Photo Gallery: 20 Big Adventures In Pictures
By Michael Lanza
Everyone loves a good picture—it’s worth a thousand words, right? At this blog, I’ve now posted hundreds of stories with photos about outdoor adventures I’ve taken, many of them with my family. What better way to begin exploring ideas for your next trip than by scrolling through 20 inspirational images from stories at this website?
The pictures below are all from stories at The Big Outside; click on any photo or the link in its description to see that story, with more photos and trip-planning information.
Start planning your next big adventure now. Or your next 20.
I think it’s fair to say that you cannot call yourself an accomplished backpacker until you’ve backpacked in the Grand Canyon, simply because it’s one of the few places so geologically unique, challenging, and mind-boggling beautiful and vast that every serious backpacker should get there. Every hike there has only fueled my appetite to explore more of its 1.2 million acres (America’s fourth-largest national park outside Alaska). See my stories about several trips in the Big Ditch, including hiking across the Grand Canyon; backpacking 29 miles from Grandview Point to the South Kaibab Trailhead; the 25-mile hike from Hermits Rest to the Bright Angel Trailhead; a rugged, 15-mile trek from the New Hance Trailhead to the Colorado River and up to Grandview Point; and backpacking the experts-only, 34.5-mile Royal Arch Loop. Or visit my All National Park Trips page and scroll down to Grand Canyon for a menu of all of my stories.
Half Dome, Clouds Rest, Mount Hoffmann, Mist Trail, Upper Yosemite Falls—these names are nearly as famous as the park that harbors them. Still others, like Matterhorn Peak, Cathedral Lakes, and Dewey Point, are comparably scenic if not as well known. Among the myriad ways to explore Yosemite, ticking off some of its finest dayhikes offers a varied sampler of this flagship national park that’ doable no matter how much time you have there: a week, three days, or one. See my story “The 10 Best Dayhikes in Yosemite.”
You’ve seen photos of classic Great Smoky Mountains National Park scenery, with overlapping rows of blue, wooded ridges fading to a distant horizon. But on a 34-mile hike from lower elevations near Fontana Lake up to the park’s crest, traversing a stretch of the Appalachian Trail, I enjoyed a grand tour of this half-million-acre park’s wonderful variety. I sat beside rocky streams tumbling through cascades; walked through forest that harbors 1,600 species of flowering plants (76 listed as threatened or endangered in North Carolina and Tennessee) accompanied only by the sound of birds; and, of course, looked out over an ocean of blue ridges from 6,643-foot Clingmans Dome and the park’s highest bald, 5,920-foot Andrews Bald. I also found a surprising degree of solitude, even in the popular fall hiking season. I’ll post a feature story about that trip later this year at The Big Outside. Meanwhile, see my “3-Minute Read: Backpacking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.”
Glacier National Park is one of my favorite places to backpack, but much of it is quite remote and challenging. My family’s three-day hike on the Gunsight Pass Trail, when my kids were nine and seven, was just as scenic as any trip I’ve done there, without the physical and logistical difficulties. Read my story about it and see more images, and see all of my stories about Glacier National Park. (I also write more about that trip in my book Before They’re Gone.)
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Tick off the best dayhikes and backpacking trips in Zion—Angels Landing, The Narrows, The Subway, the West Rim Trail, the Kolob Canyons—and you’ve named some of the most scenic pieces of wild real estate in the entire National Park System. I’ve been there several times and still have adventures on my to-do list for that park. See all of my stories about Zion, including a photo gallery from all of my hikes there, and my stories about a family backpacking trip in the Kolob Canyons and West Rim Trail, hiking The Subway, and dayhiking 50 miles across Zion, and watch for my feature story about backpacking The Narrows later this year at The Big Outside.
Score a popular permit using my “10 Tips For Getting a Hard-to-Get National Park Backcountry Permit.”
