Ansel Adams Wilderness

A backpacker on the John Muir Trail hiking toward Silver Pass in the John Muir Wilderness.

How to Get a Yosemite or High Sierra Wilderness Permit

By Michael Lanza

Ah, the High Sierra. Yosemite. Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks. The John Muir Wilderness and Ansel Adams Wilderness. The John Muir Trail (lead photo, above) and Pacific Crest Trail. Mount Whitney. Every backpacker who has ever walked for days through any of these wildlands holds them in special reverence—and for good reasons, given this seemingly infinite landscape’s constellations of sharply pointed granite peaks and alpine lakes, too many waterfalls to name, and rivers and creeks so pretty they make your heart glad. Plus, with thousands of miles of trails, you could spend a lifetime wandering here without seeing it all.

Little wonder there’s so much competition for backcountry permits throughout most of the High Sierra. But read on because the time for planning and reserving a permit for trips this summer is coming up fast.

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A backpacker hiking the Dawson Pass Trail in Glacier National Park.

America’s Top 10 Best Backpacking Trips

By Michael Lanza

What makes for a great backpacking trip? Certainly top-shelf scenery is mandatory. An element of adventurousness enhances a hike, in my eyes. While there’s definitely something inspirational about a big walk in the wild, some of the finest trips in the country can be done in a few days and half of the hikes on this list are under 50 miles. Another factor that truly matters is a wilderness experience: All 10 are in national parks or wilderness areas.

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A backpacker on the John Muir Trail in the Ansel Adams Wilderness.

Thru-Hiking the John Muir Trail: What You Need to Know

By Michael Lanza

For many serious backpackers, a thru-hike of the John Muir Trail looms as a sort of holy grail. But every JMT aspirant inevitably faces the question: How do you plan a 221-mile hike of “America’s Most Beautiful Trail?” Besides preparing physically for it, a JMT thru-hike poses myriad logistical and organizational challenges, from obtaining one of the country’s most sought-after wilderness permits to choosing an ideal time of year, the itinerary and number of days to take, gear, food resupplies, transportation, acclimating to elevations commonly between 9,000 and over 13,000 feet, and other details.

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A backpacker passing Wanda Lake on the John Muir Trail in Kings Canyon National Park.

Thru-Hiking the John Muir Trail in 7 Days: Amazing Experience, or Certifiably Insane?

By Michael Lanza

“Umm, hey buddy, you okay?”

It’s 4:30 a.m., a time of day that puts us in the questionable company of cat burglars and alpinists. Our headlamp beams seem to bounce off the inky black of a moonless night in Yosemite Valley. Four of us are taking the first steps on the 221-mile John Muir Trail. And my friend Mark Fenton is staggering like a frat boy on a weekend bender.

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A backpacker on the John Muir Trail hiking toward Silver Pass in the John Muir Wilderness.

Photo Gallery: Thru-Hiking the John Muir Trail

By Michael Lanza

Late summer always reminds me of my thru-hike of the John Muir Trail. Known as “America’s Most Beautiful Trail,” there may be no long backpacking trip that’s more spectacular, step for step, than a thru-hike of the JMT through California’s High Sierra. From Yosemite Valley to the summit of 14,505-foot Mount Whitney in Sequoia National Park, you walk 211 miles past jagged peaks of clean, golden granite, through a constellation of sparkling mountain lakes and more waterfalls than anyone could name, and over numerous passes from 11,000 to over 13,000 feet.

If you haven’t done it, check out the photos below. They just might convince you that it’s time to move it to the top of your list.

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