Category Archives: National Park Adventures

Stories and images from my many hiking, backpacking, kayaking, canoeing, skiing, and family adventures in national parks in the U.S. and around the world.

December 5, 2016 Sunset at Idaho's City of Rocks National Reserve.

10 Photos From 2016 Adventures That Will Inspire You to Get Outdoors

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By Michael Lanza

What trips did you take in 2016 that reinvigorated you and fired your enthusiasm for the outdoors? Looking back through thousands of photos I took over the past year, I’ve selected some favorite images I captured on 10 memorable adventures in 2016—including several with my family. The list ranges from multi-day backpacking, river, and climbing trips in five states to outings as short as a half-day within an hour of my home. These trips occurred in seven national parks and an equal number of places managed as wilderness, from Washington’s North Cascades to Dinosaur National Monument in Utah and Colorado, from California’s Mount Whitney to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Perhaps more than anything, these pictures illustrate the diversity and wealth of natural beauty that we have many reasons to celebrate in America. Continue reading →

November 28, 2016 Hiking Blahnukur, in Fjallabak Nature Reserve, Iceland.

15 Adventures on Earth That Will Change Your Life

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By Michael Lanza

“Change your life.” That’s a tall order, isn’t it? I mean, how many experiences have that magnitude of impact on you? I can think of several that overhauled my perspective on life, or at the least, expanded how I view the world and other people.

Looking at the highest mountains on the planet and walking through villages in Nepal where people live much as their ancestors have for centuries. Seeing the surreal landscapes of Iceland (photo above) and Patagonia. Immersing myself in the mountain culture on hut-to-hut treks through the vertiginous Swiss Alps. Paddling a kayak below jungle-clad cliffs rising 4,000 feet straight out of the sea in New Zealand’s Doubtful Sound, and hiking what’s reputedly the hardest hut trek in that adventure-addicted country, the Dusky Track. And seeing unforgettable mountain ranges like the Scottish Highlands, Norway’s Jotunheimen National Park, and Italy’s Dolomites, and seals, brown bears, and sea lions in Alaska’s Glacier Bay through the unclouded eyes of my kids. Continue reading →

November 14, 2016 Surprise Canyon, Panamint Range, Death Valley National Park.

A Mind-Boggling Chunk of Lonely: Backpacking in Death Valley National Park

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By Michael Lanza

“Can you believe how much water there is?!” Katie asks incredulously. It’s a logical question, and the response of silence from the rest of us answers her pretty succinctly: No, we can’t.

We’re backpacking in a lonely corner of the water-starved and nearly barren Panamint Range in southern California’s Death Valley National Park. One of the most insufferably hot and dry deserts on the planet, Death Valley averages less than two inches of rainfall a year. The temperature on this mid-May evening still hovers around a steaming 90° F in the shade, even as sunset fast approaches. That actually feels relatively frosty compared to when we stopped at the park’s Furnace Creek visitor center this afternoon, at 190 feet below sea level, where the outside thermometer read a searing 108° F. Continue reading →

November 13, 2016 The Narrows, Zion National Park.

My 10 Most-Read Stories at The Big Outside

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By Michael Lanza

Which story of mine first led you to this blog? Which stories here interest you the most? (I’d really appreciate reading your answers to those questions in the comments section below this story.) I can tell you what your fellow readers of The Big Outside come to my blog looking for. I’ve compiled here a list of the 10 most-read stories over the past several months at The Big Outside. It includes feature-length stories about the adventures my readers most want to do, and some of my articles of tips on outdoor skills to help you make every trip a success. Continue reading →

November 10, 2016 Horseshoe Mesa, Grand Canyon.

Ask Me: What Backpacking Trips Do You Suggest In the Grand Canyon and Southern Utah?

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Hi Michael,

I recently found your blog while planning a trip to Grand Teton and Yellowstone, and have devoured it in its entirety over the past few months. While reading I mainly lamented living in the mostly boring Midwest, with poor access to the prime backpacking spots you describe. Well, as luck would have it my partner just got a job in Phoenix, AZ, so we two flatlanders will now be a short drive from the Grand Canyon, and accessible to Canyonlands, Arches, and much more. My question for you: what backpacking trips would you most recommend as first priorities for two reasonably fit, decently equipped people new to the Phoenix area? Continue reading →

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