Trips

A hiker on Half Dome's cable route in Yosemite National Park.

Extreme Hiking: America’s Best Hard Dayhikes

By Michael Lanza

Imagine this: You’re heading out on a long, beautiful hike deep in the backcountry, but instead of a full backpack, you carry a light daypack. You’ve avoided hassles with getting a backcountry permit and there’s no camp to set up and pack up. I love backpacking—and I do it a lot. But sometimes, I prefer to knock off a weekend-length—or longer—hike in one big day.

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A backpacker hiking into Titcomb Basin in the Wind River Range, Wyoming.

Photo Gallery: Backpacking the Wind River Range

By Michael Lanza

In late afternoon, near the end of a day of backpacking some 14 miles—mostly above 10,000 feet—two friends and I walked into Titcomb Basin, deep in Wyoming’s Wind River Range, mouths gaping open. Forming a horseshoe embracing this alpine valley at over 10,500 feet, mountains soared more than 3,000 feet above the windblown Titcomb Lakes, including the second-highest in the Winds, 13,745-foot Fremont Peak, on the Continental Divide.

But by that point on the first day of our 39-mile backpacking trip, my companions were fully smitten by the Winds—as I have been since my first trip there 30 years ago.

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Backpackers west of Sunrise on the Wonderland Trail, Mount Rainier National Park

The Best Hikes in Mount Rainier National Park

By Michael Lanza

Among hikers and backpackers, Mount Rainier National Park may be best known for the Wonderland Trail, which makes a 93-mile loop around Mount Rainier—the 14,411-foot volcano that Washingtonians refer to simply as “The Mountain.” The Wonderland constantly ascends to sub-alpine meadows exploding with wildflowers, with Rainier’s gleaming, white slopes repeatedly popping into view, and plunges into valleys carved by glacial rivers in a rainforest of giant trees.

But one doesn’t have to embark on a multi-day hike to enjoy those vistas. You reach some of the best scenery in America’s fifth national park on dayhikes.

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A backpacker on the Clear Creek Trail, Grand Canyon.

Finding Solitude Backpacking the Grand Canyon’s Utah Flats and Clear Creek

By Michael Lanza

After descending seven miles and over 4,800 feet on the Grand Canyon’s always-stunning South Kaibab Trail and crossing the footbridge to the north side of the Colorado River, we follow the path through the Bright Angel backpacker campground to its end. There, not marked by any sign and not obvious to anyone unaware of it, a faint path leads through low bushes. Within moments, it turns and runs straight up a steep canyon wall of cacti and other desert flora, loose scree, and boulders, ascending about 1,500 vertical feet in the first mile, beyond what we can see from the bottom of it.

Gazing up with a volatile mix of excitement and trepidation, we start a long uphill grind.

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A backpacker on the Tonto Trail on the Grand Canyon's Royal Arch Loop.

How to Get a Permit to Backpack in the Grand Canyon

By Michael Lanza

First-time backpackers in the Grand Canyon quickly absorb two lessons about this one-of-a-kind place: Its infinite vistas and deceptive scale, the beauty of desert oases and wildflower blooms, the peacefulness and quietude of some of the best campsites you will ever enjoy—all of these qualities will hook you forever.

And you learn how difficult it can be to get a permit for backpacking there.

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