South Kaibab Trail

A backpacker on the Tonto Trail above the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.

The Best Backpacking Trip in the Grand Canyon

By Michael Lanza

All three of us have hiked this footpath before, and even still, our first steps down the Grand Canyon’s South Kaibab Trail leave us with hanging jaws. It’s early morning under clear skies, with the low-angle sunlight bringing the vastness of this chasm into sharp clarity—every inconceivably towering monolith, bottomless abyss, and sheer precipice—and we’re sputtering silly superlatives about the vista unfurling before us.

This is, after all, the world’s grandest canyon. It does that to people, even hardened veteran backpackers like us.

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A hiker near Skeleton Point on the South Kaibab Trail in the Grand Canyon.

Fit to be Tired: Hiking the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim in a Day

By Michael Lanza

Minutes after we start hiking down the Grand Canyon’s South Kaibab Trail, we descend steeply through a series of short, tight switchbacks where the trail appears to cling tenuously to the face of a cliff. The earth drops away abruptly beyond the trail’s edge—we’re gazing down nearly a vertical mile into the basement of The Big Ditch. Patches of early-morning sunlight waltz with cloud shadows across the infinite complexity of the tortured landscape sprawling before us, the high-contrast light magnifying the perception of endlessness. Not much farther, we pause at a clifftop overlook of possibly the most famous canyon on Earth.

The view is breathtaking. But less than a mile into our hike, it also lays bare the audacity, or maybe the folly, of our plans: to walk from South Rim to North Rim across this awesome chasm—21 miles and almost 11,000 cumulative vertical feet—today. From here, tonight’s destination looks very, very far away.

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A hiker on the Observation Point Trail in Zion National Park.

12 Photos From 2018 That Will Inspire You to Get Outdoors

By Michael Lanza

What adventures did you take in 2018 that inspired you? I hope you enjoyed at least a few. I did. The 12 photos in this story are favorite images from some of the trips I took over the past year. They included hiking in Zion (twice) and Bryce Canyon national parks; backpacking off the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in spring and returning in fall to dayhike the canyon rim to rim to rim over two magnificent days; rock climbing in Yosemite; backpacking and scrambling peaks in Idaho’s Sawtooths; and putting an exclamation point on the year with a 90-mile traverse of Glacier National Park on the Continental Divide Trail.

Scroll through these photos, each of which is accompanied by a short anecdote from the trip and links to existing stories at The Big Outside. I hope they help inspire you to start planning your adventures for 2019. After all, these are the experiences that give meaning to our lives.

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Young kids backpacking over the Big Spring Canyon-Squaw Canyon pass in the Needles District, Canyonlands National Park.

5 National Park Backcountry Trips to Put on Your Radar Right Now

By Michael Lanza

Your next national park backcountry adventure may seem far off your planning radar at this time of year—but this is precisely the time to start planning and looking into backcountry permits if you have your sights trained on the Grand Canyon, Canyonlands, Yosemite, Grand Teton, or the John Muir Trail. For all of them, the time to apply for a permit for a trip during the prime season next year is fast approaching. Here’s what you need to know and do.

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My daughter Alex on the trail to Spider Gap, Glacier Peak Wilderness, Washington.

Ask Me: Backpacking Trips With an 11-Year-Old

Hi Michael,

My fifth-grade daughter and I spend most of our summer playing and hiking. We are upping our backpacking mileage each year and hope to be able to do the Wonderland Trail around Mount Rainier when she is 12. For this summer, we are looking to do a hike of about 60 to 75 miles. One possibility is the Pacific Crest Trail between Highway 50 and 80. It’s a beautiful route I’ve taken before. But I’m very open to other ideas. She’s tough and has built up to solid 10-mile days. Any help or direction you could give me would be great. I envy the time you have been able to spend in the wild.

Adam
Sacramento, CA

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