Sequoia National Park

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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Backpackers at a campsite in Titcomb Basin, Wind River Range, Wyoming.

The First 5 Things I Do in Camp When Backpacking

By Michael Lanza

I doubt that I had any typical routine when arriving at a campsite on my earliest backpacking trips; like many backpackers, I probably just dropped my pack, shucked off my boots, and kicked back until motivated to move by the urge to eat, drink, get warm, or go to the bathroom. Over the years, though, I’ve developed a routine that I follow almost religiously when I arrive in camp at the end of a day of backpacking. These five simple, quick, almost effortless steps make a world of difference in how good I feel that evening and the next morning, and how well I sleep.

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A backpacker above Elizabeth Lake in Glacier National Park.

How to Get a Last-Minute, National Park Backcountry Permit

By Michael Lanza

You really want to backpack in Yosemite, Glacier, Grand Teton, Zion, Rocky Mountain, Mount Rainier, or another hugely popular national park this summer—but you didn’t apply to reserve a wilderness permit months ago? Well, you just may be in luck: Most parks have a system for getting a last-minute permit. It requires jumping through some hoops, understanding the system’s ins and outs, good timing, patience, and a bit of luck, but many backpackers get permits without a reservation every year.

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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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Michael Lanza's family sea kayaking in Johns Hopkins Inlet, Glacier Bay National Park.

7 Tips For Getting Your Family on Outdoor Adventure Trips

By Michael Lanza

In the Digital Era, the idea of families spending sustained time outdoors—actually taking trips built around some outdoor adventure enjoyed together—can feel like a wonderful aspiration that’s awfully hard to achieve. But that lifestyle is a reality for many families—and always has been for mine—and one that brings parents and children together for long periods of time (hours or even days!) in beautiful places in nature for an activity that’s genuinely fun and, most importantly, unplugged.

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