Southern Utah hiking backpacking

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

Farther Than It Looks—Backpacking the Canyonlands Maze

By Michael Lanza

With our first steps on the descent from Maze Overlook into the labyrinth of mostly dry desert canyons that comprise one of the greatest geological oddities in the National Park System—the Maze in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park—we already face our first obstacle: Removing our backpacks, we scramble one by one over a ledge drop of several feet and pass our packs down.

But this introduction to the most technical section of our route merely hints at the arduous and improbable terrain awaiting around the corner.

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The Great Gallery pictographs of Horseshoe Canyon in Utah's Canyonlands National Park.

Hiking to The Great Gallery Pictographs of Horseshoe Canyon in Canyonlands National Park

By Michael Lanza

Here’s how you reach the best prehistoric Indian rock art in America: From Utah Highway 24, a remote two-lane bisecting the inhospitable desert between the rugged spine of the San Rafael Reef and the deep and isolated canyons of the Green and Dirty Devil rivers, turn east onto a dirt road at a small, easily overlooked sign for Horseshoe Canyon. (Reference point: It’s a tenth of a mile south of the turnoff for Goblin Valley State Park.) Drive about an hour on that sometimes rocky, sometimes sandy road—which can become impassable in heavy rain or when wind piles sand drifts across the road, and where a few roadside signs are the only indicators of civilization—to the West Rim Trailhead.

Then hike down into Horseshoe Canyon and nearly three miles up canyon to a panel of rock art that will reduce even the most seasoned pictograph and petroglyph hunters to awed silence.

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A hiker on the Peek-a-Boo Loop in Bryce Canyon National Park.

The Best Hike in Bryce Canyon National park

By Michael Lanza Bryce Canyon’s Navajo Loop/Queens Garden Loop is a popular trail for good reason, with constant views of hoodoos—the multi-colored, limestone, sandstone, and mudstone spires that look like giant, melting candles, including the famous formation called Thor’s Hammer. But once turning onto the Peek-a-Boo Loop, you lose the crowds—and discover the scenic heart of Bryce Canyon while hiking …

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Angels Landing, Zion National Park

Photo Gallery: Hiking and Backpacking in Zion National Park

By Michael Lanza

Even in the Southwest, a region where the extraordinary becomes ordinary, Zion National Park stands out. Other places have natural arches, spires, and ancient cliff dwellings, but no place really matches Zion’s grandeur: cliffs up to 2,000 feet tall stretching for miles, the rock’s purity of white and deep burgundy, and patterns of striations rippling across a span of stone that dwarfs Man’s greatest buildings and monuments. Perhaps that’s why it was Utah’s first national park, designated in the same year, 1919, as Grand Canyon and Acadia.

As the photos below demonstrate, Zion harbors some of America’s best dayhiking and backpacking.

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12 Tips For Getting Your Teenager Outdoors With You

By Michael Lanza

“That sounds totally boring.” “Other parents don’t force their kids to do things they don’t want to do.” “I hate (fill in the activity).” If you’re a parent of a teenager, you’ve probably heard these responses from your child, or any of an infinite number of variations on them—like a personal favorite that one of my kids, at 14, laid on me: “You get to choose your friends, but you don’t get to choose your family.” If you’re trying to persuade a teen to get outdoors with you—which often entails pulling him or her away from an electronic screen—your child can summon powers of resistance that conjure mental images of Superman stopping a high-speed train.

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