National Park Adventures

A backpacker on the Tonto Trail in the Grand Canyon.

5 Reasons You Must Backpack in the Grand Canyon

By Michael Lanza

The Grand Canyon’s appeal to backpackers may seem elusive. It’s hard, it’s dry, it’s often quite hot with little respite from the blazing sun. But while those aspects of hiking there are rarely out of mind, when I recall backpacking in the canyon, I conjure mental images of waterfalls, creeks, and intimate side canyons sheltering perennial streams that nurture lush oases in the desert. I think of wildflowers carpeting the ground for as far as the eye can see. I recall campsites on beaches by the Colorado River and on promontories overlooking a wide expanse of the canyon.

And, of course, I picture the endless vistas stretching for miles in every direction, where impossibly immense stone towers loom thousands of feet above an unfathomably vertiginous and complex landscape.

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A backpacker hiking down the South Kaibab Trail in the Grand Canyon.

8 Epic Grand Canyon Backpacking Trips You Must Do

By Michael Lanza

This is, in a way, a story about addiction. Or a love affair. Or both. Those metaphors best describe how the Grand Canyon constantly lures me back when I’m thinking about spring and fall hiking and backpacking trips.

It is that rare kind of natural environment that exists on a scale of its own, like Alaska or the Himalaya. There’s something soul-stirring and hypnotic about its infinite vistas, the deceptive immensity of the canyon walls and stone towers, and the way the foreground and background continually expand and shrink as you ascend and descend elevation gradients of a vertical mile or more—all of which validates enduring the wilting heat and trails that sometimes seem better suited to rattlesnakes and scorpions than bipedal primates.

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Hikers at Grand Prismatic Spring in the Midway Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park.

The Ultimate Family Tour of Yellowstone

By Michael Lanza

Every American should see Yellowstone—and not just for the historical significance of it being the world’s first national park. Few places in the United States still host the range of wildlife thriving in Yellowstone: You are likely to see numerous bison and elk, bald eagles, osprey, possibly wolves, maybe black and grizzly bears (usually from a distance), and trumpeter swans among the park’s 285 species of birds. With more than 10,000 thermal features including hot springs and more than half the planet’s geysers, and nearly 300 waterfalls, it often feels like the park is putting on a live performance.

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A backpacker above Liberty Lake on the Ruby Crest Trail in Nevada's Ruby Mountains.

The 27 Nicest Backcountry Campsites I’ve Hiked Past

By Michael Lanza

It is one of those unfortunate inevitabilities of life, like death and taxes: Occasionally on backpacking trips you will hike past one of the most sublime patches of wilderness real estate you have ever laid eyes on, a spot so idyllic you can already see your tent pitched there and you standing outside it, warm mug in your hands, watching a glorious sunset. But it’s early and your plan entails hiking farther before you stop for the day—not camping there. Or your permit isn’t for that site. Or even worse, you are looking for a campsite, but someone else has already occupied this little corner of Heaven.

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A backpacker watching the sunset over Thousand Island Lake along the John Muir Trail in the Ansel Adams Wilderness, High Sierra.

Tent Flap With A View: 25 Favorite Backcountry Campsites

By Michael Lanza

An unforgettable campsite can define a backcountry trip. Sometimes that perfect spot where you spend a night forges the memory that remains the most vivid long after you’ve gone home. A photo of that camp can send recollections of the entire adventure rushing back to you—it does for me. I’ve been very fortunate to have pitched a tent in many great backcountry campsites over more than three decades of backpacking all over the U.S. I’ve distilled the list of my favorite spots down to these 25.

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