Photo Gallery: 20 Big Adventures In Pictures
By Michael Lanza
Everyone loves a good picture—it’s worth a thousand words, right? At this blog, I’ve now posted hundreds of stories with photos about outdoor adventures I’ve taken, many of them with my family. What better way to begin exploring ideas for your next trip than by scrolling through 20 inspirational images from stories at this website?
The pictures below are all from stories at The Big Outside; click on any photo or the link in its description to see that story, with more photos and trip-planning information.
Start planning your next big adventure now. Or your next 20.
Hiking and camping on miles and miles of wilderness beach. Stone pinnacles rising out of the pounding surf. Sightings of seals, sea otters, bald eagles, and blue whales. Climbing and descending rope ladders in dense rainforest, where giant Sitka spruce, Douglas fir, and western red cedar grow to 150 or 200 feet tall, some with diameters up to 15 feet wide. Those are just some of the many highlights of a three-day, 17.5-mile hike of the southern stretch of the coast of Olympic National Park—truly one of the classic backpacking trips in America. (Lead photo at top of this story is from Toleak Point on the Olympic coast.) See my story “The Wildest Shore: Backpacking the Southern Olympic Coast.”
Glacier National Park is one of my favorite places to backpack, but much of it is quite remote and challenging. My family’s three-day hike on the Gunsight Pass Trail, when my kids were nine and seven, was just as scenic as any trip I’ve done there, without the physical and logistical difficulties. Read my story about it and see more images, and see all of my stories about Glacier National Park. (I also write more about that trip in my book Before They’re Gone.)
Just nine and seven years old at the time, my kids thrilled at hiking to some of Yosemite Valley’s biggest, loudest, and mistiest waterfalls: Upper Yosemite Falls (photo at right), and Vernal and Nevada Fall on the aptly named Mist Trail.
Read about that trip and see more photos at my story “The Magic of Hiking to Yosemite’s Waterfalls.” I describe that trip in more detail, and examine the research behind speculation that the experience of seeing these waterfalls will change dramatically in coming years, in my award-winning book Before They’re Gone—A Family’s Year-Long Quest to Explore America’s Most Endangered National Parks.
Tick off the best dayhikes and backpacking trips in Zion—Angels Landing, The Narrows, The Subway, the West Rim Trail, the Kolob Canyons—and you’ve named some of the most scenic pieces of wild real estate in the entire National Park System. I’ve been there several times and still have adventures on my to-do list for that park. See all of my stories about Zion, including a photo gallery from all of my hikes there, and my stories about a family backpacking trip in the Kolob Canyons and West Rim Trail, hiking The Subway, and dayhiking 50 miles across Zion, and watch for my feature story about backpacking The Narrows later this year at The Big Outside.
Very cool waterfalls, wildflowers, and rainforest reachable on family-friendly dayhikes—that’s the Columbia Gorge in Oregon and Washington in a nutshell. Walk behind Ponytail Falls and Tunnel Falls with your kids and you’ll instantly cement their enthusiasm for hiking. But the Gorge is a great destination for the most hard-core hikers, too, with rugged trails that get little traffic and serious vertical relief. See my story about dayhiking to some of the Columbia Gorge’s highlights, and this photo gallery, with trip-planning details, about a 20-mile, 5,000-foot dayhike in the Gorge.
One of my earliest, major backpacking trips (and I’ve returned many times since), the Teton Crest Trail (shown here below Paintbrush Divide in the North Fork of Cascade Canyon) in Grand Teton National Park has everything: wildflowers, killer campsites, incredible views almost every step of the way, and even a degree of solitude along some stretches. See my stories “American Classic: The Teton Crest Trail,” and “Walking Familiar Ground: Reliving Old Memories and Making New Ones on the Teton Crest Trail,” about backpacking the TCT with my family, as well as my numerous posts about the Teton Crest Trail and Grand Teton National Park, with photos and tips on backpacking there.
When my son and daughter were both small, I began taking each of them, separately, on an annual father-son and father-daughter outdoor trip, which came to be know as the “boy trip” and “girl trip.” Now, it has become another event that my kids and I squeeze into our busy calendar every year, because we wouldn’t miss it. While most of these have taken place in wild places in Idaho, near our home, my daughter and I also took a girl trip backpacking in the Grand Canyon (photo at right, from the New Hance Trail). See my stories “Boy Trip, Girl Trip: Why I Take Father-Son and Father-Daughter Adventures,” and “A Matter of Perspective: A Father-Daughter Hike in the Grand Canyon.”
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Not many trips will feel so remote and big, as well as delivering an incredibly photogenic landscape and no small degree of challenge, as this nearly 40-mile backpacking trip I took with my family in Sequoia National Park, which included a campsite on picturesque Precipice Lake (above).
