Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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 59 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 …

Read on

Backpackers on the Wonderland Trail west of Sunrise in Mount Rainier 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 …

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 trying to plan 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. Countless backpacking trips over three decades—during which I was the Northwest Editor of Backpacker …

Read on

A view from the Appalachian Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

In the Garden of Eden: Backpacking the Great Smoky Mountains

By Michael Lanza

Late-afternoon sunlight tilts golden beams through the low canopy of spruce and fir trees as I hike alone up the Welch Ridge Trail, deep in the backcountry of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I haven’t seen another person all day. Solitude in the mountains exerts many effects, small and large, on us, including that we instinctively listen more attentively. Our rational minds cannot erase from primal memory the instinctive knowledge that, in the primitive brains of some woodland creatures, we represent a boatload of calories.

I stop abruptly and stand perfectly still—listening intently, waiting. And then I hear it.

Read on

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, Yellowstone National Park.

Photo Gallery: Every National Park I’ve Visited

By Michael Lanza

How many national parks have you visited? I’ve been to close to half of the 59, and although that includes numerous return trips to some major parks, I still have more work to do. Then again, you could hardly call seeing our national parks “work,” right? What writer and historian Wallace Stegner famously called “the best idea we ever had” has grown from a handful of parks created in the early days to a system in many ways without parallel, that protects 52 million acres of mountain ranges, canyons, rivers, deserts, prairies, caves, islands, bays, fjords, badlands, natural arches, and seashores in 59 parks. Without that protection, these places that draw visitors from around the world would otherwise almost certainly have been exploited and destroyed.

Read on