Category Archives: Backpacking

Stories and images from the best backpacking trips in America and the world, with trip-planning advice based on my personal, on-the-ground knowledge from having done the trip.

January 6, 2019 Summit of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park.

Ask Me: Where to Backpack First Time in Yosemite

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Hi Michael,

Going to Yosemite this year, 4-day trek. The Valley and hopefully Half Dome. Never been. Any suggestions?

Jody
Cibolo, TX
[Originally sent as a message to facebook.com/TheBigOutside]

Hi Jody,

Yup, here’s what I’d do on a first-time trip to Yosemite if you want to hit the classic highlights like The Valley and Half Dome. This is close to what I did on my first backpacking trip in Yosemite, long time ago, but modified because I know better now.
Continue reading →

January 3, 2019 At Trail Crest on the John Muir Trail, Mount Whitney, Sequoia National Park.

Video: Thru-Hiking the John Muir Trail

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By Michael Lanza

Will 2019 be the year that you hike the John Muir Trail? While next summer may seem very far off, an ambitious undertaking like a thru-hike of “America’s most beautiful trail”—more than 220 miles and anywhere from under two weeks to over three weeks—requires significant advance planning, and the time period for applying for a permit for it is coming up soon. Take your first step on that adventure right now by watching this video from my thru-hike of the JMT, and then click the link below to my story about that great trip, with my tips on how to do it right. Plus, read on to see how I can give you the best expert advice you’ll find to planning a JMT thru-hike. Continue reading →

December 30, 2018 Backpacking the Teton Crest Trail in Grand Teton National Park.

5 Reasons You Must Backpack the Teton Crest Trail

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By Michael Lanza

On the second night of my first backpacking trip in Grand Teton National Park, I awoke to the sound of heavy clomping outside my tent. We were camped on Death Canyon Shelf, where the Teton Crest Trail traverses a broad, boulder- and wildflower-strewn bench at 9,500 feet, flanked by towering cliffs and the deep trench of Death Canyon. At the time, it was probably the most spectacular place I’d ever pitched a tent, and it’s still one of my most scenic backcountry campsites ever.

I unzipped my tent door to investigate—and saw a huge bull elk standing just outside my nylon walls. As I’ve come to learn over almost 20 trips to the Tetons since that first one a quarter-century ago, that elk symbolized just one of several compelling reasons why every backpacker should move the Teton Crest Trail to the top of their to-do list. And the date to apply for a backcountry permit is coming up very soon. Continue reading →

5 Epic Grand Canyon Backpacking Trips You Must Do

December 27, 2018  |  In Backpacking, Family Adventures, National Park Adventures   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   2 Comments
A backpacker on the Grand Canyon's Thunder River-Deer Creek Loop.

Todd Arndt backpacking the Grand Canyon’s Thunder River-Deer Creek Loop.

By Michael Lanza

This is, in a way, a story about addiction. Or a love affair. Or both. Because those are the best metaphors I can come up with for how the Grand Canyon consistently lures me back when I’m thinking about spring and fall hiking and backpacking trips. It is that rare kind of natural environment that exists on a scale of its own, like Alaska or the Himalaya. There’s something soul-stirring and hypnotic about its infinite vistas, the deceptive scale of the canyon walls and stone towers, and the way the foreground and background continually expand and shrink as you ascend and descend elevation gradients of a vertical mile or more—all of which validates enduring the wilting heat and trails that sometimes seem better suited to bighorn sheep than to bipedal primates.

I’m going to show you, in words and photos, why one or more of these Big Ditch backpacking trips deserves top priority as you’re planning for spring or fall trips. Continue reading →

December 17, 2018 Teenage girl descending off the Fenetre d’Arpette on the Tour du Mont Blanc in the Swiss Alps.

The 10 Best Family Outdoor Adventure Trips

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By Michael Lanza

As a parent of teenagers who’s taken his kids on outdoor adventures since before they can remember, I’ll share with you the biggest and in some ways most surprising lesson I’ve learned from these trips: Our outdoor adventures have been the best times we’ve had together as a family—but not only because of the places and experiences themselves. The main reason is that these trips have given us innumerable days with only each other and nature for entertainment—no electronic devices or other distractions that construct virtual walls within families in everyday life. These times have brought us closer together. Continue reading →

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