Utah backpacking

An overlook along the Beehive Traverse in Capitol Reef National Park.

The Most Beautiful Hike You’ve Never Heard Of: Crossing Utah’s Capitol Reef

By Michael Lanza

We enter a steep, claustrophobically narrow gully, looking up at boulders that appear barely glued in place by a mortar of dried mud. Ready to rain sandstone jihad upon us, they send a silent message that we have taken a wrong turn in this unnamed side canyon in the wilds of southern Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park and should retreat—immediately. This seems about as likely to be our route as we are likely to run into a fish plucking a harp out here in the high desert.

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A backpacker in The Narrows in Zion National Park.

Luck of the Draw, Part 2: Backpacking Zion’s Narrows

By Michael Lanza

We step into the ankle-deep North Fork of the Virgin River, in the backcountry of Zion National Park, and water at refrigerator temperature immediately fills our boots. Until sometime tomorrow afternoon, we’ll walk in this river almost constantly, crossing it dozens of times—with the 50° F water, at its deepest, coming up nearly to our waists. As we splash downstream, the canyon walls of golden, crimson, and cream-colored sandstone steadily creep inward and stretch higher, soon eclipsing the sun. We’ll see very little direct sunlight as the sheer walls of Zion’s Narrows eventually tower a thousand feet overhead and, at times, close in to the width of a hobbit’s living room.

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Ancient Puebloan ruins in Woodenshoe Canyon, in Utah's Dark Canyon Wilderness.

Ancient and Modern Folly: Backpacking Utah’s Dark Canyon

By Michael Lanza About five miles down Woodenshoe Canyon, under a blazing sun in southeast Utah’s Dark Canyon Wilderness, David stops on the sandy trail ahead of me and points to a barely distinguishable feature in the cliffs above us. We set our backpacks on the ground and follow a faint path up onto slabs below the cliffs. Scrambling and …

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A hiker on the West Rim Trail in Zion National Park.

Ask Me: The Best Backpacking Trip in Zion National Park

Michael,

Say you have one last trip to Zion: a 3- to 4-night backpacking trip with a group of men in average condition anywhere in the park.

What trails do you have to see one more time? (Insert any insider details here.)

What month do you go?

You’ve sparked something in myself and a friend to see that place. I know permits are crucial, we’re already planning. I’ve read your articles that mostly include all members of the family (which I respect). Does the itinerary change when it’s just guys?

Thanks so much,

Steven
Longview, Texas

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Ancient Puebloan ruin in Woodenshoe Canyon, Dark Canyon Wilderness, Utah.

3-Minute Read: Backpacking Utah’s Dark Canyon Wilderness

By Michael Lanza

About five miles down Woodenshoe Canyon, in southeast Utah’s Dark Canyon Wilderness, David stops on the trail ahead of me and points to a barely distinguishable feature in the cliffs above us. We drop our backpacks and follow a faint path in the sand and up onto sandstone slabs, scrambling and zigzagging our way up onto a wide ledge below an overhanging cliff face. In the shaded alcove below that overhang, we stop before the ruins of a tiny, one-room stone structure perhaps large enough for two people to lie down inside, built centuries before Columbus arrived in the New World.

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