Pasayten Wilderness

Backpackers passing a tarn along the Highline Trail/Continental Divide Trail in Wyoming's Wind River Range.

10 Awe-Inspiring Wild Places in America’s West

By Michael Lanza

Over more than three decades of backpacking adventures throughout America’s West, I’ve been fortunate to explore deeply into our most cherished national parks, wilderness areas, and protected backcountry. Many—indeed, all—are beautiful. But some places rise above the rest, inspiring a sense of awe that can motivate us to reorder our priorities and rearrange our lives—and they have that effect on us every time we return to them. This story spotlights those special places in the West and many trips that you can take in them.

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A backpacker hiking Buckskin Ridge Trail 498 in the Pasayten Wilderness, Washington.

Backpacking the Pasayten Wilderness—On and Off the Beaten Track

By Michael Lanza

Within minutes of starting our hike north on the Pacific Crest Trail from Harts Pass in Washington’s Pasayten Wilderness, one truth quickly crystallizes: This northernmost section of the PCT stays true to its middle name—Crest. A well-maintained footpath, it traces a long ridgeline for miles, gently rising and dipping with the contours of the land but never falling off the mountains. Luckily for us, the PCT’s excellent condition probably saves us from injuring ourselves tripping and falling as we keep panning our eyes over classic North Cascades panoramas of endless, jagged ridges stretching to far horizons.

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A backpacker hiking the Timberline Trail around Mount Hood, Oregon..

16 Great Backpacking Trips You Can Still Take in 2022

By Michael Lanza

So you didn’t plan months in advance to reserve a permit for backpacking this summer in Glacier, Yosemite, on the Teton Crest Trail, Wonderland Trail, or John Muir Trail or in another popular national park? Or you applied for a permit but got rejected? Now what? Where can you still go this year?

You’re in luck. This story describes 16 backpacking trips you can still plan and take this year—either because they don’t require a permit reservation or, in the case of Yosemite, North Cascades, Sequoia, Yellowstone, and Olympic national parks, you can still obtain a backcountry permit reservation for many summer dates and trails, where one is required.

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A backpacker on the Continental Divide Trail in Glacier National Park.

12 Expert Tips for Finding Solitude When Backpacking

By Michael Lanza

Solitude has always reigned as one of the holy grails of backpacking: We all dream of finding that lonely campsite deep in the wilderness with an amazing vista, or hiking for miles or days encountering few or even no other people on the trail. Unfortunately, reality often conflicts with expectations for many backpackers when they discover that the dream trip they’ve been anticipating for months was apparently a dream trip for an awful lot of other people, too.

But the truth is that there are many ways to find backcountry solitude because the odds work in your favor: Most wilderness trails have few or no people on them most of the time. The search for solitude is less a needle-in-a-haystack conundrum and more a matter of thinking outside the box: You simply have to understand where and when to look for it.

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A backpacker at Maze Overlook in the Maze District, Canyonlands National Park.

14 Photos From 2021 That Will Inspire You to Get Outdoors

By Michael Lanza

How was your 2021? I hope you stayed healthy and got outdoors as much as possible with the people you care about—and you enjoyed adventures that inspired you. Despite some obstacles, I was able to fit in several trips backpacking, floating for days down a wilderness river, and dayhiking—four of which were in new places for me. In the second year of the pandemic, on top of which I was recovering from some injuries (which I’ve thankfully healed from), I was reminded yet again just how important these experiences are to me.

The 14 photos in this story are favorite images from my 2021 trips, some of which you may want to take.

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