The Needles District

A hiker below the Wall of Windows on the Peek-a-Boo Loop in Bryce Canyon National Park.

The 12 Best Hikes in Utah’s National Parks

By Michael Lanza

From natural arches, hoodoos, and hanging gardens to balanced rocks and towering mesas, slot canyons and vast chasms, the desert Southwest holds in its dry, searing, lonely open spaces some of America’s most fascinating and inspiring geology. The writer “Cactus Ed” Abbey no doubt had this region in mind when he said there “are some places so beautiful they can make a grown man break down and weep.” Much of it sits protected within southern Utah’s five national parks: Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef.

The good news? Many of the best sights can be reached on dayhikes of anywhere from a couple hours to a full day.

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Backpackers hiking the High Sierra Trail in Sequoia National Park.

The 10 Best National Park Backpacking Trips

By Michael Lanza Olympic, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Glacier, Zion, Grand Teton, Mount Rainier, Canyonlands, Sequoia, Great Smoky Mountains. To backpackers, these names read like a list of America’s greatest cathedrals in nature—and no surprise, because these parks harbor some of the most scenic wilderness trails in the country. Hike any of them and it will earn a spot on your …

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A backpacker on the Dawson Pass 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 for success reserving your next national park backcountry permit.

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A young boy hiking the Chesler Park Trail in the Needles District of Utah's Canyonlands National Park.

7 Great Southwest Hiking Trips You Can Take Without Planning Ahead

By Michael Lanza

The Grand Canyon. The Narrows in Zion National Park. Paria Canyon. The Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. These are among the best backpacking trips in the Southwest—arguably in the country. But you have to plan those trips and apply for a backcountry permit months in advance. If you haven’t done that, your chances are slim for ticking off one of them in the next couple of months.

No worries. I have a Plan B for you. (In fact, I have Plans B, C, D, E, F, G, and H for you.)

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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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