked within minutes.

    Not only is Michael an excellent writer and storyteller, he is a family man who has raised his two kids in the great outdoors in a world that unfortunately seems to have forgotten the importance of this. I have a 20-month-old son that is already obsessed with the outdoors and I’m absolutely thrilled about this. Reading Michael’s stories about taking his kids on amazing adventures is truly inspiring and makes me want to follow in his footsteps with my son.

    He has a very impressive resume outdoors and has accomplished many of the world’s greatest routes on both land and water. But even more impressive than that to me is that both of his children are following in his footsteps because of his and his wife’s efforts and guidance. You won’t find a better blog on the Internet for adventurers with young kids.

    Thanks for all you have done with creating this site Michael. You and your family are truly inspirational.

    Stay safe out there!
    Slade Smith

    • Thanks very much for those generous comments, Slade, and good on you for your own commitment to raising your son to love and appreciate the outdoors. Keep up the good work of parenting and please do keep in touch.

  42. I finally bought a subscription after reading The Big Outside for at least a year – Michael’s gear reviews and trip reports have been SO useful and they’ve inspired me to plan some more trips, especially for backpacking and backcountry skiing. I also really want to read how the R2R2R in the Grand Canyon ends! Thanks for writing and for providing such thorough information about your adventures.

  43. Hello Michael. I’m so pleased to have found youuuu!!!! I can’t tell you enough how thrilled and inspiring your hiking experiences and stories are. I LOVE,LOVE, LOVE your BLOGS – the thorough description of the trails, the STUNNING Photos, the humour and the history!!! Reading your stories is the best kickoff start to my day! If only I could afford to make a trip to America and join youuuu on a hiking trip!!! It would be the ulitmate moment for me because you simply are the BEST! Thank you for all your wonderful work, inspirations and generously sharing your stories with us. Keep up the good work! A thousand times we love you!


    • Hi Janine, that’s such a nice comment I hardly know what to say. Thank you very much. I hope you continue enjoying my blog and that you get the opportunity to visit America someday. Take care and keep in touch, I’d love to hear from you again.

  44. My only complaint here is that you have too much good stuff to read–I never get to everything I want to! It is a good resource, and I love that you can make a living doing this kind of thing. I’ve got 8 kids, live in Idaho, get myself out quite a bit but I’m still working on getting out with them more. Thanks for the inspiration and help.


  45. Dear Michael,

    Got your birthday notification and the 30% offer. Since I’m already a member, I have to pass on that for now. But, I did want to wish you a Happy Birthday. I moved into my 8th decade on the 18th so I feel your … “happiness” — poignancy, I think. Best wishes on your birthday and be safe in these fraught times.

    Best Regards,


  46. Dear Michael,

    I am sure you get lots of mail so I will try to be brief. I first ran across your stuff about … well, within the last year. I became a subscriber this past fall. Mostly, I look to you for equipment reviews, but I do enjoy reading your trip reviews and stories.

    However, on that point, because I backpack with my dog (I actually wrote you once about backpacking with a dog, but, alas, it’s not in your wheelhouse), I don’t (cannot) frequent national parks. Instead, I do wildernesses (e.g., Pasayten Wilderness in Washington State, Anaconda-Pintler in Montana, various wildernesses here in Colorado, etc.,) which are generally dog-friendly. (As an aside, I do advanced obedience with my backpacking dogs, and have done some SAR training with past companions. I make note of this so you’ll at least know that my backpacking companions are wilderness reliable – no running off on their own to find new friends and bring them back to camp; contraindicated in bear country.)

    Even though you don’t do dog backpacking, I know you do stuff in wilderness areas. My request or at least suggestion is for some reviews and recommendations for wilderness area backpacking trips. I’ve read some of your past stuff – the Idaho Wilderness Trail piece was terrific, and older pieces on the Glacier Peak Wilderness and the Wind River Range were pretty awesome as well – and as you get around to it, I’d love to see more wilderness (non-national park) stories.

    I appreciate that I’m a tiny minority of your readership as a companion dog backpacker with its restrictions, but I thought I’d put in a plug now as you start looking at your 2020 schedule. This year I may be returning to the Pasayten, weather and wildfire issues allowing, but my brother and I are also looking at southwestern Colorado, which I haven’t done (we’ve done a small trip in the Holy Cross Wilderness and a week in the Rawa).

    I continue to look forward to anything you write; it’s all good. And I expect I’ll be a continual subscriber until I have to hang them up (or you do ?).

    Best Regards,

    • Hi Mitch,

      Thanks for writing, it’s always nice to hear from you, and thanks again for being a subscriber and supporting my work on The Big Outside.

      Yes, I am at the time of year when I’m making plans for trips. I do hear from other readers who ask for more stories about backpacking trips in non-park wilderness areas, and I have some on my list of ideas, including exploring the Pasayten, which I’ve only hit the edges of and would like to explore much more deeply. I’m also eager to get back to the Colorado mountains. So please know that your suggestion isn’t that unusual and it’s on my radar.

      Thanks and get in touch anytime.

  47. Hi Mike! I’m so glad I came across your blog/website. I can remember snowshoeing with you and my parents on trails in my backyard in New Hampshire 25 or so years ago. You were writing a small outdoors column for the local newspaper, I can remember as a child hanging your article on our refrigerator that you wrote about us. Now 25 years later I’ve got the chance to reconnect with you as a parent myself.

    It’s great to see your success through the years. You’ve become an authority on the outdoors and been able to travel the world with your family and expose them to some of the most amazing experiences that mother nature has to offer. Your countless stories, tips, tricks and guides (especially for young kids) have helped me and my family enjoy getting outside and finding the endless positive benefits to being outside. I’ve been up on your blog for the last couple of months and found a lot of inspiration to become a better hiker and take advantage of all the beautiful mountains and endless trails here in New Hampshire and New England. It’s been great getting to reconnect with you, and I look forward to reading more of your adventures, tips, tricks and reviews to help me and my family connect with the outdoors more and more.

    Hopefully one of these days I can get you back out to New Hampshire so my kids can have an outdoor article Mike Lanza wrote about them to hang on our fridge. Once again, it’s great to see all your success through the years and the inspiration you’ve given myself and countless others. Much thanks, keep it up!

    -Eric Cunningham

    • Hey Eric,

      What a great pleasure it was to hear from you and catch up again, and see you’ve got a family of your own now, as well as get caught up on your family. I have many fun memories of those times that you remember as a kid. Good on you for getting your young kids out in the mountains, keep it up. I’d very much enjoy an opportunity to get back on a trail together again, and to meet your family. Let’s keep in touch and see if we can make that happen.

