California

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 rock climber atop Eichorn Pinnacle in Yosemite National Park.

When Your Kid Gets Better Than You

By Michael Lanza

Some 200 feet above the shore of Tenaya Lake in Yosemite National Park, on the face of a granite cliff with a name that sets high expectations—Stately Pleasure Dome—I crouch and contort my torso and limbs to squeeze into a slender passageway barely wider than my body. Inside this claustrophobic “chimney,” as this type of formation is known in rock-climbing parlance, I start grunting and panting loudly enough for the sounds of suffering to reach my 17-year-old son, Nate, who’s belaying me at the other end of our rope, below the chimney.

“How’s it look in there?” he calls to me from the relative comfort of his spacious ledge in the warm sunshine.

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A backpacker hiking the Italy Pass Trail through Granite Park in the John Muir Wilderness, High Sierra, California.

Big Scenery, No Crowds: 10 Top Backpacking Trips For Solitude

By Michael Lanza

We all want our wilderness backpacking trips to have two sometimes conflicting qualities: mind-blowing scenery, but also few other people around. A high degree of solitude somehow makes the backcountry feel bigger and wilder and the views more breathtaking. However unrealistic the notion may be, we like to believe we have some stunning corner of nature to ourselves. But in the real world, if you head out into popular mountains in July or August or in canyon country in spring or fall, you’ll probably have company—maybe more than you prefer.

Not on these trips, though.

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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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