Canyonlands National Park

A backpacker in The Narrows in Zion National Park.

The 5 Southwest Backpacking Trips You Should Do First

By Michael Lanza

You want to explore the best backpacking in America’s desert Southwest, but you’re not sure where to begin, or how some of these trips you’ve read about compare for scenery and difficulty. You’ve heard about the need to carry huge loads of water, and environmental challenges like dangerous heat, rugged terrain, flash floods and even (gulp) quicksand. Or maybe you’ve taken one or two backpacking trips there and now you’re hungry for another one and seeking ideas for where to go next.

Well, I gotcha covered. The five trips described in this story comprise what might be called a Southwest Backpacking Starter Package. They are all beginner- and family-friendly in terms of trail or route quality, access, and navigability, and some have good water availability. But most importantly, regardless of their relative ease logistically, they all deliver the goods on the kind of adventure and scenery you go to the Southwest hoping to find.

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A hiker below the Wall of Windows on the Peek-a-Boo Loop in Bryce Canyon National Park.

The 12 Best Hikes in Utah’s National Parks

By Michael Lanza

From natural arches, hoodoos, and hanging gardens to balanced rocks and towering mesas, slot canyons and vast chasms, the desert Southwest holds in its dry, searing, lonely open spaces some of America’s most fascinating and inspiring geology. The writer “Cactus Ed” Abbey no doubt had this region in mind when he said there “are some places so beautiful they can make a grown man break down and weep.” Much of it sits protected within southern Utah’s five national parks: Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef.

The good news? Many of the best sights can be reached on dayhikes of anywhere from a couple hours to a full day.

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A backpacker hiking over Clouds Rest in Yosemite National Park.

10 Perfect National Park Backpacking Trips for Beginners

By Michael Lanza

So you’re a novice backpacker, or you’re planning your first backpacking trip in a big, Western national park, or you have kids you want to take on a relatively easy backpacking trip—and you want to sample the best scenery, trails, and backcountry campsites that experienced backpackers get to enjoy in our national parks. No worries. These 10 trips in Grand Teton, Zion, Grand Canyon, Glacier, Olympic, Rocky Mountain, Mount Rainier, Canyonlands, and two in Yosemite (photo above) are ideal for beginners and families, with easy to moderately difficult days and simple logistics, while delivering the spectacular vistas that each of these parks is famous for.

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A young girl hiking Angels Landing in Zion National Park.

The 25 Best National Park Dayhikes

By Michael Lanza

America’s most stunning landscapes are protected within our 63 national parks, and some of the very finest scenery within our national heritage can be reached on dayhikes. Some of these hikes you may not have done yet or heard of. Others are famous, but there’s a reason for that: They are mind-blowingly gorgeous, so they stand out even in parks with multiple, five-star footpaths. You take these hikes for a one-of-a-kind experience.

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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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