  48. Greetings The Big Outside,

    Do you accept guest posts on thebigoutside.com? Let me know if there’s a charge.

    Ethan Noble

  49. Hi Michael,

    I have used several of your articles and e-guides to plan my own extended backpacking trips. My wife and I vacation to a different National Park once or twice a year, and I know if you’ve written a trip report or guide, that it will be a good use of our time. There’s so much information about what a good backpacking trip is out there, I appreciate that I can trust what you recommend and know it will be great. Look forward to more trip reports and e-guides in the future!

    Keep up the good work!


  50. The Big Outside is the BEST place for backpacking and hiking information! Everything from the trip reports, e-guides, and gear reviews are really top notch. I enjoy the site tremendously and am constantly expanding my bucket list after visiting this site.

  51. Hi Michael,

    I took my first backpacking trip when I was in my early 20s. First night was on Death Canyon Shelf in the Tetons. I was hooked. After that I went at least once a year as vacation time allowed. Been to roughly 35 national parks in the US and Canada, including three times to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and the good fortune to hike The Narrows.

    After I retired, with the majority of my career spent at the NJ Department of Environment Protection, my wife and I moved to Virginia to a spot only 30 minutes away from the Blue Ridge mountains. My biggest issue now is the osteoarthritis in both of my knees which has forced me to look for trips with less elevation gain and loss which led me to hike Coyote Gulch two years ago. I had an injection of platelet rich plasma in one knee in April and this has helped to some degree.

    I hike in the Blue Ridge but the real test will come with a backpack. I’ve reduced my weight load and would be interested in hearing from anyone else who suffers from bad knees.

    Though I’ve been to many beautiful places, the thing I’ve taken most from my trips, almost all of which I do alone, is how wonderful the backpacking community is, always incredibly helpful and friendly.

    I enjoy reading your blog on a daily basis. I’m 68 and will continue to hike until they have to drag me off the trail. Keep hiking!

    Greg Johnson

  52. Hi Michael,

    I think your blog is very worthwhile. I am not sure that anyone else has the experience you obviously have in order to author such information. In any case, I am glad that you have.

    As I sit here typing this message I am 89 years old. I am a former Marine Corps fighter pilot and subsequently transport pilot and I have flown over much of our country. I have also lived in 6 countries other than the U.S., but I confess that I really haven’t seen our national parks and hiked them as you have.

    Our country is beautiful beyond words, but I am not sure that I can hike much more and I am now recovering from total right-hip replacement. Learning to walk all over again.

    My beginnings were as a Boy Scout. I am an Eagle Scout and as such spent much of my early days learning and experiencing the outdoors. I graduated from Dartmouth College and belonged to the Outing Club and I dearly love New Hampshire and the White Mountains. I am a graduate of the Rosenlaui Mountaineering School of Meiringen, Switzerland, but the majority of my life has been as a professional marketing person sometimes on the road and sometimes in the office.

    I lived in Lima, Peru for a couple of years but did not have time to go to Macchu Piccu and other spectacular places. I have always lived in suburban areas and I count myself as “a country boy,” but I still have much to see.

    I enjoy your words because they allow me to vicariously visit these wonderful places you describe. I wish I could visit them but I am not sure how to put it together. I will think about it because it is so worthwhile, but I have a couple of other projects to complete here first, in addition to learning how to walk normally.

    I live in West Palm Beach and I walk in our community swimming pool almost every day for the therapeutic value. As I walk in the water I watch the swaying palm trees, observe the clouds, feel the water and wonder at the beautiful world around me.

    You do well, Michael.

    Sincerely, Brad Corregan, MBA, MSW

    • Hi Brad,

      Your story is inspiring. We have explored some of the same places, from the Upper Valley of New Hampshire to the White Mountains; I’ve even been through Meiringen, Switzerland. But you have stories I will never be able to tell.

      I appreciate you reading my blog and taking the time to write. I hope you keep in touch.


  53. I LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog! I’m not a hiker yet, but I aspire to be. I’m starting a blog of my own (featuring camping and roadtrips as a homeschool family…and eventually adding in hiking and other outdoor activities!) I have a goal of hiking the Appalachian Trail. I’m so ready to quit my J.O.B.! Even though it’s an online job, it’s not doing what I love and am passionate about.

    I love the way you have your blog set up. I hope mine is as beautiful one day. I’ve never seen a subscription service before, that’s brilliant!

  54. Michael,
    Your Big Outside is informative, fun to read, and well written. It is the kind of rich content I used to find in Backpacker (you, Steve Howe, Annette McGivney, Mark Jenkins) and Outside, but increasingly do not. Your recent piece on your family trip on the Alta Via 2 made me one to replicate your trip…right now. I’ve purchased your e-guide to the Teton Crest Trail, and used it extensively to plan and complete that trip last September. I also have your e-guides to Glacier and the Zion Narrows, and hope to do those as well.

    One new factor in planning trips in the West is the smoke roulette, due to all the fires. I had planned to do the Teton Crest in September 2017, but we had to bail because the smoke was so bad you could not see the Tetons from the valley. We found an alternate trek at the last minute in Yellowstone National Park along the Yellowstone River but was very sorry all the planning and permitting was for naught. We “lucked out” in 2018 on the TCT because it snowed and rained just before our trip and (mostly) cleared the air of smoke.

    This smoke factor is probably the new normal, given climate change. For those coming long distances to do trips, you might add “alternate” route suggestions to your e-guides: if the TCT is smoked out, then go here or there instead.

    Thanks again for your energy and passion in catalyzing all of us desk jockeys to get out into the big outside.

    • Hi Andrew,

      Thanks so much for that comment, I really appreciate that.

      You and I have been following in one another’s footsteps in recent years, encountering similar circumstances on very similar dates. I also had to cancel a trip in September 2017, but it was in Glacier, when a massive wildfire forced park officials to briefly stop issuing permits to backpackers. And like you on the TCT, in September 2018, three friends and I returned to Glacier, having obtained a permit for the same trip, and completed it because snow and rain the week before had tamped down a fire that was burning on the other side of the park. We were almost forced to cancel a second year in a row, but we got lucky in Glacier the second time.

