family paddling

Sea kayakers in Alaska's Glacier Bay National Park.

Back to the Ice Age: Sea Kayaking Glacier Bay

By Michael Lanza

The water of Johns Hopkins Inlet lies flat, perfectly reflecting the first patches of blue sky we’ve seen since arriving in Glacier Bay yesterday morning. I rest my paddle across the kayak and listen. A barely audible moan of wind floats down from high in the mountains, then fades away. A bald eagle screeches, briefly piercing the quiet; but as soon as the sound passes, the silence that returns seems as deep as the sea we’re floating on.

Read on

A hiker on the upper South Kaibab Trail in the Grand Canyon.

5 Questions to Ask Before Trying That New Outdoors Adventure

By Michael Lanza

We shuffled silently up the Grand Canyon’s South Kaibab Trail in the last hour of a 42-mile, over 21,000-foot, one-day rim-to-rim-to-rim run across the canyon and back. Following the beams of our headlamps—night had fallen a few hours earlier—exhausted but knowing we had the gas to reach the South Rim, my friends Pam, Marla, and I trudged upward in the darkness, heads down.

Read on

A kayaker paddling the Green River in Desolation Canyon, Utah.

Rafting the Green River’s Desolation and Gray Canyons

By Michael Lanza

Our two prop planes climb to 2,000 feet above the Green River, flying north from the tiny airport in the one-horse town in southeast Utah that shares the river’s name. The brown current far below wiggles between castle-like walls in a canyon carved deeply into the Tavaputs Plateau, a twisting labyrinth of towers and sharp edges that looks not much more decipherable from up here than it does trying to navigate it down there. The early-morning sun slashes across the tops of the tallest formations—which are about level with us—but has not yet reached the shaded canyon bottom.

Most conspicuous, though, is what’s unseen: any significant footprint of civilization beyond an occasional rough, rambling line of hardened earth and rocks that constitutes what passes for a road out here. We are heading into one of the most inaccessible patches of the U.S. West and one of the largest roadless areas in the Lower 48, to float through that yawning canyon.

Read on

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.

Read on

A raft floating through Stillwater Canyon on the Green River in Canyonlands National Park.

Still Waters Run Deep: Tackling America’s Best Easy Multi-Day Float Trip on the Green River

By Michael Lanza

“Oh, no, I wouldn’t take young kids down that river in May. It’s much too dangerous. I tell families to go in June or later, when the river’s lower.”

That was the dire warning issued to me over the phone by an employee with an outfitter based in Moab, Utah, that offers multi-day float trips down the Green River in Canyonlands National Park. His tone completely derailed me: Based on everything I’d read and heard, May was an ideal time for a family trip on the Green—which may well be America’s best easy float trip.

Read on