Very cool waterfalls, wildflowers, and rainforest reachable on family-friendly dayhikes—that’s the Columbia Gorge in Oregon and Washington in a nutshell. Walk behind Ponytail Falls and Tunnel Falls with your kids and you’ll instantly cement their enthusiasm for hiking. But the Gorge is a great destination for the most hard-core hikers, too, with rugged trails that get little traffic and serious vertical relief. See my story about dayhiking to some of the Columbia Gorge’s highlights, and this photo gallery, with trip-planning details, about a 20-mile, 5,000-foot dayhike in the Gorge.
One of the most scenic, remote, and thrilling adventures my family has ever taken was whitewater rafting six days down Idaho’s classic Middle Fork of the Salmon River. Flowing like an artery through the heart of the second-largest federal wilderness in the continental United States, the nearly 2.4-million-acre Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, the Middle Fork is about a far off the grid as one can get in the Lower 48. And there’s a lot of whitewater—300 ratable rapids, a number of them class III and IV—plus beautiful side hikes to overlooks and waterfalls. See my story “Big Water, Big Wilderness: Rafting Idaho’s Incomparable Middle Fork Salmon River.”
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One of my earliest, major backpacking trips (and I’ve returned many times since), the Teton Crest Trail in Grand Teton National Park has everything: wildflowers, killer campsites, incredible views almost every step of the way, and even a degree of solitude along some stretches. See my stories “American Classic: The Teton Crest Trail,” and “Walking Familiar Ground: Reliving Old Memories and Making New Ones on the Teton Crest Trail,” about backpacking the TCT with my family, as well as my numerous posts about the Teton Crest Trail and Grand Teton National Park, with photos and tips on backpacking there.
After the Teton Crest Trail, hike the other nine of “My Top 10 Favorite Backpacking Trips.”
Not many trips will feel so remote and big, as well as delivering an incredibly photogenic landscape and no small degree of challenge, as this nearly 40-mile backpacking trip I took with my family in Sequoia National Park, which included a campsite on picturesque Precipice Lake (above).
See seals, brown bears, mountain goats, humpback whales, bald eagles and a huge variety of large birds, and 2,000-pound Steller sea lions. Hear and watch bus-sized chunks of ice calve explosively from a glacier whose snout spans a mile across and rises a sheer 300 feet out of the sea. Camp on wilderness beaches with views of peaks soaring to over 15,000 feet just miles from the ocean. A multi-day sea-kayaking trip in Glacier Bay offers a glimpse of what the world was like 10,000 years ago, as the last Ice Age drew to a close. Read my story about my family’s adventure there. (I also write more about that trip in my book Before They’re Gone.)
Squeeze through slot canyons, hike trails through a landscape of rock formations that look sculpted by a giant child with an unlimited supply of mud and crayons, and camp below night skies lit up like Times Square with stars. Situated between more-famous Zion and Bryce national parks to the southwest and Arches to the east, southern Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park has comparable scenery without the crowds; it’s one of the largely overlooked gems of the National Park System. Read my story about my family’s weeklong trip there, and see a menu of all stories I’ve posted about Capitol Reef.
Got a trip coming up? See my reviews of the best gear duffles and luggage and 6 favorite daypacks.
The popular Lakes Basin, including Mirror Lake (above), are just the surface of the mountain scenery of the Eagle Cap Wilderness, in the Wallowa Mountains of northeastern Oregon. Protected as a primitive area since 1930 and one of the inaugural group of federal wilderness areas designated in The Wilderness Act of 1964, the Eagle Cap has granite peaks, white-tailed deer, Rocky Mountain elk, black bears, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats, and abundant wildflowers that make it feel like a cross between the High Sierra and the Rocky Mountains. Read my story about my family’s five-day backpacking trip there.
Southern Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park, in the heart of Patagonia, is undoubtedly one of the most prized trekking destinations in the world. Granite peaks soar thousands of feet overhead like swords piercing the sky, and some of the world’s biggest glaciers—like the Grey Glacier (above)—stretch for many miles. When a friend and I trekked here, this place looked familiar from the many pictures I’d seen, and yet, kind of surreal, too massive to really comprehend the landscape’s scale. It’s also, well, kind of windy. Read my story about our big, Patagonian adventure.