      I appreciate your suggestion, but there’s really no way to include a backup plan in any e-guide that will absolutely be feasible if the primary trip in that e-guide is made impossible by wildfire. The reality is that wildfire smoke often blankets much of the West by mid- to late summer every year now. It is the new normal. I have had trips affected by wildfires, forcing me either to cancel or alter plans, in something like seven of the past eight years, in places ranging from Glacier and Yosemite to Idaho’s Sawtooths. Even when the fire is somewhat distant, smoke can partially or completely obscure views and air quality can be poor to dangerous. People living in Western cities like Boise, where I live, know this increasingly as the new normal.

      But I do have a suggestion for what to do when fire forces you to change plans. When we had to bail out of our Glacier trip right before its dates in September 2017, I went to airnow.gov to check the air quality across the West in real time. I looked for alternative destinations within a reachable driving distance that had clear air, and two friends and I wound up taking an amazing backpacking trip in the Wind River Range that was certainly a wonderful consolation prize for Glacier.

      That resource may not always provide you with a workable solution, given the randomness of fires and travel logistics. But it’s worth knowing about.

      Thanks again for such a thoughtful comment. Keep in touch.

  55. I love the new website design. However, is it possible to bring back the previous way of searching for trips on the drop down menu by state? This was very helpful before the website redesign.

    • Thanks for the thumbs-up on the redesign, Jason, and for the good suggestion. In fact, I’m working on implementing some of those static story-menu pages I previously had in the new design. Stay tuned for that.

  56. Love your picture of the Grand Canyon. I also want to thank you for inspiring me to get out and do this with my kids too. After three years of trying I finally managed to get a permit for me and my kids (14, 11 and 7) to backpack from the North Rim to the South Rim (It sounds like we were there the same time you were – October 18-21). The weather was great and it is a trip I don’t think they will ever forget.

    • Thanks very much, Mike, that kind of feedback is always appreciated. We hiked south to north on Oct. 14 and hiked back to the South Rim on Oct. 15, so we just missed you. Great hike. I’ll write about it and post more photos soon. Tell your kids congrats from me, that’s a huge hike and I’m impressed with them… and with their dad. Keep in touch.

  57. Michael,

    I am very thankful to have come across your blog. I am looking forward to hiking in Glacier this summer, with my whole family, for the first time in my life. Your insight and quick replies to my questions have been invaluable and I feel much better prepared now. You provide a wonderful resource with abundant, useful information and I am excited about reading more.

    Thank you,

    • Hi Brandon, thanks for the nice words, I appreciate them and I’m glad you found my blog. I’m excited for your family and you seeing Glacier—what a place. I’m sure it will be a magical experience for all of you. Good luck.

  58. Hello Michael!

    Thank you for your wonderful blog! It is a wealth of information, and I appreciate the extreme effort you put into it on a continual basis. I know it’ll be a terrific help while I’m planning my backcountry adventures in Glacier National Park so I can allay the concerns of the rookie backpackers who are joining me on many of them.

    I also wanted to let you know that I thoroughly enjoyed your book, “Before They’re Gone” (https://thebigoutside.com/book/). It’s been an inspiration to immerse our own children into nature, as well as drag along a whole bunch of friends.


  59. Michael – I just wanted to reach out and thank you for writing your book, Before They’re Gone, and for sharing your family’s adventures, insights, and inspiration. My dad gave me this book as a gift and it has been so much fun to read. My husband and I have three children similar ages to yours in the book (ours are now 5, 7, and 9), and I can relate to a lot of the ways you describe adventuring with kids. And I especially love how you and your wife don’t underestimate your children’s abilities and desires to engage with the natural world.

    Our family had the opportunity a few years ago to take several months to explore the western United States (we live in Tennessee), and we made so many incredible memories. We spent a lot of time in national parks and I was constantly aware of how different those places might look by the time our kids are our ages. (And I also hoped that those places would still be there and be protected then!) That trip required us to homeschool, work from the road, and adapt to living in a small camper. It was so much fun that we made it happen again the next year!

    We had several people suggest to us that we should wait and do something like that when our children were older – so they could do more and so they would remember it better. But I have learned that when the opportunity presents itself for something you really want to do, it is worthwhile to jump on it. As it turned out, our middle daughter was diagnosed with leukemia several months after we returned home from the second big trip. Since then, we have had to stay close to home and to our local hospital and medical team as she has undergone intensive treatment. Thankfully she is doing great, has been in remission for almost two years, and will complete her treatment protocol this fall.

    The experiences we have had on the cancer journey have taught us a lot, one being that getting out there adventuring when you can is always worthwhile because you never know what tomorrow may bring. And also, our children remember a LOT about those trips, and I believe those experiences have helped to shape them into the people they are growing up to be. They remember how much fun we had, what they saw and did, the people they met, and the skills they gained. We are all ready to get back out there just as soon as we can!

    I just wanted to thank you for sharing your story and for the beautiful book you wrote. Please continue encouraging other people to adventure and experience these magnificent places with the people they love. Your children and all the people their lives touch will benefit immensely from the passion you and your wife put into making adventures come alive for them.

    • Hi Stacey,

      Thank you so much for that beautiful and heartfelt comment. I’ve long believed that we all have to seize opportunities when they arise, as you say, rather than postpone and perhaps miss them. But your story about your daughter illustrates that so well—and the importance of that quality family time together. I’m relieved that your daughter is doing well. Please tell her I think she must be a very brave and strong girl, like my daughter.

      I hope you enjoy my blog as well. I know you would find many trip ideas for your family there.

      Thanks again for writing, I really appreciate it. Keep in touch and my best to you and your family.

  60. Dear Michael,

    Your blog has given me inspiration for so many of my family’s backpacking trips. Just to name a few of our favorites, we’ve followed your footsteps with our children in Grand Canyon National Park, Olympic National Park, the Teton Crest Trail, and most recently in the Coyote Gulch region of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Capitol Reef National Park.

    We replicated the routes you recommended every time and you’ve never steered us wrong. I am currently planning our summer vacation in Glacier National Park, and your recommendations for this park will undoubtedly make it to our final itinerary.

    Thanks for all you do—it certainly makes a difference in our lives and it’s reassuring knowing that we have such a knowledgeable resource to turn to when we plan our trips into the backcountry with our kids.

    I look forward to exploring all the new content you’ve posted since turning TBO into a subscription-based site and revisiting some of the older content too. It’s like Christmas morning, every time I see a new post, and it adds one more “must do” journey to our ever-growing list!

    Keep up the excellent work and happy trails!

    Warm regards,

    Nancy East

    • Hi Nancy,

      Thanks for those very kind words and for reading The Big Outside. Good on you for getting out backpacking with your family, too. Good luck with your plans for Glacier; I’m planning to get there again myself later this summer (and eventually write about that trip at TBO). Keep in touch.

