Wind River High Route

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

My 35 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 Tonto Trail above the Colorado River, Grand Canyon.

America’s Top 10 Best Backpacking Trips

By Michael Lanza

What makes for a great backpacking trip? Certainly top-shelf scenery is mandatory. An element of adventurousness enhances a hike, in my eyes. While there’s definitely something inspirational about a big walk in the wild, some of the finest trips in the country can be done in a few days and half of the hikes on this list are under 50 miles. Another factor that truly matters is a wilderness experience: All 10 are in national parks or wilderness areas.

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A backpacker below Jackass Pass, overlooking the Cirque of the Towers in the Wind River Range.

5 Reasons You Must Backpack the Wind River Range

By Michael Lanza

On a cool early morning in August while backpacking the Wind River High Route a few summers ago, I hiked in the shadow of tall mountains to Jackass Pass at 10,790 feet—a spot I’ve stood on at least a few times before, overlooking the incomparable Cirque of the Towers in the Winds—and affirmed a truth about that patch of rocks and dirt: It still possessed the capacity to take my breath away and make my heart speed up a little bit (although the climb to the pass may have had something to do with that).

It was a comfort to see that the effect the Wind River Range has on me had not changed.

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A backpacker hiking the Italy Pass Trail through Granite Park in the John Muir Wilderness, High Sierra, California.

Big Scenery, No Crowds: 10 Top Backpacking Trips For Solitude

By Michael Lanza

We all want our wilderness backpacking trips to have two sometimes conflicting qualities: mind-blowing scenery, but also few other people around. A high degree of solitude somehow makes the backcountry feel bigger and wilder and the views more breathtaking. However unrealistic the notion may be, we like to believe we have some stunning corner of nature to ourselves. But in the real world, if you head out into popular mountains in July or August or in canyon country in spring or fall, you’ll probably have company—maybe more than you prefer.

Not on these trips, though.

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Alice Lake in Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains.

Photo Gallery: 36 Gorgeous Backcountry Lakes

By Michael Lanza

Water makes up about 60 percent of our bodies—and, I suspect, 100 percent of our hearts. We crave it not only physically, for survival, but emotionally, for spiritual rejuvenation. We love playing in it for hours as children and we paddle and swim in it as adults. We’re drawn by the calming effects of sitting beside a stream or lake in a beautiful natural setting, an experience that possesses a certain je ne sais quoi—a quality difficult to describe, but that we can all feel.

And nothing beats taking a swim in a gorgeous backcountry lake.

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