Backpacking

Sunset at Idaho's City of Rocks National Reserve.

Why I Never Miss a Wilderness Sunset or Sunrise

By Michael Lanza

The June evening was more than a few hours old when, without warning, the sky suddenly caught fire. The kids, teenagers and ’tweeners, and some of the adults in our group scrambled up onto a nearby rock formation at least 50 feet tall to observe the sunset from high off the ground. Like a wildfire swept forward by wind, hues of yellow, orange, and red leapt across bands of clouds suspended above the western horizon, their ragged bottoms edges, appropriately, resembling dancing flames.

For a span of just minutes that felt timeless, the light painted and repainted the clouds in ever-shifting, warm colors starkly contrasted against the cool, deepening blue of the sky—as if a vast lake had ignited. We stood hypnotized and enchanted on that evening during a long weekend of camping at Idaho’s City of Rocks National Reserve, until the last, dying flames of the celestial conflagration faded and were extinguished. For that brief time, the sunset had us all, adults and kids, completely in its thrall.

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Backpackers on Trail 154 to Cramer Divide in Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains.

How to Decide Where to Go Backpacking

By Michael Lanza

You can find abundant information online offering advice on how to plan a backpacking trip (including my 12 expert tips)—some of it good and some, frankly, not very thorough. But there’s little advice out there on how to choose where to go backpacking—and many backpackers fail to consider key aspects of trips that greatly affect their experience: They follow an essentially backward decision-making process. The tips below explain the thought process I follow that make my trips better and will do the same for you.

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A backpacker on the Piegan Pass/Continental Divide Trail in Glacier National Park.

Photo Gallery: Backpacking the CDT Through Glacier National Park

By Michael Lanza

After more than three decades of wilderness backpacking all over the U.S. and around the world, rarely does a new trip immediately leap into my all-time top 10. But that’s exactly what happened when three friends and I backpacked a north-south traverse of 94 miles through Glacier National Park in a glorious week in September, mostly following the Continental Divide Trail.

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A young boy in a sleeping bag while backpacking in Sequoia National Park.

10 Pro Tips For Staying Warm in a Sleeping Bag

By Michael Lanza

Head into the mountains in summer, or almost anywhere in fall or spring, and you can encounter nighttime and morning temperatures anywhere from the 40s Fahrenheit to well below freezing. That’s more than cold enough to pose a real risk of hypothermia or, at the least, result in a miserable night for you or a partner or child you’ve taken backpacking or camping—and would like to take more. Here’s the good news: The very simple techniques outlined in this article can turn a potentially unpleasant night into a comfortable one.

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Angels Landing, Zion National Park

Photo Gallery: Hiking and Backpacking in Zion National Park

By Michael Lanza

Even in the Southwest, a region where the extraordinary becomes ordinary, Zion National Park stands out. Other places have natural arches, spires, and ancient cliff dwellings, but no place really matches Zion’s grandeur: cliffs up to 2,000 feet tall stretching for miles, the rock’s purity of white and deep burgundy, and patterns of striations rippling across a span of stone that dwarfs Man’s greatest buildings and monuments. Perhaps that’s why it was Utah’s first national park, designated in the same year, 1919, as Grand Canyon and Acadia.

As the photos below demonstrate, Zion harbors some of America’s best dayhiking and backpacking.

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