  61. Michael, I am so excited I stumbled onto your blog. This has so much info for me to refer to for my bigger adventures! Also, thanks for all your hard work over the years. I am just starting to vlog all of my hikes in Southern California and beyond. I know, nothing as giant as your world travels but maybe someday I can get to that level. And if you are ever in LA, I’ll buy you a beer. 🙂

    Chris (AKA – The Real Mega Gainz)

  62. Hey Michael,

    Thank you for all the great advice you gave me for my trip to southern Utah. It was so helpful in planning a trip for my family. You provided a lot of information that I simply could not have gotten from researching on the internet. We had a fantastic trip! Your advice on how many days minimum and what to see at Zion, Bryce and GS Escalante made such a difference. Between weather there and varying energy levels for our family of three, it was awesome to have all the information on various hikes and parks that you provided. We were able to maximize the time we had for spring break and all of us had a fantastic trip. Thank you!

  63. Hi Michael,

    Just a quick note to thank you for all the valuable info on your website – this is a follow-up – I sent you a donation back in August, then joined your ‘tribe’ recently.

    I wanted to let you know that today your site saved me $118.

    My son & I are soon going on a Canadian backcountry ski trip and needed evacuation insurance. After investigating & getting quotes from several sources, I searched your site and found some reader comments that were favorable about the less expensive insurance I had found. Since the insurance was specific for skiing, and only for 3 days, that provider saved us $118 USD. I know your purpose isn’t to recommend travel insurance, but it is just one of the myriad of ways your blog makes my life easier. I saved over a hundred dollars today, easily covering the cost of a 2+ year membership to your site.

    I’m certain your site will save me money as we plan other family adventures – I’ll keep you posted as the dollars add up!

    Of course I feel like what we gain most from your site is inspiration and information for unforgettable adventures for our family. Savings $ to boot? That’s the icing on the cake.


  64. Hi Micheal – I just read your “10 Tips for Raising Outdoors-Loving Kids” and I loved it. Your children will grow up with fond memories and gratitude for the effort and time you put into enriching their experience of life. I think it is such a shame how many children miss out because they have been taught to sit and watch the world (electronics/video games/TV) rather than get out and experience it.

    My husband and I got a late start having kids (we are in our early 50s) and we have a 14 and a 12 year old. We are a very active family though, lots of hiking, camping, fishing, backpacking, etc. Recently my son and I started a Youtube channel which highlights one of his passions: reptiles. For the past few weeks I’ve been driving him to areas within a 30-mile radius of our home in Northern California to film him catching, talking about, and then releasing critters, all to teach kids about the great outdoors. It has been such a wonderful and fun experience to share in his excitement doing what he loves. This will be a highlighted memory for both of us I am sure. If you have a chance you might check out an episode (I’ve attached episode 3, it’s my favorite).


    Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks for the nice note, Lori, I always love hearing from readers. And thanks for following my blog. Nice work your son is doing with his Youtube channel, and good on you for supporting him. I certainly agree with you about how many kids don’t get outdoors at all these days. But one of the ripple effects of raising your own kids to love getting outside is that they pass this on to friends. My son has introduced friends to backpacking, climbing, and now cycling.

      Good luck with all of your family adventures. Keep in touch.

  65. Hello Michael,
    We all have some dreams and the fear of failure. Sometimes, a little inspiration is all we need to break free of our fears. Thank you so much for giving me that much-needed inspiration. The day I stumbled upon your website was the day when my dream of blogging became vivid and I stopped worrying about failure.
    I love mountains and hiking, for last 12 years, I have been traveling around the planet with my family and gathering many stories. These stories have been asking me to set them free. After working diligently for 3 months, I have put together my blog website with a pure intent to inspire and inform other families who share my passion for traveling and backpacking.
    As I am beginning my journey as a blogger, I owe you sincere thanks for giving me a push to take action. I am hopeful it will be a great experience.

    Thank you very much,


    • Hi Binny,

      Thanks for the nice note and congratulations on launching your own blog. I think you’ll find it very gratifying (and occasionally aggravating!), and I wish you the best with it.

  66. Hi Michael,

    I wanted to write a quick note and thank you for providing inspiration and ideas for my recent outdoor adventures, as well as countless hours of entertainment reading your blog posts. I just returned from an amazing trip to Zion which included backcountry camping (Deertrap and Cable Mountains), The Narrows from the top down, The Subway, and Angels Landing, among others.

    In addition, I recently went to Yosemite (climbed Half Dome) and completed the single day Presidential Traverse (or Death March, as you very appropriately referred to it) in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. The detailed blogs on your site have been invaluable resources for trip planning as well as inspiration. I regularly check the site and look forward to the email newsletters.

    Anyway, THANK YOU, and looking forward to continuing to follow along.

    Brad S.

    • Hi Brad, that’s a great streak of trips you just ticked off. Nice going. Thanks for your nice words and the generous donation of support you made to help me continue working on my blog, it’s much appreciated. I hope you continue to find ideas and inspiration here, and please do keep in touch.

    • Happy to contribute to the work you do Michael. Have followed your writing since the AMC magazine days. In a way, on a much lower intensity level, I have also followed your path to the West. After my med school buddy Greg and I did all the Whites in the 80’s, we decided it was it time to get out West for bigger mountains. A childhood friend of mine joined the group, then his cousin – and the 4 of us have done a week backpack in a different West venue over the last 20 years, in recent years finding some great suggestions from your blog. Did the Sawtooths last year, and this year despite all of us having turned 60, we had no problem handling the Spider Glacier and the loop including Image Lake in the Glacier Peak Wilderness. (I was glad to have purchased some microspikes for this trip).

  67. Michael:

    Thank you for replying to my email so quickly, I apologize for not getting back with you sooner. Just thought I should follow up and tell you we made the big trip! It was amazing and breathtaking, to put it simply.

    My son and I had the time of our lives. We ended up doing three day hikes in the following order:

    Day One: Grinnell Glacier Trail from the Many Glacier hotel to the Upper Grinnell Lake. The views were spellbinding and we had lunch at the lake, perfect. I made friends with the front desk and they had rooms available at the hotel as they seem to have cancellations every day.

    Day Two: We did the Highline Trail from the Logan Pass Visitor Center and went up the steep, short but strenuous Garden Wall Trail. I think that was my 8-year-old son’s biggest challenge to date, and it was awesome seeing him persevere and be rewarded with the majestic views of the different glacial lakes you can see up there (and some bighorn sheep relaxing).

