National Park Adventures

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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One Extraordinary Day: A 25-Mile Dayhike in the Grand Canyon

By Michael Lanza

There’s not another hiker in sight as my friend David Ports and I start down the Hermit Trail on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, even though it’s nearly 8 a.m., hardly an early hour to hit the trail. And that’s just the first conspicuously unusual circumstance at the outset of our hike. The second obvious oddity this morning is that it’s overcast—a welcome sight here—and actually chilly enough that we’re wearing the light jackets we brought.

But most unusual aspect of this hike is that we’re only carrying light daypacks—and cruising along almost effortlessly—for a walk of nearly 25 miles, with some 4,000 feet of elevation gain and loss. That’s because we’ll do it all today.

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A hiker on the Peek-a-Boo Loop in Bryce Canyon National Park.

The Best Hike in Bryce Canyon National park

By Michael Lanza Bryce Canyon’s Navajo Loop/Queens Garden Loop is a popular trail for good reason, with constant views of hoodoos—the multi-colored, limestone, sandstone, and mudstone spires that look like giant, melting candles, including the famous formation called Thor’s Hammer. But once turning onto the Peek-a-Boo Loop, you lose the crowds—and discover the scenic heart of Bryce Canyon while hiking …

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Sunset at Idaho's City of Rocks National Reserve.

Why I Never Miss a Wilderness Sunset or Sunrise

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.

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A backpacker on the Piegan Pass/Continental Divide Trail in Glacier National Park.

Photo Gallery: Backpacking the CDT Through Glacier National Park

By Michael Lanza

After more than three decades of wilderness backpacking all over the U.S. and around the world, rarely does a new trip immediately leap into my all-time top 10. But that’s exactly what happened when three friends and I backpacked a north-south traverse of 94 miles through Glacier National Park in a glorious week in September, mostly following the Continental Divide Trail.

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