National Park Adventures

A backpacker on the Teton Crest Trail on Death Canyon Shelf, Grand Teton National Park.

12 Expert Tips for Planning a Backpacking Trip

By Michael Lanza Wilderness backpacking opens new worlds to us. While dayhiking can bring you to many beautiful places in nature, walking for days through the backcountry, carrying all you need on your back, inspires a liberating sense of self-sufficiency and solitude as you escape the crowds to explore places most people never see. This article lays out in 12 …

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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 …

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Hikers climbing Telescope Peak in Death Valley National Park.

11,000 Feet Over Death Valley: Hiking Telescope Peak

By Michael Lanza

We set out at a brisk pace from the Telescope Peak Trailhead, at just over 8,100 feet in Death Valley National Park, for a good reason: It’s 29° F at just after 7 a.m. on this Saturday in the third week of May. That’s exactly 80 degrees colder than the big digital thermometer at the park’s Furnace Creek visitor center read when we arrived here four days ago. But the fifth-largest U.S. national park—and the biggest one outside Alaska—is nothing if not a place of extremes, both of temperature and physical relief. Today, besides notching the coldest temp we’ll see over four days of hiking in Death Valley, we intend to tag another of its extremes: the highest summit in Death Valley National Park, 11,049-foot Telescope Peak.

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A backpacker in The Narrows in Zion National Park.

Photo Gallery: 10 Awe-Inspiring Wild Places

By Michael Lanza

Over many years of taking wilderness trips of all kinds, I’ve gotten pickier about my backpacking and other backcountry adventures. The best-known trails, peaks, and wilderness waters are usually beautiful; but sometimes, for various reasons, they don’t always do it for me. More and more, I seek out the places and multi-day adventures that inspire a powerful sense of awe. It certainly begins with exceptional natural beauty, but often also requires getting farther from civilization, onto paths less traveled, and occasionally entails greater physical and other challenges. But those adventures feel wilder. And that’s what I’m after.

The 10 places shown in the photos below are exactly that: still wild.

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A view from the Appalachian Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

In the Garden of Eden: Backpacking the Great Smoky Mountains

By Michael Lanza

Late-afternoon sunlight tilts golden beams through the low canopy of spruce and fir trees as I hike alone up the Welch Ridge Trail, deep in the backcountry of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I haven’t seen another person all day. Solitude in the mountains exerts many effects, small and large, on us, including that we instinctively listen more attentively. Our rational minds cannot erase from primal memory the instinctive knowledge that, in the primitive brains of some woodland creatures, we represent a boatload of calories.

I stop abruptly and stand perfectly still—listening intently, waiting. And then I hear it.

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