Sequoia & Kings Canyon national parks

A backpacker in The Narrows in Zion National Park.

Photo Gallery: 10 Awe-Inspiring Wild Places

By Michael Lanza

Over many years of taking wilderness trips of all kinds, I’ve gotten pickier about my backpacking and other backcountry adventures. The best-known trails, peaks, and wilderness waters are usually beautiful; but sometimes, for various reasons, they don’t always do it for me. More and more, I seek out the places and multi-day adventures that inspire a powerful sense of awe. It certainly begins with exceptional natural beauty, but often also requires getting farther from civilization, onto paths less traveled, and occasionally entails greater physical and other challenges. But those adventures feel wilder. And that’s what I’m after.

The 10 places shown in the photos below are exactly that: still wild.

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Backpackers hiking the High Sierra Trail in Sequoia National Park.

Heavy Lifting: Backpacking Sequoia National Park

By Michael Lanza

I stare at the backpack on the ground in front of me. At 85 liters, with every milliliter of it stuffed with about 60 pounds of gear and food, it looks like something that should be lowered by a crane into a container ship rather than attached to a person’s back. If it had legs, teeth, and an appetite for meat, I wouldn’t stand a chance.

In fact, standing at the Sawtooth Pass Trailhead at 7,820 feet in Sequoia National Park, looking up at our imminent ascent to 9,511-foot Timber Gap, I’m thinking the chances that I’ll have an easy time of it are very, very slim. Probably like most parents, before I became a dad I had absolutely no idea how much heavy lifting was involved.

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Zinke’s Plan to Jack Up National Park Entrance Fees is a Shell Game

The Going-to-the-Sun Road near Logan Pass, Glacier National Park.
The Going-to-the-Sun Road near Logan Pass, Glacier National Park.

By Michael Lanza

Beginning next year, the cost to enter 17 flagship national parks—including Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Glacier, Arches, Olympic, Acadia, and Denali—could more than double under a proposal from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. The goal is to tackle an enormous maintenance backlog in parks that has built up for years.

But as structured, this plan won’t accomplish that goal, and burdens people who can least afford it. When it comes to confronting a problem that has become the shame of the Interior Department, this plan represents nothing more than throwing a rug over a crisis and calling it good.

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High Sierra Trail above Middle Fork Kaweah River, Sequoia National Park.

Ask Me: Backpacking in Sequoia National Park

Hello Michael.

While researching for a summer backpacking trip with my wife, I came across your excellent website for the first time. Thank you for setting such a high bar in quality images and narrative. My daughter is a writer and would appreciate your style. Two questions about your article on the 6-day, 38-mile Sequoia National Park loop: If you were hiking that loop without your children, would you have still been content with the daily mileage, or would you have done something different? (We are physically fit and 60, so we do have limitations.) Secondly, you mention the mosquito population. Our trip would have to be in that mid-to-late July timeframe. Do you know if most hikers experience such a thickness of mosquitos that the experience is negatively affected to a great extent?

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Climbers hiking toward the Mountaineers Route on California's Mount Whitney.

Roof of the High Sierra: A Father-Son Climb of Mount Whitney

By Michael Lanza On the long, uphill hike toward the highest mountain in the contiguous United States, in the middle of April, the alpine sun and wind behave like a couple married for far too long, who take their frequent disagreements to extremes that make everyone else uncomfortable. The sun offers us a hug of much-needed warmth one moment, only …

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