High Sierra

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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A backpacker hiking to Iceberg Lake in the Ansel Adams Wilderness, High Sierra.

How to Get a Yosemite or High Sierra Wilderness Permit

By Michael Lanza

Ah, the High Sierra. Yosemite. Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks. The John Muir Wilderness and Ansel Adams Wilderness, Mount Whitney, and countless other, less famous but equally beautiful spots. Every backpacker who has ever walked for days through any of these wildlands holds them in special reverence—and for good reasons, given this seemingly infinite landscape’s constellations of sharply pointed granite peaks and alpine lakes, too many waterfalls to name, and rivers and creeks so pretty they make your heart glad. Plus, with thousands of miles of trails, you could spend a lifetime wandering here without seeing it all.

Little wonder there’s so much competition for backcountry permits throughout most of the High Sierra. But read on because the time for planning and reserving a permit for trips this summer is coming up fast.

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A backpacker on the John Muir Trail above Thousand Island Lake in the Ansel Adams Wilderness.

Thru-Hiking the John Muir Trail: The Ultimate, 10-day, Ultralight Plan

By Michael Lanza

Are you planning to thru-hike the John Muir Trail? “America’s Most Beautiful Trail” should be on every serious backpacker’s tick list. After hiking it in a blazing (and slightly crazy) seven days, I became convinced that—while that was quite hard—the traditional itinerary of spreading the roughly 221 miles (plus more than 10 miles descending Mount Whitney) over about three weeks has a serious flaw: With limited food-resupply options, you’ll carry a monster pack that may not only make you sore and uncomfortable, it could cause injuries that cut short your trip.

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A backpacker at a small tarn in the upper valley of Middle Fork Lake on the Wind River High Route.

My 30 Most Scenic Days of Hiking Ever

By Michael Lanza

We can all remember specific places that we consider the best days of hiking we’ve ever had. I’ve been exceptionally fortunate: I have hiked many trails in America and around the world that would probably make anyone’s list of most-scenic hikes. From numerous trips in iconic national parks like Yosemite, Zion, Grand Canyon, and Glacier to the John Muir Trail and Teton Crest Trail and some of the world’s great treks, including the Alta Via 2 in Italy’s Dolomite Mountains, the Tour du Mont Blanc, New Zealand’s Tongariro National Park, Iceland’s Laugavegur and Fimmvörðuháls trails, and the icy and jagged mountains of Norway and Patagonia, here’s a list of the 30 hands-down prettiest days I’ve ever spent walking dirt and rock footpaths.

I think you’ll find some places in here to add to your must-do list.

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A backpacker on the John Muir Trail hiking toward Silver Pass in the John Muir Wilderness.

How to Get a John Muir Trail Wilderness Permit in 2023

By Michael Lanza

Sometimes it can seem like everyone who’s ever carried a backpack through mountains somewhere wants to thru-hike the John Muir Trail—especially when it comes time to apply for a JMT wilderness permit. And why not? “America’s Most Beautiful Trail” earns its nickname and ranks indisputably among “America’s Top 10 Best Backpacking Trips.” Consequently, few permits are harder to get; most people who apply get rejected. This story explains the various ways to reserve a John Muir Trail wilderness permit. And the time for reserving a permit for this summer is coming up very quickly.

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