Wind River Range

Sunset at Idaho's City of Rocks National Reserve.

Why I Never Miss a Wilderness Sunset or Sunrise

By Michael Lanza

The June evening was more than a few hours old when, without warning, the sky suddenly caught fire. The kids, teenagers and ’tweeners, and some of the adults in our group scrambled up onto a nearby rock formation at least 50 feet tall to observe the sunset from high off the ground. Like a wildfire swept forward by wind, hues of yellow, orange, and red leapt across bands of clouds suspended above the western horizon, their ragged bottoms edges, appropriately, resembling dancing flames.

For a span of just minutes that felt timeless, the light painted and repainted the clouds in ever-shifting, warm colors starkly contrasted against the cool, deepening blue of the sky—as if a vast lake had ignited. We stood hypnotized and enchanted on that evening during a long weekend of camping at Idaho’s City of Rocks National Reserve, until the last, dying flames of the celestial conflagration faded and were extinguished. For that brief time, the sunset had us all, adults and kids, completely in its thrall.

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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. The tips below explain the thought process I follow that make my trips better and will do the same for you.

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A backpacker below Jackass Pass, overlooking the Cirque of the Towers in the Wind River Range.

5 Reasons You Must Backpack the Wind River Range

By Michael Lanza On a cool early morning last August while backpacking the Wind River High Route, I hiked in the shadow of tall mountains to Jackass Pass at 10,790 feet—a spot I’ve stood on at least a few times before, overlooking the incomparable Cirque of the Towers in the Winds—and affirmed a truth about that patch of rocks and …

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A backpacker hiking through Granite Park in the John Muir Wilderness, High Sierra, California.

Big Scenery, No Crowds: 7 Top Backpacking Trips For Solitude

By Michael Lanza

We all want our wilderness backpacking trips to have two sometimes conflicting qualities: mind-blowing scenery, but also few other people around. A high degree of solitude somehow makes the backcountry feel bigger and wilder and the views more breathtaking. However unrealistic the notion may be, we like to believe we have some stunning corner of nature to ourselves. But in the real world, if you head out into popular mountains in July or August or in canyon country in spring or fall, you’ll probably have company—maybe more than you prefer.

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Rock Slide Lake in Idaho's southern Sawtooth Mountains.

Photo Gallery: 30 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 …

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