Tuolumne Meadows

A backpacker hiking up Matterhorn Canyon in Yosemite National Park.

Backpacking Yosemite: What You Need to Know

The first major Western national park I backpacked in was Yosemite. I wanted to begin exploring America’s big, iconic wilderness parks—and like a lot of backpackers, I thought: Where else would I start but Yosemite? The name alone conjures mental images of walking for days through wild backcountry sprinkled with shimmering alpine lakes, granite walls, and high passes and summits overlooking a sea of jagged peaks (which, it turns out, is accurate).

Today, after many return trips throughout Yosemite, I’ve learned that one can spend a lifetime wandering the more than 700,000 acres of wilderness in America’s third national park and not get tired of it.

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A rock climber atop Eichorn Pinnacle in Yosemite National Park.

When Your Kid Gets Better Than You

By Michael Lanza

Some 200 feet above the shore of Tenaya Lake in Yosemite National Park, on the face of a granite cliff with a name that sets high expectations—Stately Pleasure Dome—I crouch and contort my torso and limbs to squeeze into a slender passageway barely wider than my body. Inside this claustrophobic “chimney,” as this type of formation is known in rock-climbing parlance, I start grunting and panting loudly enough for the sounds of suffering to reach my 17-year-old son, Nate, who’s belaying me at the other end of our rope, below the chimney.

“How’s it look in there?” he calls to me from the relative comfort of his spacious ledge in the warm sunshine.

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Larch trees glowing with fall color, reflected in Rainbow Lake in the North Cascades National Park Complex.

10 Awesome Fall Backpacking Trips

By Michael Lanza

The imminent end of summer always feels a little melancholy. After all, it marks the close of the prime season for getting into the mountains. But it also signals the beginning of a time of year when many mountain ranges become less crowded just as they’re hitting a sweet zone in terms of temperatures, the lack of bugs, and fall foliage color. Autumn also stands out as an ideal season for many Southwest hikes, with moderate temperatures and even some stunning color.

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A backpacker hiking to Burro Pass above Matterhorn Canyon, Yosemite National Park.

The 7 Best Backpacking Trips in Yosemite

By Michael Lanza

After more than three decades of exploring all over Yosemite on numerous backpacking trips, I’ve learned two big lessons about it: First of all, few places inspire the same powerful combination of both awe and adventure. And Yosemite’s backcountry harbors such an abundance of soaring granite peaks, waterfalls, lovely rivers and creeks, and shimmering alpine lakes—plus, over 700,000 acres of designated wilderness and 750 miles of trails—that you can explore America’s third national park literally for decades and not run out of five-star scenery.

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A backpacker above Liberty Lake on the Ruby Crest Trail in Nevada's Ruby Mountains.

The 24 Nicest Backcountry Campsites I’ve Hiked Past

By Michael Lanza It is one of those unfortunate inevitabilities of life, like death and taxes: Occasionally on backpacking trips you will hike past one of the most sublime patches of wilderness real estate you have ever laid eyes on, a spot so idyllic you can already see your tent pitched there and you standing outside it, warm mug in …

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