Trips

A backpacker hiking past Minaret Lake in the Ansel Adams Wilderness, High Sierra.

Backpacking the John Muir and Ansel Adams Wildernesses

By Michael Lanza

Yosemite and Sequoia-Kings Canyon national parks loom large on the radar screens of most backpackers. But savvy Sierra aficionados know that the two major wilderness areas that sprawl over nearly 900,000 acres along more than 100 miles of the High Sierra between those parks, the John Muir and Ansel Adams wildernesses, harbor just as rich a cache of soaring, jagged peaks and shimmering alpine lakes—not to mention sections of the John Muir Trail and Pacific Crest Trail that enable almost endless possibilities for multi-day hikes, short and long. And while competition is stiff for permits to backpack in the John Muir and Ansel Adams wildernesses, those permits are not nearly as hard to draw as permits for the most popular trips in Yosemite or Sequoia-Kings Canyon or to thru-hike the John Muir Trail.

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A backpacker hiking to Burro Pass above Matterhorn Canyon, Yosemite National Park.

The 10 Best Backpacking Trips in Yosemite

By Michael Lanza

After more than three decades of exploring all over Yosemite on numerous backpacking trips, I’ve learned two big lessons about it: First of all, few places inspire the same powerful combination of both awe and adventure. And Yosemite’s backcountry harbors such an abundance of soaring granite peaks, waterfalls, lovely rivers and creeks, and shimmering alpine lakes—plus, over 700,000 acres of designated wilderness and 750 miles of trails—that you can explore America’s third national park literally for decades and not run out of five-star scenery.

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A hiker on Half Dome, high above Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park.

Where to Backpack First Time in Yosemite

By Michael Lanza

Ready for your first backpacking trip in one of America’s greatest national parks for backpackers? Having backpacked several times all over Yosemite, my advice for a first-time backpacker who wants to hit highlights like Yosemite Valley, the Mist Trail, and Half Dome is nearly identical to the itinerary I followed on my first trip more than three decades ago—but modified because I know better now.

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A hiker on the Observation Point Trail in Zion National Park.

The 10 Best Hikes in Zion National Park

By Michael Lanza

At a bit over 148,000 acres, Zion comes nowhere near America’s largest national parks in sheer immensity. Zion could fit inside Yosemite National Park five times, inside the Everglades 10 times, inside Yellowstone 15 times, and inside our largest park, Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias, 89 times. But if you’re a hiker, Zion harbors, mile for mile, some of the most breathtaking scenery to be found on any trails in the National Park System.

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A hiker on Angels Landing in Zion National Park.

Hiking Angels Landing: What You Need to Know

By Michael Lanza

Thrilling, scenic, and enormously popular, an impressive feat of trail building, an intimidating and exposed scramble—these are some of the descriptions commonly given to Angels Landing in Zion National Park, all of them accurate. It also has a reputation as one of the scariest and most dangerous hikes in the National Park System—a claim that would seem somewhat overblown just by virtue of the fact that innumerable thousands of people, including many novice hikers, safely venture up and down it every year. For those willing to brave the exposure, the 5,790-foot summit offers arguably the best view of Zion Canyon.

Constructed nearly a century ago and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, now one of the classic dayhikes in America and certainly one of “The 25 Best National Park Dayhikes,” Angels Landing is safe for anyone exercising reasonable caution and should be in the sights of every avid hiker. This story explains what you need to know about it.

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