White Mountains

Backpackers on Trail 154 to Cramer Divide in Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains.

How to Decide Where to Go Backpacking

By Michael Lanza

You can find abundant information online offering advice on how to plan a backpacking trip (including my 12 expert tips)—some of it good and some, frankly, not very thorough. But there’s little advice out there on how to choose where to go backpacking—and many backpackers fail to consider key aspects of trips that greatly affect their experience: They follow an essentially backward decision-making process.

While this may sound esoteric and irrelevant to you, I’ve learned that how you decide where to go greatly affects how well your trip goes—it really matters. The tips below explain the thought process I follow that make my trips much more enjoyable and will do the same for you.

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

12 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 hiker on Bondcliff in the White Mountains, N.H.

The Hardest Dayhike in the East: The 32-Mile Pemi Loop

By Michael Lanza

Our long day of hiking began at 6 a.m., shortly after first light, under a gray overcast that would rain intermittent light showers on us over the next several hours and, at times, envelop us in pea-soup fog. When our day ended 15 hours and 59 minutes later—we could officially call it “sub-16 hours”—two friends and I had proven to ourselves (and no one else would care) that, in our 50s, we could still tick off the 32-mile, 10,000-vertical-foot, nine-summit Pemi Loop in New Hampshire’s White Mountains in one long, grueling day.

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Alice Lake in Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains.

Photo Gallery: 36 Gorgeous Backcountry Lakes

By Michael Lanza

Water makes up about 60 percent of our bodies—and, I suspect, 100 percent of our hearts. We crave it not only physically, for survival, but emotionally, for spiritual rejuvenation. We love playing in it for hours as children and we paddle and swim in it as adults. We’re drawn by the calming effects of sitting beside a stream or lake in a beautiful natural setting, an experience that possesses a certain je ne sais quoi—a quality difficult to describe, but that we can all feel.

And nothing beats taking a swim in a gorgeous backcountry lake.

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A backpacker hiking the Timberline Trail around Mount Hood, Oregon..

15 Great Backpacking Trips You Can Still Take in 2024

By Michael Lanza

So you didn’t plan months in advance to reserve a permit for backpacking this summer in Glacier, Yosemite, on the Teton Crest Trail, Wonderland Trail, or John Muir Trail or in another popular national park? Or you applied for a permit but got rejected? Now what? Where can you still go this year?

You’re in luck. This story describes 15 backpacking trips you can still plan and take this year—either because they don’t require a permit reservation or, in the case of Yosemite, North Cascades, and Olympic national parks, you can still obtain a backcountry permit reservation for many summer dates and trails, where one is required.

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