Family Adventures

Quiet Lake, White Cloud Mountains, Idaho.

Photo Gallery: Backpacking Idaho’s White Cloud Mountains

By Michael Lanza

Picture a chain of peaks rising to over 11,000 feet, some composed of chalk-like rock that looks, from a distance, like snow. Scores of crystal-clear lakes above 9,000 feet ripple in the breeze and creeks run with trout and salmon. Mountain goats, elk, bighorn sheep, black bears, even gray wolves roam this wilderness. And backpackers find the kind of solitude you can’t find in many wild lands.

That’s the White Cloud Mountains of central Idaho. Put this relatively new American wilderness on your radar—and get there before every other backpacker discovers how gorgeous and quiet it still is, as you’ll see in the photos below from the backpacking trips and one long dayhike I’ve taken in the White Clouds, including to Quiet Lake, below the range’s highest peak, 11,815-foot Castle Peak (lead photo, above).

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Two young kids backpacking at Upper Lyman Lakes in Washington's Glacier Peak Wilderness.

10 Tips for Taking Kids on Their First Backpacking Trip

By Michael Lanza

Whether you’re a family of novices planning your first backpacking trip or an experienced backpacker ready to take your kids on their first multi-day hike, heed this friendly advice: You’re in for some surprises. And I speak from experience. I’d been backpacking for years—in fact, I was already working as a professional backpacker—when my wife (also a longtime backpacker) and I first dove into the grand new adventure of taking our young kids into the wilderness.

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A backpacker at Park Creek Pass, North Cascades National Park.

Photo Gallery: Backpacking in the North Cascades

By Michael Lanza

On my first trip to North Cascades National Park, I was sure I’d found heaven. The hard-earned views of a sea of jagged spires and snow- and ice-covered peaks stretching as far as you could see instantly cemented the place as one of my favorite mountain ranges. I’ve returned many times since, backpacking, dayhiking, climbing, ski mountaineering, including with my family.

But not many hikers and backpackers know much about Washington’s North Cascades, a region that includes one of America’s least-visited national parks and surrounding wilderness and national recreation areas that offer a rare combination of stunning beauty and solitude. And the season for heading into the backcountry there is upon us.

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A father and son below Jacob Hamblin Arch, Coyote Gulch, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah.

10 Tips For Keeping Kids Happy and Safe Outdoors

By Michael Lanza

Some people might say my wife and I are bad parents. We’ve repeatedly and deliberately placed our kids—at young ages—in risky situations. And I’m not talking about letting them ride their bikes without wearing helmets or frequently taking them to McDonald’s.

I’m talking about setting out with seven- and four-year-old kids to cross-country ski through a snowstorm for hours to a backcountry yurt. Tying a six-year-old into a rope and letting him or her rock climb a cliff. Rappelling into slot canyons. Backpacking into the remotest and most rugged wildernesses in the contiguous United States, from the Grand Canyon to the Tetons to Glacier National Park.

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Fishing at Lake 8522, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho.

Boy Trip, Girl Trip: Why I Take Father-Son and Father-Daughter Adventures

By Michael Lanza

On a morning when the late-summer sunshine sharpens the incisor points of every peak and spire in the jagged skyline of Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, Nate and I step inside the Sawtooth National Recreation Area ranger station, south of the little town of Stanley, population sixty-three. I chat with the ranger behind the counter, mentioning that my son and I are heading out to backpack the 18-mile loop from Pettit Lake to Alice and Toxaway Lakes.

The ranger sizes up my six-year-old, 40-pound kid, and frowns skeptically. “You know, that’s a pretty rugged hike,” he tells me.

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