Kings Canyon National Park

Rock Slide Lake in Idaho's southern Sawtooth Mountains.

Photo Gallery: 32 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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A campsite at Overland Lake on the Ruby Crest Trail, Ruby Mountains, Nevada.

Tent Flap With A View: 25 Favorite Backcountry Campsites

By Michael Lanza

An unforgettable campsite can define a backcountry trip. Sometimes that perfect spot where you spend a night forges the memory that remains the most vivid long after you’ve gone home. A photo of that camp can send recollections of the entire adventure rushing back to you—it does for me. I’ve been very fortunate to have pitched a tent in many great backcountry campsites over more than three decades of backpacking all over the U.S. and the world. I’ve boiled the list of my favorite spots down to these 25.

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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 out over about three weeks has a serious flaw: …

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

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. The John Muir Trail (lead photo, above) and Pacific Crest Trail. Mount Whitney. 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 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 Trail, 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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