Category Archives: Paddling

Stories, photos, and videos from my kayaking, canoeing, and rafting adventures in the U.S. and around the world.

August 23, 2016 Taylor Creek Trail, Zion National Park.

Photo Gallery: Exploring Utah’s 5 National Parks

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By Michael Lanza

All of America’s 59 national parks possess special qualities and scenery, without a doubt. But southern Utah’s concentration of unique and awe-inspiring landscapes sets its five parks apart from the rest—and they’re each quite different from one another. Arches has more than 2,000 natural stone arches, as well as hundreds of soaring pinnacles, giant fins, and balanced rocks. Bryce Canyon holds the world’s greatest number of hoodoos, or bizarrely shaped pinnacles created by erosion.

Canyonlands is a vast wonderland of multi-colored cliffs, deep canyons, tall spires, and two major rivers. Capitol Reef’s Waterpocket Fold, a nearly 100-mile-long, jumbled ridge of solid rock, conceals sandstone domes, natural bridges, beautiful canyons, and bighorn sheep. And Zion, Utah’s first and one of America’s flagship national parks, defies easy description from the 2,000-foot cliffs of Zion Canyon to a backcountry filled with geologic anomalies. Continue reading →

August 22, 2016 Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, Yellowstone National Park.

Photo Gallery: Celebrating the National Park Service Centennial

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By Michael Lanza

When the National Park Service turns 100 on Aug. 25, it will mark not just the diamond anniversary of what writer and historian Wallace Stegner famously called “the best idea we ever had”—it marks the evolution and growth of that idea from a handful of parks created in the early days to a system in many ways without parallel, that protects 52 million acres of mountain ranges, canyons, rivers, deserts, prairies, caves, islands, bays, fjords, badlands, natural arches, and seashores in 59 parks. Without that protection, these places that draw visitors from around the world would otherwise almost certainly have been exploited and destroyed. Continue reading →

August 21, 2016 Grand Teton National Park.

Photo Gallery: 10 Amazing National Park Adventures (And How To Pull Them Off)

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By Michael Lanza

Yellowstone. Yosemite. Grand Canyon. Glacier. Zion. Grand Teton. These names are iconic to people who love exploring America’s national parks. And beyond those flagship parks are dozens more units of the National Park Service (53 more, to be specific) creating infinite opportunities to hike, backpack, kayak, canoe, climb a mountain, fish, and cross-country ski. But where do you begin, and what should you or your family do?

As we celebrate the centennial of the National Park Service, which was created on Aug. 25, 1916—and which The Big Outside will spotlight with special stories all this week—America’s passion for its parks has only grown. A record 307.2 million visitors toured a national park, seashore, or historic site in 2015, on the heels of a record 292.8 million visitors in 2014. Will you visit at least one park this year? It’s not too late to pull off a trip in 2016, and it’s not too early to start thinking about which one to put on the calendar for 2017. Continue reading →

July 28, 2016 The Narrows, Zion National Park, Utah.

10 Tips For Getting a Hard-to-Get National Park Backcountry Permit

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By Michael Lanza

The first time I backpacked in Yosemite National Park, more than 20 years ago, I applied months in advance for a permit to start at the park’s most popular trailhead, Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley—and I got it. I had no idea at the time how lucky I was. I’ve since been shot down trying to get permits for popular hikes in parks like Yosemite, Grand Canyon, and Glacier. But I’ve also learned a few tricks for landing coveted backcountry permits in those flagship parks—which all receive far more requests for permit reservations than they can accommodate. Continue reading →

July 18, 2016 Campsite by the Colorado River at Hance Rapids, Grand Canyon.

Photo Gallery: 25 Favorite Backcountry Campsites

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By Michael Lanza

Everyone has favorite campsites from unforgettable backcountry trips. I’ve been fortunate to have pitched a tent in many great backcountry campsites over more than two decades of backpacking and trekking all over the U.S. and the world. I’ve boiled my list of my favorite campsites down to 25, and I update it annually. Before planning your next trip, scroll through the photo gallery below, which highlights several of my favorite campsites, including jaw-dropping spots like Death Canyon Shelf in Grand Teton National Park, Columbine Lake in Sequoia National Park, Sahale Glacier Camp in North Cascades National Park, and a magical spot by the Colorado River at Hance Rapids in the Grand Canyon (lead photo above). Continue reading →

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