Bryce Canyon National Park

A backpacker above Crack-in-the-Wall, Coyote Gulch, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah.

Playing the Memory Game in Escalante, Capitol Reef, and Bryce Canyon

By Michael Lanza

Below a deep gash in a 50-foot-tall cliff of golden sandstone, shaded from the low, late-afternoon sun of early spring, I scramble up a steep slab using in-cut holds carved into the soft rock. Ten or 12 feet off the ground, I pull myself over the lip of a ledge to peer into a narrow cut in the earth, a hidden geologic oddity that lures in a certain type of hiker for one reason: because it’s barely wide enough for humans to squeeze through. And I have to smile.

I’m grinning first of all because I’ve found just what we had hoped to see. Water sometimes pools in a couple of potholes near the mouth of this slot canyon, and the air temperature today feels a little too cool to soak ourselves in cold water. Today, though, the sandy-bottomed, giant stone teacups are dry. But secondly, touching me on a more personal level, this canyon’s entrance looks much as I remember it from the first time I hiked through here, 16 years ago this month.

In less than two hours, my impression of this place will be almost completely remade.

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A young boy hiking the Chesler Park Trail in the Needles District of Utah's Canyonlands National Park.

7 Great Southwest Hiking Trips You Can Take Without Planning Ahead

By Michael Lanza

The Grand Canyon. The Narrows in Zion National Park. Paria Canyon. The Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. These are among the best backpacking trips in the Southwest—arguably in the country. But you have to plan those trips and apply for a backcountry permit months in advance. If you haven’t done that, your chances are slim for ticking off one of them in the next couple of months.

No worries. I have a Plan B for you. (In fact, I have Plans B, C, D, E, F, G, and H for you.)

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A hiker on the Observation Point Trail in Zion National Park.

12 Photos From 2018 That Will Inspire You to Get Outdoors

By Michael Lanza

What adventures did you take in 2018 that inspired you? I hope you enjoyed at least a few. I did. The 12 photos in this story are favorite images from some of the trips I took over the past year. They included hiking in Zion (twice) and Bryce Canyon national parks; backpacking off the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in spring and returning in fall to dayhike the canyon rim to rim to rim over two magnificent days; rock climbing in Yosemite; backpacking and scrambling peaks in Idaho’s Sawtooths; and putting an exclamation point on the year with a 90-mile traverse of Glacier National Park on the Continental Divide Trail.

Scroll through these photos, each of which is accompanied by a short anecdote from the trip and links to existing stories at The Big Outside. I hope they help inspire you to start planning your adventures for 2019. After all, these are the experiences that give meaning to our lives.

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A boy hiking Angels Landing in Zion National Park.

Photo Gallery: Hiking and Backpacking Utah’s National Parks

By Michael Lanza

All of America’s 59 national parks possess special qualities and scenery, without a doubt. But southern Utah’s concentration of unique and awe-inspiring landscapes sets its five parks apart from the rest—and they’re each quite different from one another. You should see them all, and a prime season for hiking the Southwest is just around the corner. In this blog post, I’ll share many photos from Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion, and tips on the best ways to explore these parks.

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Taylor Creek Trail, Zion National Park.

Photo Gallery: Exploring Utah’s 5 National Parks

By Michael Lanza

All of America’s 59 national parks possess special qualities and scenery, without a doubt. But southern Utah’s concentration of unique and awe-inspiring landscapes sets its five parks apart from the rest—and they’re each quite different from one another. Arches has more than 2,000 natural stone arches, as well as hundreds of soaring pinnacles, giant fins, and balanced rocks. Bryce Canyon holds the world’s greatest number of hoodoos, or bizarrely shaped pinnacles created by erosion.

Canyonlands is a vast wonderland of multi-colored cliffs, deep canyons, tall spires, and two major rivers. Capitol Reef’s Waterpocket Fold, a nearly 100-mile-long, jumbled ridge of solid rock, conceals sandstone domes, natural bridges, beautiful canyons, and bighorn sheep. And Zion, Utah’s first and one of America’s flagship national parks, defies easy description from the 2,000-foot cliffs of Zion Canyon to a backcountry filled with geologic anomalies.

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