I had been hiking, backpacking, climbing, and skiing in Idaho’s Sawtooths—the wilderness sort of in my back yard—for years, when I finally got around to exploring the deep interior of the southern Sawtooths, one of the most remote parts of the range. A friend and I backpacked a four-day, 57-mile route from the Queens River Trailhead, visiting numerous lakes, including incredibly picturesque Rock Slide Lake (photo at right). Read my story about that trip and see many more photos that will make you want to explore these peaks, and see a menu of all of my stories about Idaho’s Sawtooths at The Big Outside.
Get the right pack for you. See my “Gear Review: The 10 Best Packs For Backpacking”and my “5 Tips For Buying the Right Backpack.”
I’ve hiked more miles in New Hampshire’s White Mountains than I could estimate; I even authored a hiking guidebook to New England for several years. Still, like jumping into an icy lake, the constant high-stepping and relentlessly arduous nature of these trails shocks me every time I come back to hike here again. In this story, I reflect on my personal history in these peaks while taking an overnight hike from Crawford Notch to Franconia Notch via Galehead Hut and Franconia Ridge, seeing parts of the Whites I had not stood upon before—like the viewpoint from Zeacliff above the Pemigewasset Wilderness (photo above)—and other spots I had not been to in years. See all of my stories about the White Mountains at The Big Outside.
When you’re ready for a backpacking trip with challenge to match its scenery—like Image Lake, above, and Liberty Cap above Buck Creek Pass (lead photo at top of story)—then take on the Spider Gap-Buck Creek Pass loop in Washington’s Glacier Peak Wilderness. Until then, read my story and see more photos from that big adventure.
Imagine the ocean rushing in to flood Yosemite Valley to about one-third of the height of El Capitan, and then dumping more than 20 feet of rain onto it every year, so that forests sprang from its sheer granite walls and waterfalls plunged hundreds and thousands of feet. Or just go to Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound in New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park, where jungle-clad cliffs rise straight up out of the sea to 4,000-foot summits. Fiordland sprawls over nearly three million acres, an area as large as Yosemite and Yellowstone national parks combined. See my stories about sea kayaking in majestic Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound.
An Arctic-looking landscape vibrantly colorful with shrubs, mosses, and wildflowers. Cliffs and mountains that look like they were chopped from the earth with an axe. Thick, crack-riddled glaciers pouring off mountains like pancake batter that needs more water. Braided rivers meandering down mostly treeless valleys, and reindeer roaming wild. Summit views of a sea of snowy, glacier-clad peaks rolling away to far horizons. The world’s most comfortable huts and excellent food. That describes my family’s weeklong, roughly 60-mile, hut-to-hut trek through Norway’s Jotunheimen National Park—the “Home of the Giants.” Read my story.
One of the most-read stories at The Big Outside, my “10 Tips For Raising Outdoors-Loving Kids” deserves a spot on this list not because it describes specific trips, but because it offers some insights I’ve gleaned over the years on how to pull off big adventures with little people. See also my “10 Tips For Getting Your Teenager Outdoors With You.”
Last but hardly least, this dusk photo shows a campsite two friends and I shared on the Dome Glacier, with a stunning view south toward Washington’s Glacier Peak, an adventure I will write about in a future story at The Big Outside. Meanwhile, see my story “Tent Flap With a View: 25 Favorite Backcountry Campsites.” You might also like my “Photo Gallery: 12 Nicest Backcountry Campsites I’ve Hiked Past.”
You’ll also find ideas and inspiration at my All Trips page, which has menus of all stories at this blog, in my Ask Me posts, and in my stories “New Year Inspiration: My Top 10 Adventure Trips” and “My Top 10 Family Adventures.”
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