    Day Three: We did the Siyeh Pass Trail (Piegan Pass) and took that to the Siyeh Bend Trail, where you descend through the Sunrift Gorge. Crazy switchbacks and steep descent but again, simply beautiful.

    Overall I think we did 32 miles in three days. I thought it was a perfect first rite of passage trip for my 8-year-old. It was the just enough to think he couldn’t finish, thereby cultivating in him intrinsic confidence that he could only experience viscerally, not bestowed or conferred onto him by me. Also, the environment lends itself to wonderful, intimate discussions with him, which I am thankful for.

    Thank you for your blog and for your help. I plan on many more trips with my boys and I will be utilizing your information as it is helpful.


    • Hi Emilio, what a wonderful experience you and your son shared. You’ll both always remember it. I’m glad my blog was helpful to you. Keep in touch and reach out whenever I can answer questions for you. Happy trails.

  68. Michael,
    My Family just got back from a 6-day tent trek in Iceland — we had a wonderful time and used the review from the Big Outside as inspiration for our trip. Our 10-year-old loved it. We logged about 90 km over 6 days. The week after we got back my son and I followed up with a trip to the Desolation Wilderness (a place that we go back to almost every year). Two very different stunning landscapes. Thanks for all of your work and inspiration.

    • Thanks, Eric, and good on you for taking your family on such beautiful and inspiring adventures. Those are experiences kids always remember. Thanks for reading and supporting my blog, and please do keep in touch.

  69. Hi Michael,
    Thanks again for writing your blog – it’s been a great inspiration to me as I have planned trips in the last few years for my family. My kids are 8 and 10, and it has been a blast getting them out onto the trail and onto rafts in the wilderness. It’s been a great challenge to lighten up my load, consider how to bring my kids up wanting to put on a pack, and consider what might be around that next bend. Thanks and keep it up!

    Portland, OR

  70. Hi Michael,
    As a 60-year-old, long time hiker/backpacker, (JMT, PCT & other lengthy trips in my younger years) and now find myself doing a lot of day hiking and bagging peaks up in the Owens Valley and Mammoth Lakes Basin (where we have a residence). I stumbled across your blog a while back, and what I particularly liked about it was the diversity and knowledge that jumped off the page at me.

    Love reading about your travels, equipment, and general topics. Keep up the good work.


  71. Hi Michael,

    I have found that I usually come across your website for reviews on gear I’m looking to potentially buy. This has happened multiple times over the years and I always find your insight helpful so thank you!

    I hope you’re happy doing what you do and keep doing it for years to come. Knowing that you’ve been successful with writing, photography, and gear reviews makes me want to do the same thing since I feel like I’d be much happier with your job title than working virtually any typical day job.


  72. Hi Michael,

    I just wanted to send a heartfelt thanks over for all you do on your blog. I commented on one of your posts back in January as I got interested in backpacking in Yosemite, and was able to see that through this past week. I was able to make an excellent trip due in large part to the wealth of information on your site – from gear to routes and everything in between.

    Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and expertise!


    • Hi Kimberlee, thank you for the kind words about The Big Outside. And congrats on your trip to Yosemite. What a place. I still have a list of hikes and climbs I want to do there. Keep in touch.

  73. Michael,
    I wanted to take a second to say how much I enjoy your blog. I have been subscribed to it for a while and have really enjoyed your daily posts. In fact, this is the first blog that I have committed to and read on a regular basis.

    I particularly enjoy your trip reports. I have gotten many great ideas for future trips and have learned a lot that helps me on the trips I take. The report on the Royal Arch Loop in GCNP has become a trip near the top of my TO DO LIST!

  74. Hi Michael!,

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while now, after purchasing your book a few years ago. When I bought it, my kids were tiny. Your trips really inspired me to start hiking and camping with my little ones right away! I’ve even started my own blog, to keep the grandparents and worried family members informed and less anxious. 🙂 I write at http://www.outdoorfamilyproject.com. My kids are now 8 and 6 and we go hiking and camping nearly every weekend. We’ll be visiting Glacier for the first time this summer in August and have been inspired by your family trip there. I’m not sure yet whether we’ll get the permits I’m hoping for, but we’ll find a way into the backcountry somehow. It’ll be our third backpacking trip of the summer by then, so we’ll be in good shape for it! We’re hitting up Olympic National Park and North Cascades National Park for our other two backcountry trips. As a single parent, I carry a lot more weight on these excursions, but it’s totally worth it.

    I am sure you get a lot of these emails, but I just wanted to reiterate how important your writing has been to my family. You and your kids have inspired us to travel and explore in amazing ways. I’m excited to see what wild places we’ll see next. Keep up the inspiring work.

    • Hi Vanessa, thank you for those very kind words. I always appreciate hearing from readers of my blog and book. And good on you for getting your kids out backpacking. Keep up the great parenting and keep in touch.

  75. Hi Michael,
    I have been reading for a while, as we rediscover hiking with our toddler. I want to drop you a note, saying thanks for the great resources, and recommendations. We recently picked up 2 of the Lifestraw Go bottles, based on your review. They are great bottles and give us one less thing to think about when packing for day trips. Wanted to use the affiliate link, but shipping to Australia is a bit expensive. 🙂 Fortunately, one of the local outfitters carries them.


  76. Michael, I like that it quickly becomes apparent upon perusing through your blog that you not only are extremely experienced and knowledgeable about exploring and backcountry travel, but you come off as relatable. I imagine the vast majority of your readers are not making a living climbing or skiing or shooting for national geographic but rather are people with families or busy jobs who like to spend their vacation time in nature rather than at a beach resort, and your blog appeals to the inspired amateur like myself.

    It is very thorough. Obvious that you put in lots of time and research. And great photographs!

  77. I just started backpacking this past year and your blog has been a tremendous help. Your trip reports (along with the Douglas Lorain book), have helped me plan and complete trips in the Columbia River Gorge, the Eagle Cap Wilderness, and the Timberline Trail. In addition, I’m planning on trying the Zion Traverse Trek next year, so I’ve been reading your posts concerning this hike to get some background.

    Thank you for taking the time to write about all these trips in great detail. I also have a blog to document my trips so I can share them with family, so I know how time consuming it is to recall and eloquently express each day’s events. I especially enjoy reading about all the trips you take with your family. Your children are very fortunate to have experienced so many amazing places with you.

    Again, thank you for all your hard work and dedication. I look forward to reading your future posts.

