Wonderland Trail

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.

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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A backpacker on the Teton Crest Trail, Death Canyon Shelf, Grand Teton 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 personal top-10 list. Knock off every trip on this list and you will experience some of the finest landscapes not only in the nation, but on the planet.

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A backpacker descending from Panhandle Gap on the Wonderland Trail in Mount Rainier National Park.

5 Reasons You Must Backpack Mount Rainier’s Wonderland Trail

By Michael Lanza

There are many good reasons the 93-mile Wonderland Trail encircling Washington’s Mount Rainier ranks among the most popular backpacking trips in the country. And yet, backpackers who’ve never attempted this loop around the third-highest peak in the Lower 48 may have questions about what it’s like. If you have not hiked all or part of the Wonderland Trail, read on to learn more about why you should—and perhaps learn some myth-busting truths about this iconic and challenging trail.

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A backpacker at a small tarn in the upper valley of Middle Fork Lake on the Wind River High Route.

My 35 Most Scenic Days of Hiking Ever

By Michael Lanza

We can all remember specific places that we consider the best days of hiking we’ve ever had. I’ve been exceptionally fortunate: I have hiked many trails in America and around the world that would probably make anyone’s list of most-scenic hikes. From numerous trips in iconic national parks like Yosemite, Zion, Grand Canyon, and Glacier to the John Muir Trail and Teton Crest Trail and some of the world’s great treks, including the Alta Via 2 in Italy’s Dolomite Mountains, the Tour du Mont Blanc, New Zealand’s Tongariro National Park, Iceland’s Laugavegur and Fimmvörðuháls trails, and the icy and jagged mountains of Norway and Patagonia, here’s a list of the 30 hands-down prettiest days I’ve ever spent walking dirt and rock footpaths.

I think you’ll find some places in here to add to your must-do list.

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