Canyonlands National Park

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 at Maze Overlook in the Maze District, Canyonlands National Park.

14 Photos From 2021 That Will Inspire You to Get Outdoors

By Michael Lanza

How was your 2021? I hope you stayed healthy and got outdoors as much as possible with the people you care about—and you enjoyed adventures that inspired you. Despite some obstacles, I was able to fit in several trips backpacking, floating for days down a wilderness river, and dayhiking—four of which were in new places for me. In the second year of the pandemic, on top of which I was recovering from some injuries (which I’ve thankfully healed from), I was reminded yet again just how important these experiences are to me.

The 14 photos in this story are favorite images from my 2021 trips, some of which you may want to take.

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A backpacker at Maze Overlook in the Maze District, Canyonlands National Park.

Farther Than It Looks—Backpacking the Canyonlands Maze

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 already face our first obstacle: Removing our backpacks, we scramble one by one over a ledge drop of several feet and pass our packs down.

But this introduction to the most technical section of our route merely hints at the arduous and improbable terrain awaiting around the corner.

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The Great Gallery pictographs of Horseshoe Canyon in Utah's Canyonlands National Park.

Hiking to The Great Gallery Pictographs of Horseshoe Canyon in Canyonlands National Park

By Michael Lanza

Here’s how you reach the best prehistoric Indian rock art in America: From Utah Highway 24, a remote two-lane bisecting the inhospitable desert between the rugged spine of the San Rafael Reef and the deep and isolated canyons of the Green and Dirty Devil rivers, turn east onto a dirt road at a small, easily overlooked sign for Horseshoe Canyon. (Reference point: It’s a tenth of a mile south of the turnoff for Goblin Valley State Park.) Drive about an hour on that sometimes rocky, sometimes sandy road—which can become impassable in heavy rain or when wind piles sand drifts across the road, and where a few roadside signs are the only indicators of civilization—to the West Rim Trailhead.

Then hike down into Horseshoe Canyon and nearly three miles up canyon to a panel of rock art that will reduce even the most seasoned pictograph and petroglyph hunters to awed silence.

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Sunset at Idaho's City of Rocks National Reserve.

Why I Never Miss a Wilderness Sunset or Sunrise

By Michael Lanza

The June evening was more than a few hours old when, without warning, the sky suddenly caught fire. The kids, teenagers and ’tweeners, and some of the adults in our group scrambled up onto a nearby rock formation at least 50 feet tall to observe the sunset from high off the ground. Like a wildfire swept forward by wind, hues of yellow, orange, and red leapt across bands of clouds suspended above the western horizon, their ragged bottoms edges, appropriately, resembling dancing flames.

For a span of just minutes that felt timeless, the light painted and repainted the clouds in ever-shifting, warm colors starkly contrasted against the cool, deepening blue of the sky—as if a vast lake had ignited. We stood hypnotized and enchanted on that evening during a long weekend of camping at Idaho’s City of Rocks National Reserve, until the last, dying flames of the celestial conflagration faded and were extinguished. For that brief time, the sunset had us all, adults and kids, completely in its thrall.

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