  78. Hi Michael,

    I found your blog while looking for a new pair of boots last winter. I was delighted to find so many stories and wonderful pictures of your travels. I also really appreciate your writings on getting your kids into the outdoors. My girlfriend and I are big outdoor enthusiasts without the time to do as much travel as we would like because we are both medical students. We were lucky enough to be able to backpack the Laugavegurinn Trail in Iceland this summer, but that has been our only big outdoor adventure in the past few years. I like reading your posts and building fantasy itineraries for our next trip, though it will probably be a few years until we get a chance to go. I donated because by the time I am able to go out west more frequently, I want your blog to still be here.

    Thank you for everything!


    • Hi Andrew, thanks for those kind words, much appreciated, as well as for your donation of support for The Big Outside, which is greatly appreciated. Good luck with med school and get in touch anytime.

  79. I found your travel blog when I was searching for Sawtooth Mountains hiking ideas. The location was initially planted in my head from photos in Backpacker magazine, I think, but I felt like I hit the jackpot when I found The Big Outside. After a couple months of debating between the White Cloud Mountains and the Sawtooths, my boyfriend and I decided on the Alice Lake area.

    We hiked in from the Tin Cup trailhead and made the loop around Alice Lake, Twin Lakes, Toxaway and Farley Lakes (we saw a moose at Farley Lake). We had trouble finding a camp site at Toxaway Lake but when we did find one it was great and we stayed there an extra afternoon to enjoy it. The next day the weather looked threatening but the thunderstorms never materialized. We spent that evening at Redfish Lake Lodge listening to live music on the lawn while it rained lightly and a double rainbow appeared over the lake.

    I love the area and hope to make it back to the White Clouds next summer.

    Thank you so much for all your posts and trip ideas!

    • I’m so glad you had such a great trip in the Sawtooths. You took a classic hike. Look through my other Sawtooths stories (and more to come), there are many good options there for future trips, as well as in the White Clouds. I hope to be heading back to the White Clouds soon, so you’ll see that story eventually.

  80. Michael:
    I wanted to share that I truly enjoy your blog and have found it a source of trusted information and inspiration. I have two young boys (3 & 5) that I have been easing into outdoors, and think you have the best source of info out there for engaging kids early. Your book is great, something I enjoyed reading and it definitely added places to my bucket list.
    Keep it up!

  81. Dear Mike,

    Thank you so much for helping us plan and execute a fabulous two-week family adventure through Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks. Rosalie and our three kids (9-14) had an unforgettable time (and so did I).

    Your suggestions on hikes, campgrounds, lodges and driving the parks were essential. We followed many of your suggestions particularly at YNP, including Bunsen Peak, Grand Prismatic Geyser/Spring, and the North Rim and Uncle Tom’s trails; and we probably wouldn’t have made the drive to GTNP without your suggestion – Cascade Canyon Trail was a highlight. More Facebook posts are on the way.

    And thanks for all that you do to inspire others to experience and appreciate the natural world, and to push the limits. You’ve been inspiring me for a long time – I’m happy to say longer than just about anyone – and I hope for a long time to come.

    Rodney Venterea

    • Thanks Rod, I’m happy your trip went so well for everyone. I look forward to our next adventure together, which will remind me of that great, first bike tour many years ago that got it started for both of us.

  82. Hi Michael,

    I just wanted to thank you for providing such a great resource for all hikers and backpackers. Your work helps teach and inspire me to get out there more and see what the world has to offer!

  83. Dear Michael,

    I’m writing to say thank you. Myself and two friends recently planned and executed a trip to GTNP, backpacking the Teton Crest Trail, planning our major details for our trip from suggestions you have written on The Big Outside. Without your indirect encouragement and the veritable mountain of information that you publish for the world’s backpackers to reference, this trip would have been much more difficult to plan. We felt prepared and ready by the time we set off and the trip went off without a single problem. Six days in the backcountry of GTNP could not have gone better. Perfect views from the best campsites. So, thank you. You continue to inspire me to strive to find adventure.

    Michael M.
    La Crosse, WI

    • Hi Michael,

      Thanks for sharing your story and pictures. I’m delighted that you had such a great trip and that my website was helpful for you. The Tetons never disappoint.

      Thanks again for writing, get in touch anytime.

    • Hi Michael,

      Thank you for taking the time for such a helpful response about my trip to the Tetons. Your recomendations regarding camping and hikes were spot on and made the trip a great sucess. Thank you agian! And can’t to see what adventures you go on next!


  84. Hello Michael. Early in 2015 I contacted you about the Sierra/Kings Canyon loop you blogged about. At that time you provided excellent suggestions for our planning. This July Laurie and I celebrated our 41st anniversary on Sawtooth Pass. It was a great trip and your article really helped pave the way for us. We arrived July 14. We had our share of adventure.
    The first four days, one to acclimate and day hike, and three on the trail, experienced beautiful weather. The ranger gave us a forecast that the weather might deteriorate the last three days of the trip and that we would need to make a decision about holding up in Lost Canyon or pushing over Sawtooth to Monarch Lake to avoid exposure at Columbine Lake. Rain, Thunderstorms and hail started at Little Five Lakes so, after sheltering under a large boulder, we decided to lengthen Day 4 and push on to the first Big Five Lake. After a wet night the weather cleared and we started for Columbine. We had spitting rain on and off but the weather held. That is, until we reached the banks of Columbine. Rain, hail and the summit shrouded in fog obscured the trail to the summit. We sheltered and waited for a window. When we saw one we started up. Half way to Sawtooth Pass the thunderstorm returned. We sheltered again and waited. Another window and we gave it everything we had. We couldn’t linger at Sawtooth and so pushed on and completed the loop on Day 5. On the descent we passed a large conifer totally engulfed in flames from a lightning strike. Exhausted but happily safe at our marmot-proof rental car we made our way back down Mineral King Road as night fell. We have a truckload of pictures and a host of new memories to share with family and friends.
    All in all it was a beautiful trip. I thought of your children at the most challenging points. They must be real troopers to make those trips. Not easy.
    Thank you for your knowledgeable articles and guidance for us all. We deeply appreciate it.

    • Hey Brian and Laurie, what a great story. I’m delighted you made the trip and had such an adventure, and that my story was helpful to you. Good to hear from you again. Get in touch anytime.

