Backpacking the Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail, Glacier National Park.

My Top 10 Favorite Backpacking Trips

In Backpacking, Family Adventures, National Park Adventures   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   13 Comments

By Michael Lanza

What makes a great backpacking trip? I’ve thought about that more than a mentally stable person probably should, having done many of America’s (and the world’s) most beautiful and beloved multi-day hikes over the years. Certainly top-shelf scenery is a mandatory qualification. An element of adventurousness enhances a hike, in my eyes. As I assembled this top 10 list, longer trips seemed to dominate it—there’s something special about a big walk in the wilderness—but two- and three-day hikes also made my list. Another factor that truly matters is a wilderness experience: All of my top 10 are in national parks or federal wilderness areas.

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13 Responses to My Top 10 Favorite Backpacking Trips

  1. Emily Hansen   |  November 19, 2017 at 8:32 pm

    Oh, great! Thank you so much for these suggestions Michael. Best of luck for me and my cousin. I’m pretty sure it will be so much fun!

  2. Emily Hansen   |  November 12, 2017 at 7:52 pm

    Great list, Michael!

    I can’t wait to explore some of these locations. They all have some awesome views. I just want to know which one is the best for first-time backpackers? I’m planning to invite my cousin for an adventure. It will be her first ever experience.

    • MichaelALanza   |  November 12, 2017 at 8:40 pm

      Great question, Emily, thanks for asking. I’d have to suggest that the Olympic coast, Zion’s Narrows, and maybe the Teton Crest Trail are the most beginner-friendly, even though the TCT has a couple of rigorous days (unless you break up those days). The Sawtooths would be close, too, but longer trips are by nature harder because of cumulative fatigue. The route in northern Glacier isn’t terribly strenuous, but it’s long and complicated by the skills required for hiking in grizzly country. The others on the list are longer, demand some advanced skills, and/or more strenuous.

      Good luck! Let me know when you’ve ticked them all off!

  3. Ned   |  October 17, 2017 at 6:11 am

    Awesome list. Great inspiration for a ‘best of the US’ hiking trip I am planning for next year. Wondering if you have either completed or heard much about Canada’s Great Divide Trail? I would love to get your opinion on that.

    Also have you ever completed a full thru hike of the SHR? What is your take on that?

  4. Meg   |  October 10, 2017 at 10:52 am

    This is a great list! Very inspiring. My friend and I are planning a 7 day backpacking trip the week after Thanksgiving. Do you have any recommendations for colder weather trails?

    • MichaelALanza   |  October 10, 2017 at 11:00 am

      Thanks, Meg. From this list, I’d only suggest the Royal Arch Loop or other hikes in the Grand Canyon for that late in the season, and even there, you could see snow fly at the canyon rim. Visit my All Trips Listed By State page ( and scroll down to Utah. I’d also be happy to help you with ideas and planning; see my Ask Me page for details on that (

  5. Kara   |  February 5, 2017 at 12:04 pm

    I am definitely adding some of these trips to my adventure bucket list! I did the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne in Yosemite this past October for my Birthday and it was beyond amazing! I wrote about all my strenuous ascents and freezing nights here:
    Keep on hiking and I will keep on reading!

    • MichaelALanza   |  February 5, 2017 at 5:55 pm

      Hi Kara, thanks for reading my blog. Good luck with working on your bucket list.

  6. michaellanza   |  March 4, 2016 at 1:04 pm

    Hey JZ, I’d heard about Image Lake for years before I went there, and it lives up to the hype and then some. Beautiful spot, and the trail to it is just as gorgeous.

  7. JZ @ Living EZ   |  March 4, 2016 at 12:53 pm

    I love that photo from Image Lake! If I keep reading your site, I just might quit my job and take family for a series of long walks. 😉 I really need to finish this 4 hour work week book.

  8. michaellanza   |  March 1, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    Hi Leigh, thanks, and yes, Isle Royale has actually been on my list for a while. I hope to get there someday.

  9. leigh423   |  March 1, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    What a great list! If you ever end up in the Midwest, Isle Royale National Park has some great backpacking as well. Maybe no alpine views, but well worth the trip!

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