California backpacking

A backpacker hiking to Vogelsang Pass in Yosemite National Park.

10 Adventures to Put on Your Bucket List Now

By Michael Lanza

Are you looking for great trip ideas for your personal “bucket list?” Well, you’ve clicked to the right place. This freshly updated list spotlights 10 of the best backpacking trips and other adventures in the U.S. and around the world—from Grand Teton, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Canyonlands national parks to Paria Canyon, a Canadian Rockies hike that belongs on any list of the world’s great treks, plus a few that may not be on your radar—all of them worthy of your bucket list.

All of them are also trips that you should—or must—start planning now to take them in 2023.

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A backpacker hiking up Matterhorn Canyon in Yosemite National Park.

Backpacking Yosemite: What You Need to Know

The first major Western national park I backpacked in was Yosemite. I wanted to begin exploring America’s big, iconic wilderness parks—and like a lot of backpackers, I thought: Where else would I start but Yosemite? The name alone conjures mental images of walking for days through wild backcountry sprinkled with shimmering alpine lakes, granite walls, and high passes and summits overlooking a sea of jagged peaks (which, it turns out, is accurate).

Today, after many return trips throughout Yosemite, I’ve learned that one can spend a lifetime wandering the more than 700,000 acres of wilderness in America’s third national park and not get tired of it.

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A backpacker hiking the John Muir Trail above Helen Lake in Kings Canyon N.P., High Sierra.

High Sierra Ramble: 130 Miles On—and Off—the John Muir Trail

By Michael Lanza

All day, clouds the color of a bruise pile up across the sky, conceding the sun only brief, teasing appearances before blocking it out again. Carrying packs bursting with nine days of food, we hike past lakes, each one higher and prettier than the last. More than seven miles from where we began our walk, we stroll into the basin of a sprawling lake whose image captured in historic Ansel Adams photographs has in many ways come to define the public’s mental picture of what is arguably America’s finest mountain range, the High Sierra: Speckled by scores of rocky islets below the distinctive profile of aptly named Banner Peak, Thousand Island Lake today bares whitecapped teeth pushed up by strong gusts of wind.

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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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Rock Slide Lake in Idaho's southern Sawtooth Mountains.

Photo Gallery: 32 Gorgeous Backcountry Lakes

By Michael Lanza

Water makes up about 60 percent of our bodies—and, I suspect, 100 percent of our hearts. We crave it not only physically, for survival, but emotionally, for spiritual rejuvenation. We love playing in it for hours as children and we paddle and swim in it as adults. We’re drawn by the calming effects of sitting beside a stream or lake in a beautiful natural setting, an experience that possesses a certain je ne sais quoi—a quality difficult to describe, but that we can all feel.

And nothing beats taking a swim in a gorgeous backcountry lake.

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