The Maze District

A backpacker hiking the Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail in Glacier National Park.

10 Tips For Getting a Hard-to-Get National Park Backcountry Permit

By Michael Lanza

Backpackers planning a trip in popular national parks like Yosemite, Grand Teton, Glacier, Zion, Grand Canyon, Mount Rainier, Rocky Mountain, Great Smoky Mountains, and others have one experience in common: A high percentage of them see their backcountry permit application rejected—and many probably don’t realize why.

Countless backpacking trips over more than three decades—during which I was the Northwest Editor of Backpacker magazine for 10 years and have now run this blog for even longer—have taught me many tricks for landing coveted permits in flagship parks, which receive far more requests than they can fill. Follow the strategies outlined below and you can greatly improve your chances when reserving your next national park backcountry permit.

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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.

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A backpacker enjoying the view from Maze Overlook in the Maze District, Canyonlands National Park.

Backpacking the Maze in Canyonlands—A Photo Gallery

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 had to remove and pass our backpacks over a ledge drop of several feet. But that was nothing compared to what lay ahead. Following a wildly circuitous trail marked by cairns but otherwise unobvious and not visible on the slickrock, we passed below redrock cliffs and towers, traversed the sloping rims of giant bowls of rippled stone, and several more times passed our packs to scramble through tight crevices and downclimb a ladder of shallow footsteps chiseled into a sandstone cliff face.

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A backpacker above Granite Creek on the Wonderland Trail, Mount Rainier National Park.

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. All of them are special. 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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A campsite at Overland Lake on the Ruby Crest Trail, Ruby Mountains, Nevada.

Tent Flap With A View: 25 Favorite Backcountry Campsites

By Michael Lanza

An unforgettable campsite can define a backcountry trip. Sometimes that perfect spot where you spend a night forges the memory that remains the most vivid long after you’ve gone home. A photo of that camp can send recollections of the entire adventure rushing back to you—it does for me. I’ve been very fortunate to have pitched a tent in many great backcountry campsites over more than three decades of backpacking all over the U.S. and the world. I’ve distilled the list of my favorite spots down to these 25.

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