Wonderland Trail

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 on the Continental Divide Trail in Glacier National Park.

12 Expert Tips for Finding Solitude When Backpacking

By Michael Lanza

Solitude has always reigned as one of the holy grails of backpacking: We all dream of finding that lonely campsite deep in the wilderness with an amazing vista, or hiking for miles or days encountering few or even no other people on the trail. Unfortunately, reality often conflicts with expectations for many backpackers when they discover that the dream trip they’ve been anticipating for months was apparently a dream trip for an awful lot of other people, too.

But the truth is that there are many ways to find backcountry solitude because the odds work in your favor: Most wilderness trails have few or no people on them most of the time. The search for solitude is less a needle-in-a-haystack conundrum and more a matter of thinking outside the box: You simply have to understand where and when to look for it.

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

How to Get a Permit to Backpack Rainier’s Wonderland Trail

By Michael Lanza

Any backpacker making the substantial effort to hike the 93-mile Wonderland Trail around Washington’s Mount Rainier soon discovers why it’s one of the most popular backpacking trips in the country. Those reasons include regularly wading through some of the best wildflower meadows you’ll see anywhere, the numerous waterfalls and raging rivers gray with glacial flour—and the countless times that the most heavily glaciated peak in the Lower 48, 14,410-foot Mount Rainier, suddenly pops into view, looking impossibly massive.

That’s also why few backcountry permits are harder to get than one for the Wonderland—unquestionably one of “America’s Top 10 Best Backpacking Trips” and “The 10 Best National Park Backpacking Trips.”

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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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Backpackers hiking the High Sierra Trail in Sequoia National Park.

The 10 Best National Park Backpacking Trips

By Michael Lanza Olympic, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Glacier, Zion, Grand Teton, Mount Rainier, Canyonlands, Sequoia, Great Smoky Mountains. To backpackers, these names read like a list of America’s greatest cathedrals in nature—and no surprise, because these parks harbor some of the most scenic wilderness trails in the country. Hike any of them and it will earn a spot on your …

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