Utah backpacking

A backpacker hiking Uinta River Trail 44 in Painter Basin below 13,538-foot Kings Peak (right), High Uintas Wilderness, Utah.

Tall and Lonely: Backpacking Utah’s High Uintas Wilderness

By Michael Lanza As we get ready to cook dinner at our campsite on the edge of meadow and open forest a couple minutes’ walk from the shore of the Fourth Chain Lake, at 10,900 feet in Utah’s High Uintas Wilderness, the sound of approaching voices prompts all four of us to look up in surprise. It’s our second evening …

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A backpacker above Crack-in-the-Wall, Coyote Gulch, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah.

Playing the Memory Game in Escalante, Capitol Reef, and Bryce Canyon

By Michael Lanza

Below a deep gash in a 50-foot-tall cliff of golden sandstone, shaded from the low, late-afternoon sun of early spring, I scramble up a steep slab using in-cut holds carved into the soft rock. Ten or 12 feet off the ground, I pull myself over the lip of a ledge to peer into a narrow cut in the earth, a hidden geologic oddity that lures in a certain type of hiker for one reason: because it’s barely wide enough for humans to squeeze through. And I have to smile.

I’m grinning first of all because I’ve found just what we had hoped to see. Water sometimes pools in a couple of potholes near the mouth of this slot canyon, and the air temperature today feels a little too cool to soak ourselves in cold water. Today, though, the sandy-bottomed, giant stone teacups are dry. But secondly, touching me on a more personal level, this canyon’s entrance looks much as I remember it from the first time I hiked through here, 16 years ago this month.

In less than two hours, my impression of this place will be almost completely remade.

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A young girl hiking in Spring Canyon, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah.

Plunging Into Solitude: Dayhiking, Slot Canyoneering, and Backpacking in Capitol Reef

By Michael Lanza

We stand on the rim of an unnamed slot canyon in the backcountry of Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park, in a spot that just a handful of people have seen before us. We’ve arrived here after hiking about two hours uphill on the Navajo Knobs Trail, and then heading off-trail, navigating a circuitous route up steep slickrock and below a sheer-walled fin of white Navajo Sandstone hundreds of feet tall, stabbing into the blue sky. Now I peer down at the narrow, deep, and shadowy crack that we have come to rappel into, and feel a little flush of anxiety.

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Backpackers in the narrows of Paria Canyon, in southern Utah and northern Arizona.

Take a Top 5 Southwest Backpacking Trip: Paria Canyon

By Michael Lanza

Walls of searing, orange-red sandstone towered hundreds of feet overhead in a chasm at times no more than a dozen strides across. A shallow river flowed like very thin chocolate milk down the canyon, spanning it from wall to wall in spots. And the spectacle had only just begun: We were mere hours into the first day of one of the most continually stunning, multi-day canyon hikes in the Southwest: Paria Canyon.

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