5 Great Adventures to Take in 2017
By Michael Lanza
Where will you take a big outdoor adventure in 2017? This is the time of year when I like to start planning for next year, because if you lead a busy life, big trips don’t happen unless you get them on the calendar early. For two of the national park trips I describe below, Zion and Everglades, the prime season is around the corner; and for other destinations in this story—Sequoia and Olympic national parks and Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains—you be wise to plan dates and the route and travel logistics in advance.
Below are five adventures to consider taking in the coming months—some you’ve probably heard of, others maybe not, all of them outstanding.
Now get busy making this year a great one.
Explore the Backcountry of Zion National Park
Other parts of the Southwest have natural arches, spires, hoodoos, and ancient cliff dwellings, but no place matches Zion’s grandeur. Its 2,000-foot cliffs of white and burgundy rock, sculpted in ripples and other wild, natural patterns, and maze of deep canyons in the backcountry are unique; and hikes like Angels Landing, The Narrows, the West Rim Trail, and The Subway (lead photo at top of story) rank among the most spectacular, classic hikes in the entire National Park System. I’ve made several trips to Zion, but there’s still much I want to do there, from dayhikes and backpacking to exploring technical slot canyons.
Backpack Into the High Sierra of Sequoia National Park
With some of the highest mountains in the contiguous United States and scores of beautiful backcountry lakes—not to mention consistently sunny days in summer—California’s southern High Sierra unequivocally belongs on any list of top backpacking destinations in America. On a six-day, 40-mile loop hike from the Mineral King area of Sequoia National Park, my family hiked through a quiet, backcountry grove of giant Sequoias, and over 10,000-foot and 11,000-foot passes at the foot of 12,000-foot, granite peaks, and camped at two lakes that earned spots on my list of 25 favorite backcountry campsites. I still consider it one of the most photogenic places I’ve ever hiked.
See my story “Heavy Lifting: Backpacking Sequoia National Park,” about my family’s backpacking trip there and all of my stories about Sequoia National Park and California national parks at The Big Outside.
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Hike the Wild Olympic Coast
Hiking along the coast of Olympic National Park, you may spot seals, sea lions, sea otters, bald eagles, tufted puffins, and many seabirds, and humpback, gray, minke, or blue whales. Scores of stone pinnacles—called sea stacks—rise as much as 200 feet out of the ocean. On a three-day, 17.5-mile backpacking trip on the southern Olympic coast, my family explored tide pools and boulders coated with mussels, sea stars, and sea anemones, and walked through one of Earth’s largest virgin temperate rainforests, where Sitka spruce and western red cedar grow up to 15 feet in diameter, and Douglas fir and western hemlock stand over 200 feet tall. It’s one of my top 10 family adventures and top 10 backpacking trips.
See my story “The Wildest Shore: Backpacking the Southern Olympic Coast,” and all of my stories about Olympic National Park.
Backpack Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains
Since moving to Idaho almost 20 years ago, I’ve gotten to know the Sawtooths pretty well (although I have much more hiking and climbing to do there), and every time I explore a new corner of that range, I think it may be the most beautiful spot I’ve seen there yet. That’s the impact the Sawtooths have on you. My stories about Idaho’s Sawtooths consistently rank among the most popular reads at The Big Outside, so apparently a lot of readers concur with my opinion about them.
See all of my stories about Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, including my feature stories about a 57-mile hike in the southern Sawtooths and backpacking to three of the range’s most accessible and prettiest lakes, this photo gallery of some of the many gorgeous mountain lakes in the Sawtooths, and my Ask Me posts answering reader questions about where to backpack in the Sawtooths and the best dayhikes and backpacking trips there.
Paddle the Everglades
Paddle through long mangrove tunnels, watching scores of exotic birds fly just overhead, including snowy egrets, white ibises, black anhingas, tri-colored herons, brown pelicans, and great blue herons. See alligators—up to 12 feet long—floating on the river’s surface. Canoe to camp on wilderness beaches, watching the sun set into the ocean, dolphins swim around your canoe (one did around ours), and roseate spoonbills and osprey perch in trees. My kids were fascinated by the wildlife and loved the easy paddling and beach campsites. Winter is the prime season for visiting the Everglades, mild, summer-like temperatures and few mosquitoes.
See my story “Like No Other Place: Paddling the Everglades,” at The Big Outside.
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See all of my stories about national park adventures and family adventures, and useful advice in my “10 Tips For Getting a Hard-to-Get National Park Backcountry Permit.”
Don’t think you can fit in a big trip this year? You need to read my “10 Tips For Getting Outside More.”
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