John Muir Trail

A family trekking the Alta Via 2 in Parco Naturale Paneveggio Pale di San Martino, in Italy's Dolomite Mountains.

New Year Inspiration: My Top 10 Adventure Trips

By Michael Lanza

I often get asked the question, “What’s your favorite trip?” And I don’t have an answer. To pick just one from all the amazing adventures I’ve had the good fortune to take over the past three decades feels like an impossible task. Instead, I’ve just updated this list of my 10 all-time favorites (so far). It includes some of America’s best backpacking trips, from the Teton Crest Trail and John Muir Trail to Glacier National Park; hiking across the Grand Canyon; trekking in Iceland, Patagonia, Norway, and Italy’s Dolomite Mountains (photo above); and some places that might surprise you.

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A young teenage girl descending from the Fenetre d’Arpette on the Tour du Mont Blanc in Switzerland.

The 10 Best Family Outdoor Adventure Trips

By Michael Lanza

As a parent of two college-age young adults who’s taken them outdoors since before they can remember, I’ll share with you the biggest and in some ways most surprising lesson I’ve learned from these trips: Our outdoor adventures have been the best times we’ve had together as a family—and not just because the places are so special. The greatest benefit of these trips is that they have given us innumerable days with only each other and nature for entertainment—no electronic devices or other distractions that construct virtual walls within families in everyday life.

For my family, our experiences together outdoors make up most of our richest and favorite memories. They have brought us closer together.

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Sunset at Idaho's City of Rocks National Reserve.

Why I Never Miss a Wilderness Sunset or Sunrise

By Michael Lanza

The June evening was more than a few hours old when, without warning, the sky suddenly caught fire. The kids, teenagers and ’tweeners, and some of the adults in our group scrambled up onto a nearby rock formation at least 50 feet tall to observe the sunset from high off the ground. Like a wildfire swept forward by wind, hues of yellow, orange, and red leapt across bands of clouds suspended above the western horizon, their ragged bottoms edges, appropriately, resembling dancing flames.

For a span of just minutes that felt timeless, the light painted and repainted the clouds in ever-shifting, warm colors starkly contrasted against the cool, deepening blue of the sky—as if a vast lake had ignited. We stood hypnotized and enchanted on that evening during a long weekend of camping at Idaho’s City of Rocks National Reserve, until the last, dying flames of the celestial conflagration faded and were extinguished. For that brief time, the sunset had us all, adults and kids, completely in its thrall.

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A backpacker in the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River in Yosemite National Park.

Backpacking 150 Miles Through Wildest Yosemite

By Michael Lanza In early evening on a bluebird September day, deep in northern Yosemite National Park, my friend Todd Arndt and I—with legs a little weary—reached our fourth pass on a 23-mile day, the second day of a four-day, 87-mile hike. Only a quad-melting, 1,500-foot descent stood between us and soothing our feet in the cool sand and cold water …

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A backpacker passing Wanda Lake on the John Muir Trail in Kings Canyon National Park.

Thru-Hiking the John Muir Trail in 7 Days: Amazing Experience, or Certifiably Insane?

By Michael Lanza

“Umm, hey buddy, you okay?”

It’s 4:30 a.m., a time of day that puts us in the questionable company of cat burglars and alpinists. Our headlamp beams seem to bounce off the inky black of a moonless night in Yosemite Valley. Four of us are taking the first steps on the 221-mile John Muir Trail. And my friend Mark Fenton is staggering like a frat boy on a weekend bender.

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