Utah backpacking

A hiker on the Taylor Creek Trail, Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park.

Photo Gallery: Hiking the Kolob Canyons of Zion National Park

By Michael Lanza

Hiking in the Kolob Canyons area of Zion National Park, you get down to business with five-star scenery with your first step from your car. At the Lee Pass Trailhead, Taylor Creek Trailhead, or the Kolob Canyons Viewpoint, you’re immediately greeted with views of crimson cliffs soaring hundreds of feet tall. Then it just keeps getting better.

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Hikers on the Chesler Park Trail, Needles District, Canyonlands National Park, Utah.

No Straight Lines: Backpacking and Hiking in Canyonlands and Arches National Parks

By Michael Lanza

We follow a zigzagging line of stone cairns over waves of slickrock in the backcountry of the Needles District of Utah’s Canyonlands National Park. Cliffs and 300-foot-tall sandstone candlesticks tower around us, in more shades of red than Crayola has yet replicated, glowing in the warm afternoon sunshine of late March. Five adults and four kids from three families, we traverse slabs, scramble in single file up the smooth, dry bottom of a narrow water runnel, and pump out calf muscles walking straight up steep ramps. In the desert Southwest, trails haven’t learned the axiom of Euclidian geometry that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. We’re navigating a maze without walls.

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The "Diving board," Half Dome, Yosemite National Park.

10 Favorite Images From 2013 Adventures

By Michael Lanza

After plowing through several thousand photos taken over the course of about 15 trips last year, I selected the following 10 that represent, for me, either the essence of each adventure or a moment when light, landscape, and composition came together just right. At this coldest and darkest time of year, kick back for a few minutes and daydream over these possibilities. You’ll find links in a few of the descriptions below to existing stories about these places at The Big Outside, and I’ll eventually post stories with many more photos from all of them.

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Woman and two young children backpacking the West Rim Trail in Zion National Park.

Pilgrimage Across Zion: Traversing a park of Otherworldly Scenery

By Michael Lanza

At the Lee Pass Trailhead in the northwest corner of southern Utah’s Zion National Park, a strong, chilling wind blasts us with air that feels more Canadian Rockies than canyon country. It’s noon on the first day of October, and while the air temperature hovers around 50° F here at just over 6,000 feet, and the sun beams down warmly from a bulletproof blue sky, we’re dressed in pants and fleece jackets.

It’s not quite what I’d expected after tracking Zion’s weather for the past week from home: Up until a few days ago, the highs were hitting the 80s up here and topping 90° F in Zion Canyon, about 2,000 feet lower than this rim. But it’s hard to worry much about wind when you’re staring at an extended forecast for sunshine and the kind of scenery greeting us at the trailhead. Fanned out before us like a royal flush of diamonds is an array of 700-foot, red and orange cliffs forming one end of the finger-like Kolob Canyons. The red hues contrast starkly against the strip of greenery tracing the stream channel in the canyon bottom and the yellow in some leaves still clinging to trees.

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