Canyonlands National Park

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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A backpacker on the Dawson Pass Trail in Glacier National Park.

10 Tips For Getting a Hard-to-Get National Park Backcountry Permit

By Michael Lanza

Backpackers planning a trip in popular national parks like Yosemite, Grand Teton, Glacier, Zion, Grand Canyon, Mount Rainier, Rocky Mountain, Great Smoky Mountains, and others have one experience in common: A high percentage of them see their backcountry permit application rejected—and many probably don’t realize why.

Countless backpacking trips over more than three decades—during which I was the Northwest Editor of Backpacker magazine for 10 years and have now run this blog for even longer—have taught me many tricks for landing coveted permits in flagship parks, which receive far more requests than they can fill. Follow the strategies outlined below for success reserving your next national park backcountry permit.

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A backpacker at a waterfall on the Deer Creek Trail in the Grand Canyon.

The 10 Best Backpacking Trips in the Southwest

By Michael Lanza

We all love the majesty of mountains. But the vividly colored, sometimes bizarre, occasionally incomprehensible geology of the Southwest canyon country enchants and inspires us in ways that words can only begin to describe. And while you will find very worthy dayhikes and even roadside eye candy in classic parks like Grand Canyon, Zion, and Canyonlands, you really have to put on a backpack and probe more deeply into those parks—and other canyon-country gems you may not know much about—to get a full sense of the scale, details, and hidden mysteries of these mystical landscapes.

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A young teenage girl descending from the Fenetre d’Arpette on the Tour du Mont Blanc in Switzerland.

The 10 Best Family Outdoor Adventure Trips

By Michael Lanza

As a parent of two college-age young adults who’s taken them outdoors since before they can remember, I’ll share with you the biggest and in some ways most surprising lesson I’ve learned from these trips: Our outdoor adventures have been the best times we’ve had together as a family—and not just because the places are so special. The greatest benefit of these trips is that they have given us innumerable days with only each other and nature for entertainment—no electronic devices or other distractions that construct virtual walls within families in everyday life.

For my family, our experiences together outdoors make up most of our richest and favorite memories. They have brought us closer together.

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A backpacker enjoying the view from Maze Overlook in the Maze District, Canyonlands National Park.

Photo Gallery: Backpacking the Maze in Canyonlands

By Michael Lanza

With our first steps on the descent from Maze Overlook into the labyrinth of mostly dry desert canyons that comprise one of the greatest geological oddities in the National Park System—the Maze in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park—we had to remove and pass our backpacks over a ledge drop of several feet. But that was nothing compared to what lay ahead. Following a wildly circuitous trail marked by cairns but otherwise unobvious and not visible on the slickrock, we passed below redrock cliffs and towers, traversed the sloping rims of giant bowls of rippled stone, and several more times passed our packs to scramble through tight crevices and downclimb a ladder of shallow footsteps chiseled into a sandstone cliff face.

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