Washington hiking backpacking

A hiker on Half Dome's cable route in Yosemite National Park.

Extreme Hiking: America’s Best Hard Dayhikes

By Michael Lanza

Imagine this: You’re heading out on a long, beautiful hike deep in the backcountry, but instead of a full backpack, you carry a light daypack. You’ve avoided hassles with getting a backcountry permit and there’s no camp to set up and pack up. I love backpacking—and I do it a lot. But sometimes, I prefer to knock off a weekend-length—or longer—hike in one big day.

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Backpackers west of Sunrise on the Wonderland Trail, Mount Rainier National Park

The Best Hikes in Mount Rainier National Park

By Michael Lanza

Among hikers and backpackers, Mount Rainier National Park may be best known for the Wonderland Trail, which makes a 93-mile loop around Mount Rainier—the 14,411-foot volcano that Washingtonians refer to simply as “The Mountain.” The Wonderland constantly ascends to sub-alpine meadows exploding with wildflowers, with Rainier’s gleaming, white slopes repeatedly popping into view, and plunges into valleys carved by glacial rivers in a rainforest of giant trees.

But one doesn’t have to embark on a multi-day hike to enjoy those vistas. You reach some of the best scenery in America’s fifth national park on dayhikes.

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

The 27 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 your hands, watching a glorious sunset. But it’s early and your plan entails hiking farther before you stop for the day—not camping there. Or your permit isn’t for that site. Or even worse, you are looking for a campsite, but someone else has already occupied this little corner of Heaven.

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A hiker on the Taylor Creek Trail in Zion National Park.

The 17 Best Uncrowded National Park Dayhikes

By Michael Lanza

The best-known dayhikes in America’s national parks are certainly worth adding to your outdoor-adventure CV. Summits and hiking trails like Angels Landing in Zion, Half Dome in Yosemite, the North Rim Trail overlooking the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, Glacier National Park’s Highline Trail, the Grand Canyon’s South Kaibab Trail and many others represent the highlights of the crown jewels of the National Park System. And for that very reason, unless you take those hikes outside the peak seasons or times of day, you can expect to encounter a lot of other people.

But there are other national park dayhikes that remain off the radar of many hikers—so they attract a tiny fraction of the number of people flocking to the popular trails. This story will point you toward many of the best of them.

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Hikers on the crater rim of Mount St. Helens, with Mount Adams in the distance.

The View From Mount St. Helens, One of America’s Best Hikes

By Michael Lanza

Four decades after it last erupted, Washington’s Mount St. Helens has become one of the most sought-after summits in the country—for good reason. Hikers on the standard Monitor Ridge route, on the mountain’s south side, emerge soon from the shady, cool, temperate rainforest onto a stark, gray and black moonscape of volcanic rocks, pumice, and ash, with little vegetation and sweeping views of the Cascade Mountains, including several other snow-covered volcanoes. The views could steal the breath from God.

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