  85. Hello, Michael – I was writing to let you know that we completed our trip through the Tetons last Saturday. We were gone 6 days, 5 nights, and covered about 50 miles, I think. We did end up making some changes to our route due to weather issues, but it was amazing nonetheless. I was happy with all of my gear, much of which I got from tips on your blog. My boots were especially impressive – Women’s Asolo Tacoma Gv. They were great. I was also happy with my pack, the Osprey Ariel 65. So accessible and light.
    At any rate, I just wanted to let you know that we did the hike and that it was well worthwhile. I appreciated your tips on gear and preparations prior to our departure. Already planning on the next adventure; possibly the Grand Canyon.

    Julie, Washington, DC

  86. You were the reason I decided to make outdoor experiences with my children and wife. Your site took a lot of the guesswork out of the process and your book is responsible for me discovering a dimension of being outdoors I had no idea was there. Thank you so much


  87. Hi Michael,

    Great blog! I really appreciate your quick and thorough response to my question! I don’t know of any other resource on the Internet where someone with as much experience and expertise as you responds to every individual inquiry. It’s incredibly helpful! I’m looking forward to reading your book.


  88. Hi Michael, I spent a couple of months working in Australia late last year. Renee came down for three weeks after she finished teaching the semester. First time there for us. We decided to forego the climbing and concentrate on backpacking. But after rummaging through boxes of old gear we found that our light tent had degraded to uselessness. And Renee needed a new backpack. We went straight to Big Outside and rather quickly found an Osprey backpack and Mountain Hardware tent that both ended up working perfect for two extended bushwalks through the Tasmania wilderness. Plus a car camping tour of Victoria state, especially Grampians National Park. Thanks for the tips. Bob

  89. Michael,

    Wow. What an incredibly generous response from you. There are many people like me who are trying to make trips like this happen but are by no means experts. The last thing a dad like me wants to do is take our kids to a great place but then compromise the experience due to bad planning or decisions. Not only is your blog incredibly helpful, but the fact that you take the time to personally reach out to us less experienced but well meaning family adventurers really puts what you are doing over the top.



  90. You should consider adding a Pinterest “Pin It” button to your blog posts. Some women (and men) like myself would love to be able to bookmark certain blog posts (like your tips for getting ready to do an ultra-long day hike) that way we can refer back to them easily, as well as share them with others!

    • Hi Natasha, thanks for wanting to share my blog posts. All of the social-media buttons, including Pinterest, are located at the bottom of all of my blog posts (which are listed at the home page and linked from the Categories in the left sidebar). Unfortunately, static pages (like this one) do not have the social-media buttons. Tell me if that answers your question or if I can clarify anything else for you. Thanks for writing.

  91. Hellow Michael:

    Your website has a lot of places that I will add on my bucket list. I’d better hurry up my retirement before I get too old to hike with a pack. My hat off to you and your family for just being able to share those precious moments that you all enjoy. Your mother is an inspiration for going on the Jotunheimen National Park Hut to Hut Hike with you and your family. Maybe we’ll cross hiking paths in the future.


  92. Hi, Michael. In addition to the deep content on your site, I wanted to let you know I admire the way you talk about traveling with your kids and the ideas you offer on making it work. One of the best pieces of advice I received as a new dad was to take my son and my daughter on an annual trip in the woods with just the two of us, which I notice you do too. It’s been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done to see their character grow as they take on new challenges.

    We also like to have a book to read on the trip: everything from Twain’s Huck Finn to Daniel Taylor’s Letters to My Children, which has been a great way to talk through the adventures of growing up.

  93. Michael,

    I enjoyed talking to you yesterday on the flight to Denver and Boise. I subscribed to your blog and so did my husband, John. Miles will love it when he returns from Patagonia. I also can’t wait to read your book. When my daughter and Miles were born in 1990 and 1993 there wasn’t a lot out there for outdoor adventures for kids but we found a Tough Traveler backpack and headed out to backpack, ski into a yurt, hike in the Canyons of Utah, and all over the west. We fly fished with babies on our backs, took newborns into Elk Bend hot springs in Idaho, and explored our wonderful outdoors with our kids. We packed out diapers, jerry rigged sleeping bags and pads to make them kid size, and were definetly an unusual family. Once backcountry skiing on Galena Summit, a guy asked me what I was training for with my big pack. My daughter turned her head and looked through her tiny ski goggles and he said, “Oh my that’s a baby, live cargo!”
    I so appreciate what you are doing. What an amazing website and blog. You give such great information for young families to get out into the wilderness. I look forward to reading more.

    Best, Bege

    • Thanks Bege. Nice talking to you as well, and I’m delighted that you looked up my blog and ordered my book. That’s a wonderful story about your daughter in your pack! Nice job raising your kids to love the outdoors.

  94. I love your blog. I have been orchestrating mom and son trips (2 sons. 2 trips a summer) since they were 4. My oldest and I (he’s 11, this is our 7th trip together) are going to complete the Teton Crest Trail in two weeks.

    Once, in RMNP, a ranger came to find us at our permitted campsite, (my son was 5) cuz there was a snow storm in the forecast (in July) I think they wanted to help us get home.

    But my little beauty of a boy was happy in his long johns, puffy coat and we had a great warm tent (Bibler) and were playing cards as the flakes started to drift.

    The Ranger “knocked” on our tent, peered in and then smiled kinda proudly, said something like “well, aren’t you guys great” told us they were likely going to have Trail Ridge rd closed in the am, but we could get out to Grand Lake, and went on to warn others.

    It wasn’t all that remote, I was not worried about trail finding even under snow; it’s a great memory.

    But, I do love to be prepared, safe, bear/animal-wise and teach love and learning of our wonderful lands … and, mostly I cherish the hours of wilderness time together. Nothing like it. I know my sons so much better due to these trips. Powerful experiences.

    So thank you for sharing ways folks can get out there! Your stuff is fantastic!!!!

    I don ‘t carry the Bibler much that the boys are older and tougher, but it was a perfect guarantee in their younger days that we’d get cozy in our chilly nights up here.

    We’re going light (20 pound-ish packs) on the TCT – it’s just more fun, and it’s wonderful to learn how little you need to enjoy your kids, and they you. And the beauty of the Tetons.

    Thanks again! You are amazing.

    • Hi Dolores, thanks for subscribing to The Big Outside. I’m originally from New England and was author of a guidebook, “New England Hiking,” for many years, which included a number of hikes in Acadia. I’ve visited there several times, love the park. I would like to write about it at The Big Outside at some point. Thanks for the good suggestion.

