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.

March 18, 2019 A hiker on the South Kaibab Trail in the Grand Canyon.

Ask Me: Hiking the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim in a Day

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Hi Michael,

My son Matt and I (age 35 and 65) will be hiking the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim-to-rim (r2r2r) in May as a continuous ultra-hike. This will be the farthest we’ve ever hiked in a day (42 to 47 miles, depending on the route), and we’re excited. Since you have done this hike in a day, we’d appreciate your advice. Do you plan your rest periods? What about pace? On a recent 30-mile hike with rolling hills in Maryland, we averaged about 3.3 miles per hour. Should we expect a slower pace on the r2r2r? What else do we need to know? Continue reading →

March 13, 2019 A backpacker above the Belly River Valley in Glacier National Park.

The Best Backpacking Trip in Glacier National Park

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By Michael Lanza

The three bighorn sheep lifted their heavily horned heads to gaze at us, but never budged from their beds of grass amid boulders on a mountainside above the Highline Trail in Glacier National Park. The mountain goats we saw on various occasions gave us little more attention than that. And fortunately, the grizzly bear sow with two cubs in tow that passed within about 30 feet of us—an encounter of less than 10 seconds that is etched into my memory forever—gave us no more than a passing glance.

Besides an array of wildlife on that weeklong hike through Glacier, two friends and I also saw an ocean of mountains spreading out before us, long escarpments of Glacier’s signature soaring cliffs, and some of the prettiest of the park’s 760 lakes. We even enjoyed an unexpectedly high degree of solitude for long stretches of a multi-day hike that hit many of the park’s highlights. Continue reading →

March 11, 2019 A backpacker on Clouds Rest in Yosemite National Park.

5 Perfect National Park Backpacking Trips for Beginners

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By Michael Lanza

So you’re a novice backpacker, or you’re backpacking in a big, Western national park for the first time, or you have kids you want to take on a relatively easy backpacking trip—and you want to sample the best scenery, trails, and backcountry campsites that experienced backpackers get to enjoy in our flagship national parks. No worries. These five trips in Grand Teton, Yosemite (photo above), Zion, Grand Canyon, and Rocky Mountain are ideal for beginners and families, with easy to moderately difficult days and simple logistics, while delivering the spectacular vistas that each of these parks is famous for. Continue reading →

March 10, 2019 A hiker on the summit of Mount Hoffmann in Yosemite National Park.

The 10 Best Dayhikes in Yosemite

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By Michael Lanza

Let’s say it up front: The U.S. National Park System is without equal. The natural beauty, variety, pristine character, and scale of it have no parallel in the world. And everyone should set a lifetime goal of exploring as many of our 59 national parks as possible. But the truth is, a handful of flagship parks rise above the rest—including, unquestionably, Yosemite. Created in 1890, our third national park harbors some of the most breathtaking and inspiring scenery and wild lands in the entire parks system. And you can reach some of Yosemite’s finest views on dayhikes.

Here are 10 of the very best. Continue reading →

March 4, 2019 Backpackers on the Continental Divide Trail/Piegan Pass Trail in Glacier National Park.

Wildness All Around You: Backpacking the CDT Through Glacier

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By Michael Lanza

The air temperature feels not much above freezing, pinching our faces as we hit the trail just after 8 a.m. on our second day of backpacking in Glacier National Park. The still, glassy water of Elizabeth Lake captures a razor-sharp, upside-down reflection of the jagged mountains flanking it; only the upper slopes of the peaks above Elizabeth’s western shore catch the early sunlight on this September morning. We pause occasionally on the strip of sandy beach along the lakeshore just to gawk at our surroundings.

Then we hear it. Continue reading →

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