National Park Adventures

A rock climber atop Eichorn Pinnacle in Yosemite National Park.

When Your Kid Gets Better Than You

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.

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A "bison jam" in Yellowstone National Park.

Video: A Yellowstone National Park ‘Bison Jam’

By Michael Lanza

It’s the coolest, most awe-inspiring traffic jam you’ll ever get stuck in—if a little unnerving, too—and something of an iconic experience in the world’s first national park. On a visit to Yellowstone, after a couple of days of hiking, I was driving south between Mammoth and Norris when I got stuck in a line of vehicles stopped by a large herd of bison walking up the road. Yes, we were in a bison jam, and I captured it on this video (scroll down to watch it).

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Sunrise reflection in a tarn above Helen Lake, John Muir Trail, Kings Canyon National Park, High Sierra, California.

Mountain Lakes of the High Sierra—A Photo Gallery

By Michael Lanza

It seems a fool’s wager to guess how many mountain lakes exist in the High Sierra, the range that reaches heights over 14,000 feet and spans some 200 miles through eastern California from Lake Tahoe to south of Sequoia National Park, including Yosemite and Kings Canyon national parks and several national forest wilderness areas. Some estimates place the number of named glacial lakes at around a thousand—but that omits the constellation of lakes and tarns identified by their elevation only or that remain completely anonymous. It’s a safe bet the total reaches into the thousands.

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Crabtree Falls, along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Pisgah National Forest, N.C.

The 12 Best Dayhikes Along North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Parkway

By Michael Lanza

I’m a hiking snob—I admit it. I want all of the hiking trips I take to feature five-star scenery. And for years, I’ve done most of my dayhiking and backpacking in the American West, with its vast wildernesses and infinite vistas, so I’m a little spoiled. But a weeklong trip to the mountains of western North Carolina upended my snobbery. Exploring the highest peaks east of the Mississippi, I discovered one of America’s richest stashes of stunning waterfalls and most biologically diverse forests, enough ruggedness to inspire a sense of climbing “real” mountains—and some pretty darn big vistas, too.

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Backpackers passing a tarn along the Highline Trail/Continental Divide Trail in Wyoming's Wind River Range.

10 Awe-Inspiring Wild Places in America’s West

By Michael Lanza

Over more than three decades of backpacking adventures throughout America’s West, I’ve been fortunate to explore deeply into our most cherished national parks, wilderness areas, and protected backcountry. Many—indeed, all—are beautiful. But some places rise above the rest, inspiring a sense of awe that can motivate us to reorder our priorities and rearrange our lives—and they have that effect on us every time we return to them. This story spotlights those special places in the West and many trips that you can take in them.

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