South Kaibab Trail

A backpacker on the Clear Creek Trail, Grand Canyon.

Finding Solitude Backpacking the Grand Canyon’s Utah Flats and Clear Creek

By Michael Lanza

After descending seven miles and over 4,800 feet on the Grand Canyon’s always-stunning South Kaibab Trail and crossing the footbridge to the north side of the Colorado River, we follow the path through the Bright Angel backpacker campground to its end. There, not marked by any sign and not obvious to anyone unaware of it, a faint path leads through low bushes. Within moments, it turns and runs straight up a steep canyon wall of cacti and other desert flora, loose scree, and boulders, ascending about 1,500 vertical feet in the first mile, beyond what we can see from the bottom of it.

Gazing up with a volatile mix of excitement and trepidation, we start a long uphill grind.

Read on

A backpacker at a waterfall on the Deer Creek Trail in the Grand Canyon.

The 10 Best Backpacking Trips in the Southwest

By Michael Lanza

We all love the majesty of mountains. But the vividly colored, sometimes bizarre, occasionally incomprehensible geology of the Southwest canyon country enchants and inspires us in ways that words can only begin to describe. And while you will find very worthy dayhikes and even roadside eye candy in classic parks like Grand Canyon, Zion, and Canyonlands, you really have to put on a backpack and probe more deeply into those parks—and other canyon-country gems you may not know much about—to get a full sense of the scale, details, and hidden mysteries of these mystical landscapes.

Read on

A backpacker on the Tonto Trail in the Grand Canyon.

5 Reasons You Must Backpack in the Grand Canyon

By Michael Lanza

The Grand Canyon’s appeal to backpackers may seem elusive. It’s hard, it’s dry, it’s often quite hot with little respite from the blazing sun. But while those aspects of hiking there are rarely out of mind, when I recall backpacking in the canyon, I conjure mental images of waterfalls, creeks, and intimate side canyons sheltering perennial streams that nurture lush oases in the desert. I think of wildflowers carpeting the ground for as far as the eye can see. I recall campsites on beaches by the Colorado River and on promontories overlooking a wide expanse of the canyon.

And, of course, I picture the endless vistas stretching for miles in every direction, where impossibly immense stone towers loom thousands of feet above an unfathomably vertiginous and complex landscape.

Read on

A backpacker in The Narrows in Zion National Park.

The 5 Southwest Backpacking Trips You Should Do First

By Michael Lanza

You want to explore the best backpacking in America’s desert Southwest, but you’re not sure where to begin, or how some of these trips you’ve read about compare for scenery and difficulty. You’ve heard about the need to carry huge loads of water, and environmental challenges like dangerous heat, rugged terrain, flash floods and even (gulp) quicksand. Or maybe you’ve taken one or two backpacking trips there and now you’re hungry for another one and seeking ideas for where to go next.

Well, I gotcha covered. The five trips described in this story comprise what might be called a Southwest Backpacking Starter Package. They are all beginner- and family-friendly in terms of trail or route quality, access, and navigability, and some have good water availability. But most importantly, regardless of their relative ease logistically, they all deliver the goods on the kind of adventure and scenery you go to the Southwest hoping to find.

Read on

A backpacker hiking over Clouds Rest in Yosemite National Park.

8 Perfect National Park Backpacking Trips for Beginners

By Michael Lanza So you’re a novice backpacker, or you’re planning your first backpacking trip in a big, Western national park, or you have kids you want to take on a relatively easy backpacking trip—and you want to sample the best scenery, trails, and backcountry campsites that experienced backpackers get to enjoy in our national parks. No worries. These eight …

Read on