Category Archives: Family Adventures

Stories, photos, and videos from our family’s many wilderness adventures hiking, backpacking, skiing, kayaking, rafting, and climbing, including in many U.S. national parks.

September 10, 2018 Larch trees reflected in Rainbow Lake, North Cascades National Park Complex.

10 Awesome Fall Backpacking Trips

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By Michael Lanza

The imminent end of summer always feels a little melancholy. After all, it marks the close of the prime season for getting into the mountains. But it also signals the beginning of a time of year when many mountain ranges become less crowded just as they’re hitting a sweet zone in terms of temperatures, the lack of bugs, and fall foliage color. Autumn also stands out as an ideal season for many canyon hikes, with moderate temperatures and even some stunning color.

From Yosemite to the North Cascades (lead photo, above), Grand Canyon to Grand Teton, the Great Smokies to the Olympics, and more, here are 10 of my favorite backpacking trips that are best served up in fall.
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August 20, 2018 Sunset at Idaho's City of Rocks National Reserve.

Why I Never Miss a Wilderness Sunset or Sunrise

In Backpacking, Family Adventures, Hiking, International Adventures, National Park Adventures, Paddling   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   4 Comments

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. Continue reading →

August 13, 2018 A rock climber atop Eichorn Pinnacle in Yosemite National Park.

When Your Kid Gets Better Than You

In Family Adventures, National Park Adventures   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   4 Comments

By Michael Lanza

Some 200 feet above the shore of Tenaya Lake in Yosemite National Park, on the face of a granite cliff with a name that sets high expectations—Stately Pleasure Dome—I crouch and contort my torso and limbs to squeeze into a slender passageway barely wider than my body. Inside this claustrophobic “chimney,” as this type of formation is known in rock-climbing parlance, I start grunting and panting loudly enough for the sounds of suffering to reach my 17-year-old son, Nate, who’s belaying me at the other end of our rope, below the chimney.

“How’s it look in there?” he calls to me from the relative comfort of his spacious ledge in the warm sunshine. Continue reading →

August 6, 2018 Kayaking Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand.

10 Adventures to Put on Your Bucket List Now

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By Michael Lanza

Do you have a “bucket list?” I’m not sure how many trips are on my list, which I’ve maintained for years, but I can tell you its word count: 18,712 words (including notes about each trip). And it keeps getting longer, even though I tick off new trips every year. Last year, to give a few examples, I trekked the majestic Tour du Mont Blanc with my family (see below), adventured in Costa Rica, and backpacked Utah’s Dark Canyon and Wyoming’s Wind River Range.

Looking for great ideas for your bucket list? (Who isn’t?) Well, you’ve clicked to the right place. I’ve assembled here 10 of the best adventures I’ve taken over nearly three decades as an outdoor writer and photographer—all of them trips that belong on every serious outdoor adventurer’s list—with information based on my personal experience, and links to stories at The Big Outside with many more images from and info about each one. Continue reading →

July 31, 2018 Alex hiking Monitor Ridge, Mt. St. Helens

The 5 Best Tips For Hiking With Young Kids

In Backpacking, Family Adventures, Hiking, National Park Adventures, Skills   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , ,   |   4 Comments

By Michael Lanza

After hiking 1,000 vertical feet uphill on the dusty Upper Yosemite Falls Trail in Yosemite Valley, baking under a thermonuclear Sierra sun, we sat on rocks for a snack and a much-needed break. My seven-year-old daughter, unprompted, blurted out, “I’m tired and hungry!” My nine-year-old son was still fuming over having been woken up earlier than he prefers (which is 11 a.m.) for this hike—although we were broiling in the sun precisely because we didn’t start even earlier, when it was cooler. He groused, “If you’re going to wake me up that early, it’s your fault if I complain.”

It was looking like my plan to hike my kids and my 12-year-old nephew 3,000 feet and nearly four miles uphill to the brink of Upper Yosemite Falls—and then, of course, back down—was on the express bus to the graveyard for dumb ideas from overzealous hiker-dads.

 

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