Category Archives: National Park Adventures

The Big Outside creator and former Backpacker magazine Northwest Editor Michael Lanza’s stories and images from many hiking, backpacking, kayaking, canoeing, and skiing adventures in U.S. national parks.

September 17, 2018 Looking Glass Rock, Pisgah National Forest, N.C.

A Perfect Week of Hiking in the North Carolina Mountains

In Backpacking, Hiking, National Park Adventures   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   2 Comments

By Michael Lanza

Warm rain drums lightly on the lush deciduous forest around me as I walk up a long-abandoned dirt road that has narrowed to a trail with the gradual encroachment of vegetation. The wind assaults the treetops, the outer edge of a hurricane hitting the Southeast coast right now; but here, far from the storm, it sounds like waves rhythmically lapping up onto a beach and retreating. It’s a gray, early evening in mid-October in the basement of a compact valley in the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina—a valley that, due to its tight contours, sees precious few hours of direct sunlight at this time of year—and the daylight has filtered down to a soft, dim, tranquil quality.

A bit more than a half-mile up this quiet footpath, I reach my destination—and unconsciously catch my breath at what must be one of the most lovely cascades in a corner of North Carolina spilling over with waterfalls. Continue reading →

September 10, 2018 Larch trees reflected in Rainbow Lake, North Cascades National Park Complex.

10 Awesome Fall Backpacking Trips

In Backpacking, Family Adventures, National Park Adventures   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   2 Comments

By Michael Lanza

The imminent end of summer always feels a little melancholy. After all, it marks the close of the prime season for getting into the mountains. But it also signals the beginning of a time of year when many mountain ranges become less crowded just as they’re hitting a sweet zone in terms of temperatures, the lack of bugs, and fall foliage color. Autumn also stands out as an ideal season for many canyon hikes, with moderate temperatures and even some stunning color.

From Yosemite to the North Cascades (lead photo, above), Grand Canyon to Grand Teton, the Great Smokies to the Olympics, and more, here are 10 of my favorite backpacking trips that are best served up in fall.
Continue reading →

September 9, 2018 Lower Yellowstone Falls, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, Yellowstone National Park.

Ask Me: The 10 Best Short Hikes in Yellowstone

In Ask Me, Hiking, National Park Adventures   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   9 Comments

Hi Michael,

I have recently stumbled onto your site and have been enjoying it very much. My husband and I are planning a trip to Yellowstone in a few weeks. We’d like to take in a few short hikes. We are both in our late 60s and in decent shape. We spent a few days in Arches this spring and took a few five-mile hikes through the park and enjoyed it thoroughly. What hike could you recommend for us? We are thinking about limiting our hikes to fives miles because of the change in elevation/terrain and weather conditions we may encounter there.

Thank you.

Jeanne
Strafford, N.H. Continue reading →

September 2, 2018 Wanda Lake, John Muir Trail, Kings Canyon National Park.

Photo Gallery: Thru-Hiking the John Muir Trail

In Backpacking, National Park Adventures   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   3 Comments

By Michael Lanza

Late summer always reminds me of my thru-hike of the John Muir Trail. Frequently referred to as “America’s Most Beautiful Trail,” there may be no long backpacking trip that’s more spectacular, step for step, than a thru-hike of the JMT through California’s High Sierra. From Yosemite Valley to the summit of 14,505-foot Mount Whitney in Sequoia National Park, you walk 211 miles past jagged peaks of clean, golden granite, through a constellation of sparkling mountain lakes and more waterfalls than anyone could name, and over numerous passes from 11,000 to over 13,000 feet.

If you haven’t done it, check out the photos below. They just might convince you that it’s time to move it to the top of your list.

Continue reading →

August 27, 2018 Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River, Yosemite National Park.

Backpacking 150 Miles Through Wildest Yosemite

In Backpacking, National Park Adventures   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   4 Comments

By Michael Lanza

In early evening on a bluebird September day, deep in northern Yosemite National Park, my friend Todd Arndt and I—with legs a little weary—reached our fourth pass on a 23-mile day, the second day of a four-day, 87-mile hike. Only a quad-melting, 1,500-foot descent stood between us and soothing our feet in the cool sand and cold water at Benson Lake (possibly the most unbelievable mountain lake I’ve ever seen).

We hiked past quiet tarns where a few backpackers were camped. And it struck me that they were the first people Todd and I had seen all day. That’s not an observation one expects to make in Yosemite. But we were exploring the “other Yosemite”—not the overcrowded park, but its most remote backcountry, on one of the best multi-day hikes I’ve ever taken. Continue reading →

← Older posts

Like This Story? Get My Free Email Newsletter!

Enter your email for updates about new stories, expert tips, and gear reviews.


Grand Canyon Hiker