California backpacking

A backpacker hiking to Burro Pass above Matterhorn Canyon, Yosemite National Park.

The 10 Best Backpacking Trips in Yosemite

By Michael Lanza

After more than three decades of exploring all over Yosemite on numerous backpacking trips, I’ve learned two big lessons about it: First of all, few places inspire the same powerful combination of both awe and adventure. And Yosemite’s backcountry harbors such an abundance of soaring granite peaks, waterfalls, lovely rivers and creeks, and shimmering alpine lakes—plus, over 700,000 acres of designated wilderness and 750 miles of trails—that you can explore America’s third national park literally for decades and not run out of five-star scenery.

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A backpacker above Liberty Lake on the Ruby Crest Trail in Nevada's Ruby Mountains.

The 27 Nicest Backcountry Campsites I’ve Hiked Past

By Michael Lanza

It is one of those unfortunate inevitabilities of life, like death and taxes: Occasionally on backpacking trips you will hike past one of the most sublime patches of wilderness real estate you have ever laid eyes on, a spot so idyllic you can already see your tent pitched there and you standing outside it, warm mug in your hands, watching a glorious sunset. But it’s early and your plan entails hiking farther before you stop for the day—not camping there. Or your permit isn’t for that site. Or even worse, you are looking for a campsite, but someone else has already occupied this little corner of Heaven.

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A backpacker watching the sunset over Thousand Island Lake along the John Muir Trail in the Ansel Adams Wilderness, High Sierra.

Tent Flap With A View: 25 Favorite Backcountry Campsites

By Michael Lanza

An unforgettable campsite can define a backcountry trip. Sometimes that perfect spot where you spend a night forges the memory that remains the most vivid long after you’ve gone home. A photo of that camp can send recollections of the entire adventure rushing back to you—it does for me. I’ve been very fortunate to have pitched a tent in many great backcountry campsites over more than three decades of backpacking all over the U.S. I’ve distilled the list of my favorite spots down to these 25.

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A backpacker at Evolution Lake on the John Muir Trail in Evolution Basin, Kings Canyon National Park.

Thru-Hiking the John Muir Trail—A Photo Gallery

By Michael Lanza

It’s known as “America’s Most Beautiful Trail” for good reason: There may be no long backpacking trip that’s more spectacular, step for step, than a thru-hike of the John Muir Trail through California’s High Sierra. From Yosemite Valley to the 14,505-foot summit of Mount Whitney in Sequoia National Park, you walk 211 miles past jagged peaks of 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.

Haven’t hiked the JMT yet? 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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A backpacker on the Teton Crest Trail, Death Canyon Shelf, Grand Teton National Park.

The 10 Best National Park Backpacking Trips

By Michael Lanza

Olympic, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Glacier, Zion, Grand Teton, Mount Rainier, Canyonlands, Sequoia, Great Smoky Mountains. To backpackers, these names read like a list of America’s greatest cathedrals in nature—and no surprise, because these parks harbor some of the most scenic wilderness trails in the country. Hike any of them and it will earn a spot on your personal top-10 list. Knock off every trip on this list and you will experience some of the finest landscapes not only in the nation, but on the planet.

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