Tag Archives: America’s best backpacking trips

October 1, 2017 Baron Lake, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho.

Photo Gallery: Mountain Lakes of Idaho’s Sawtooths

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By Michael Lanza

I may be risking an impassioned debate here, but I think there are very few mountain ranges in America with as many drop-dead, gorgeous high mountain lakes as Idaho’s Sawtooths. In fact, the only ranges that arguably beat out the Sawtooths in that department may be the High Sierra and Wind River Range (and not coincidentally, the three share other similarities, including geology). Over nearly 20 years of wandering around Idaho’s best-known hills, I’ve seen many of those watery jewels. This gallery of photos from many of them may persuade you to agree with me. Continue reading →

September 4, 2017 Day two backpacking The Narrows in Zion National Park.

The 5 Southwest Backpacking Trips You Should Do First

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By Michael Lanza

You want to explore the best backpacking in America’s desert Southwest, but you’re not sure where to begin, or how some of these trips you’ve read about compare for scenery and difficulty. You’ve heard about the need to carry huge loads of water, and environmental challenges like dangerous heat, rugged terrain, flash floods and even (gulp) quicksand. Or maybe you’ve taken one or two backpacking trips there and now you’re hungry for another one and seeking ideas for where to go next.

Well, I gotcha covered. The five trips described in this story comprise what might be called a Southwest Backpacking Starter Package. They are all beginner- and family-friendly in terms of trail or route quality, access, and navigability, and some have good water availability. But most importantly, regardless of their relative ease logistically, they all deliver the goods on the kind of adventure and scenery you go to the Southwest for. Continue reading →

July 2, 2017 Backpacking the Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail, Glacier National Park.

My Top 10 Favorite Backpacking Trips

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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.

Some things, though, don’t require explanation; the validation comes in just doing it. So I give you here my admittedly personal and subjective list of the 10 best backpacking trips I’ve taken over more than a quarter-century (and counting) of humping a pack on trails all over the country, as a longtime field editor for Backpacker magazine and creator of this blog. Continue reading →

May 8, 2017 Day two backpacking the Narrows, Zion National Park.

Luck of the Draw, Part 2: Backpacking Zion’s Narrows

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By Michael Lanza

We step into the ankle-deep North Fork of the Virgin River, in the backcountry of Zion National Park, and water at refrigerator temperature immediately fills our boots. Until sometime tomorrow afternoon, we’ll walk in this river almost constantly, crossing it dozens of times—with the 50° F water, at its deepest, coming up nearly to our waists. As we splash downstream, the canyon walls of golden, crimson, and cream-colored sandstone steadily creep inward and stretch higher, soon eclipsing the sun. We’ll see very little direct sunlight as the sheer walls of Zion’s Narrows eventually tower a thousand feet overhead and, at times, close in to the width of a hobbit’s living room. Continue reading →

January 16, 2017 Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River, Yosemite National Park.

Backpacking 150 Miles Through Wildest Yosemite

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By Michael Lanza

In early evening on a bluebird September day, deep in the wilderness of northern Yosemite National Park, my friend Todd Arndt and I—with legs feeling a little weary—reached our fourth pass of that day. We had hit the home stretch of the 23-mile, second day of a four-day, 86-mile hike; only a steep, quad-melting, 1,500-foot descent stood between us and soothing our very tired feet in the cool sand and cold water at Benson Lake (possibly the most unbelievable mountain lake I’ve ever seen).

Just beyond the pass, we strolled past quiet tarns where a few parties of backpackers were camped. And it struck me that they were the first people Todd and I had seen all day. That’s not an observation one expects to make in Yosemite. But we were exploring the “other Yosemite”—not the overcrowded park, but its most remote backcountry, on one of the most scenic multi-day hikes I’ve ever taken. Continue reading →

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