      • Looking forward to your future blog posts on Acadia or anywhere else your travels may take you! We may even have “New England Hiking” on our bookshelf. We’re also authors of a couple of Falcon guides, “Hiking Acadia National Park” and “Best Easy Day Hikes, Acadia National Park,” which could be a handy reference for travels in Acadia, in addition to our http://www.acadiaonmymind.com blog. Happy trails!

  95. I’m so glad I found your blog. Our family is an outdoor loving family and I love sharing our adventures. I feel its so important for children to experience time in the outdoors. It gives them so much confidence and we have had such wonderful family times.
    Cant wait to read about your adventures.

  96. Love the site, thank you so much for your detailed and toe-tingling trip reports. I am looking to bite off JMT solo in ~9 days as my first backpacking trip EVER and your information will help immensely. I might also be in touch about writing about this silliness for Backpacker. 🙂

    • Thanks and good luck to you. You’ll find lots of tips on planning a JMT hike by searching on “John Muir Trail” in the search box above left.

  97. Thanks again for all your help, Michael. Your advise, expertise, and willingness to help have been invaluable to planning our trip and I am sure it will lead to a great vacation later this summer. I know I have said this before, but your help is greatly appreciated!

  98. Read your post about the Eagle Cap Wilderness trip, I’d have to say you’re making me wish my life away a little bit 🙂 My 2014 backpacking plans include the Eagle Cap Wilderness & I’m excited to see it and photograph it for the first time!

  99. Hey Michael!

    So glad to have found The Big Outside and all your writings. An Eagle Scout in my teens and now a man in my mid-40’s living in East Texas, I had lost much of my outdoors activity time until a few weeks ago when my wife and I backpacked into the mountains to the Blue Lakes between Telluride and Ouray, Colorado for our 25th anniversary. I’m now hooked and spending my spare time on the Internet researching our next treks. I’ve read many of your stories and love them all. They are well-written, interesting and short enough that I can absorb one during a bowl of oatmeal at the bar before the sun comes up. Please keep up the good work. I’ll be a subscriber from now on!

    Our next trip? The segments of the Colorado Trail between Durango and Lake City’ish.

    Take care!


  100. Hi Michael,

    I just wanted to follow up to let you know that we LOVE our new Big Agnes Copper Spur 4-person tent per your recommendation. It worked fabulously for our family on the Teton Crest Trail earlier this month. We were happy with the space, great doors, the many pockets for headlamps and such, and the size and weight for backpacking. Seems durable and well-constructed. Also love all the mesh for clear weather with the rain fly off.

    The Teton Crest trip will remain a huge highlight for us as a family. We based our trip very closely on yours as described on your website, and after test-driving a Lanza Family adventure, we’re already looking at planning the next one. Thanks for pointing us to the Big Agnes tent, and for the inspiration for our Teton trip!

    Rebecca & family

  101. Simply from reading your bio, I already greatly enjoy your style of writing. Stories are such a powerful way for us to connect with one another, especially those of us hiking around who-knows-where. I look forward to reading more of your stories!

  102. First learned of you and your website after reading your book, Before They’re Gone. While my kids are a little older and my schedule limits our vacations, I’m excited that I’ve raised four kids who all look forward to summer vacations and visiting more of our National Parks (Badlands this summer!). The kids have even begun to research those they have not yet visited and tell me which ones they wish to visit before they leave for college.

    I have enjoyed following along with the stories you have on the website and think that your site has great potential to serve families who love the outdoors and I look forward to following you in the future.

    Possible story ideas which you might want to consider are along “how do I educate my child to….” series, which shares your experience and advice regarding teaching your children to interact in the outdoors responsibly. Read a map. Leave no trace. Cook in camp. What to do in the event they get lost (interview what SAR would want our kids to do, so we can explain to kids what they should do and expect from SAR).

    We hang out quite a bit at Big Bend since we are here in Texas. Let me know if you’d like to do a story on that park and I’ll be glad to share some of my experiences with you regarding hiking with kids in Big Bend.

    Again, good luck on the site!


    • Hi Chris, thanks very much for the nice words, great story suggestions, and for following The Big Outside and reading my book. I like your ideas and you just may see some of them come to fruition at this site. Keep in touch.

  103. Hi Mike,

    OK, to be completely honest, I’m posting here as part of your Rafflecopter promo. I do enjoy your blog. Great photos, stories, and gear reviews. Keep up the good work!

  104. Dear Michael:

    My dad (who inspires our own love for the outdoors and adventure) sent me your website. Congratulations on all the adventure travels you’ve done as a family, wow! Love the photography too. I especially enjoyed your tips on kids and the outdoors. We swear by just about the same principles.

    If of any interest, I wanted to share a little about the family adventure we experienced while living aboard our boat Muddy Waters for a year, homeschooling our two kids, and traveling through a good part of the United States, Canada and the Bahamas (visiting many parks, battlefields, natural wonders, towns, etc. along the way). We met the most wonderful people and made some lifetime memories.

    For what it’s worth, our travel blog is at http://www.samwayadventure.com. Though we returned to land-life recently, we have a few more adventures on the water up our sleeves.

    Congratulations again. Your kids are very fortunate.



    • Hi Michael, thanks for the nice words and sharing your own story and your wonderful blog. And good on you and your wife for the terrific adventure you took your kids on. We can only make the world a better place one family at a time.

  105. Dear Mr. Lanza,

    What an incredible role-model you are. I especially enjoy your family focus. You are just awesome. The great outdoors on a weekly basis should be on every child’s/ parent to do list.

    The peace of mind that can be had when our timing syncs with natures timing is a real master tool. The pace of life falls into rhythm, the mind clears, the anxiety melts away, and all is well.

    I believe we would soon experience a seismic shift in the mindsets of children across America, and a dramatic decrease in Columbine/ Newtown style killings.

    What you do is incredibly valuable, and inspiring. I will be posting a link to your web site on my website, following you on twitter, discussing your work with the coaches who work in my group, and the kids/families I coach. I will be integrating your overall vision/ mission into my work.

    I operate an Executive Functions Skills Coaching group for children with Learning Disabilities & Autism, called Life Skills Corp. in the NY/ Ct area.

    I look forward to posting pertinent posts to my parents and followers.

    All the best,


    William Michael Stowell-Alonso, MA
    Director & Executive Functions Skills Coach
    Life Skills Corp.

    • Hi Bill, thank you for such nice comments, they are much appreciated. I agree wholeheartedly with your thoughts about the critical importance of getting kids to love the outdoors. I just looked at your website, looks like good work you’re doing. Thanks for sharing The Big Outside with others, best of luck with your work, and please do keep in touch.