High Sierra backpacking trips

Backpackers hiking over Clouds Rest in Yosemite National Park.

Best of Yosemite: Backpacking South of Tuolumne Meadows

By Michael Lanza

I am floating in the stratosphere.

The feeling reminds me of childhood dreams of flying, but this is no dream. We are hiking across the slender, granite spine of 9,926-foot Clouds Rest, between sphincter-puckering abysses of deep air in the heart of Yosemite National Park. Below my left elbow, the rock drops off like a very long and insanely steep slide for several hundred feet before reaching forest; and that’s the side that feels less exposed. Below my right elbow, a cliff face sweeps downward a dizzying, stomach-churning 4,000 feet—that’s a thousand feet taller than the face of El Capitan.

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Backpackers hiking the High Sierra Trail in Sequoia National Park.

Heavy Lifting: Backpacking Sequoia National Park

By Michael Lanza

I stare at the backpack on the ground in front of me. At 85 liters, with every milliliter of it stuffed with about 60 pounds of gear and food, it looks like something that should be lowered by a crane into a container ship rather than attached to a person’s back. If it had legs, teeth, and an appetite for meat, I wouldn’t stand a chance.

In fact, standing at the Sawtooth Pass Trailhead at 7,820 feet in Sequoia National Park, looking up at our imminent ascent to 9,511-foot Timber Gap, I’m thinking the chances that I’ll have an easy time of it are very, very slim. Probably like most parents, before I became a dad I had absolutely no idea how much heavy lifting was involved.

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A hiker at Trail Crest on the John Muir Trail on Mount Whitney in Sequoia National Park.

Video: Thru-Hiking the John Muir Trail

By Michael Lanza

Will 2019 be the year that you hike the John Muir Trail? While next summer may seem very far off, an ambitious undertaking like a thru-hike of “America’s most beautiful trail”—more than 220 miles and anywhere from under two weeks to over three weeks—requires significant advance planning, and the time period for applying for a permit for it is coming up soon. Take your first step on that adventure right now by watching this video from my thru-hike of the JMT, and then click the link below to my story about that great trip, with my tips on how to do it right. Plus, read on to see how I can give you the best expert advice you’ll find to planning a JMT thru-hike.

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Climbers hiking toward the Mountaineers Route on California's Mount Whitney.

Roof of the High Sierra: A Father-Son Climb of Mount Whitney

By Michael Lanza On the long, uphill hike toward the highest mountain in the contiguous United States, in the middle of April, the alpine sun and wind behave like a couple married for far too long, who take their frequent disagreements to extremes that make everyone else uncomfortable. The sun offers us a hug of much-needed warmth one moment, only …

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A backpacker in Granite Park in the John Muir Wilderness, High Sierra.

In the Footsteps of John Muir: Finding Solitude in the High Sierra

By Michael Lanza

I’m slogging up a long ramp of beach-like sand toward Cox Col, an off-trail pass sitting a few ticks over 13,000 feet in California’s John Muir Wilderness. The high-altitude sun feels like a blacksmith’s forge hovering right above my head. My breaths come faster than my steps, and I feel lightheaded. But I’m thinking mostly about the pass ahead of us—and whether there’s a safe route over it.

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