Bright Angel Trail

Larch trees glowing with fall color, reflected in Rainbow Lake in the North Cascades National Park Complex.

10 Awesome Fall Backpacking Trips

By Michael Lanza

The imminent end of summer always feels a little melancholy. After all, it marks the close of the prime season for getting into the mountains. But it also signals the beginning of a time of year when many mountain ranges become less crowded just as they’re hitting a sweet zone in terms of temperatures, the lack of bugs, and fall foliage color. Autumn also stands out as an ideal season for many Southwest hikes, with moderate temperatures and even some stunning color.

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A backpacker above Elizabeth Lake in Glacier National Park.

How to Get a Last-Minute, National Park Backcountry Permit

By Michael Lanza

You really want to backpack in Yosemite, Glacier, Grand Teton, Zion, Rocky Mountain, Mount Rainier, or another hugely popular national park this summer—but you didn’t apply to reserve a wilderness permit months ago? Well, you just may be in luck: Most parks have a system for getting a last-minute permit. It requires jumping through some hoops, understanding the system’s ins and outs, good timing, patience, and a bit of luck, but many backpackers get permits without a reservation every year.

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A backpacker on the Tonto Trail above the Colorado River, Grand Canyon.

Photo Gallery: The Grand Canyon’s Best Backpacking Trips

By Michael Lanza

“The best backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon.”

That was what a longtime backcountry ranger I’ve interviewed in the past, who’s hiked every mile of trail in the park, told me about the 74-mile hike from the South Kaibab Trailhead to the Tanner Trailhead, including the Escalante Route and Beamer Trail. That assertion had struck me as bold and debatable when I first read those words in an email from him—given the magnificence of any Big Ditch hike. But then I backpacked it and had to agree with him. I think you’ll see why in the photos below.

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A hiker on Half Dome's cable route in Yosemite National Park.

Extreme Hiking: America’s Best Hard Dayhikes

By Michael Lanza

Imagine this: You’re heading out on a long, beautiful hike deep in the backcountry, but instead of a full backpack, you carry a light daypack. You’ve avoided hassles with getting a backcountry permit and there’s no camp to set up and pack up. I love backpacking—and I do it a lot. But sometimes, I prefer to knock off a weekend-length—or longer—hike in one big day.

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A backpacker on the Clear Creek Trail, Grand Canyon.

Finding Solitude Backpacking the Grand Canyon’s Utah Flats and Clear Creek

By Michael Lanza

After descending seven miles and over 4,800 feet on the Grand Canyon’s always-stunning South Kaibab Trail and crossing the footbridge to the north side of the Colorado River, we follow the path through the Bright Angel backpacker campground to its end. There, not marked by any sign and not obvious to anyone unaware of it, a faint path leads through low bushes. Within moments, it turns and runs straight up a steep canyon wall of cacti and other desert flora, loose scree, and boulders, ascending about 1,500 vertical feet in the first mile, beyond what we can see from the bottom of it.

Gazing up with a volatile mix of excitement and trepidation, we start a long uphill grind.

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