I could fill a story with a list of Yellowstone National Park’s unique features and reasons why everyone American should visit the park as a requirement of full citizenship, but just take my word on this: go there. I’ve been numerous times, at all times of year, and it’s always enchanting and beautiful. We first took our kids when they were too young to even remember it, but so many of Yellowstone’s geysers—like the park’s biggest, Grand Prismatic (above), in Midway Geyser Basin—are reached on short, easy walks, making Yellowstone an ideal vacation for families with young children or anyone looking for an adventure that’s not too rigorous. You may hear tales of traffic jams in Yellowstone during summer, and yes, it’s a busy place. But just go there. First, though, read my “Ultimate Family Tour of Yellowstone,” and see this menu of all of my posts about Yellowstone National Park.
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See seals, brown bears, mountain goats, humpback whales, bald eagles and a huge variety of large birds, and 2,000-pound Steller sea lions. Hear and watch bus-sized chunks of ice calve explosively from a glacier whose snout spans a mile across and rises a sheer 300 feet out of the sea. Camp on wilderness beaches with views of peaks soaring to over 15,000 feet just miles from the ocean. A multi-day sea-kayaking trip in Glacier Bay offers a glimpse of what the world was like 10,000 years ago, as the last Ice Age drew to a close. Read my story about my family’s adventure there. (I also write more about that trip in my book Before They’re Gone.)
Squeeze through slot canyons, hike trails through a landscape of rock formations that look sculpted by a giant child with an unlimited supply of mud and crayons, and camp below night skies lit up like Times Square with stars. Situated between more-famous Zion and Bryce national parks to the southwest and Arches to the east, southern Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park has comparable scenery without the crowds; it’s one of the largely overlooked gems of the National Park System. Read my story about my family’s weeklong trip there, and see a menu of all stories I’ve posted about Capitol Reef.
The popular Lakes Basin, including Mirror Lake (above), are just the surface of the mountain scenery of the Eagle Cap Wilderness, in the Wallowa Mountains of northeastern Oregon. Protected as a primitive area since 1930 and one of the inaugural group of federal wilderness areas designated in The Wilderness Act of 1964, the Eagle Cap has granite peaks, white-tailed deer, Rocky Mountain elk, black bears, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats, and abundant wildflowers that make it feel like a cross between the High Sierra and the Rocky Mountains. Read my story about my family’s five-day backpacking trip there.
Southern Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park, in the heart of Patagonia, is undoubtedly one of the most prized trekking destinations in the world. Granite peaks soar thousands of feet overhead like swords piercing the sky, and some of the world’s biggest glaciers—like the Grey Glacier (above)—stretch for many miles. When a friend and I trekked here, this place looked familiar from the many pictures I’d seen, and yet, kind of surreal, too massive to really comprehend the landscape’s scale. It’s also, well, kind of windy. Read my story about our big, Patagonian adventure.
I had been hiking, backpacking, climbing, and skiing in Idaho’s Sawtooths—the wilderness sort of in my back yard—for years, when I finally got around to exploring the deep interior of the southern Sawtooths, one of the most remote parts of the range. A friend and I backpacked a four-day, 57-mile route from the Queens River Trailhead, visiting numerous lakes, including incredibly picturesque Rock Slide Lake (photo at right). Read my story about that trip and see many more photos that will make you want to explore these peaks, and see a menu of all of my stories about Idaho’s Sawtooths at The Big Outside.
I’ve hiked more miles in New Hampshire’s White Mountains than I could estimate; I even authored a hiking guidebook to New England for several years. Still, like jumping into an icy lake, the constant high-stepping and relentlessly arduous nature of these trails shocks me every time I come back to hike here again. In this story, I reflect on my personal history in these peaks while taking an overnight hike from Crawford Notch to Franconia Notch via Galehead Hut and Franconia Ridge, seeing parts of the Whites I had not stood upon before—like the viewpoint from Zeacliff above the Pemigewasset Wilderness (photo above)—and other spots I had not been to in years. See all of my stories about the White Mountains at The Big Outside.
When you’re ready for a backpacking trip with challenge to match its scenery—like Image Lake, above—then take on the Spider Gap-Buck Creek Pass loop in Washington’s Glacier Peak Wilderness. Until then, read my story and see more photos from that big adventure.
Imagine the ocean rushing in to flood Yosemite Valley to about one-third of the height of El Capitan, and then dumping more than 20 feet of rain onto it every year, so that forests sprang from its sheer granite walls and waterfalls plunged hundreds and thousands of feet. Or just go to Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound in New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park, where jungle-clad cliffs rise straight up out of the sea to 4,000-foot summits. Fiordland sprawls over nearly three million acres, an area as large as Yosemite and Yellowstone national parks combined. See my stories about sea kayaking in majestic Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound.
An Arctic-looking landscape vibrantly colorful with shrubs, mosses, and wildflowers. Cliffs and mountains that look like they were chopped from the earth with an axe. Thick, crack-riddled glaciers pouring off mountains like pancake batter that needs more water. Braided rivers meandering down mostly treeless valleys, and reindeer roaming wild. Summit views of a sea of snowy, glacier-clad peaks rolling away to far horizons. The world’s most comfortable huts and excellent food. That describes my family’s weeklong, roughly 60-mile, hut-to-hut trek through Norway’s Jotunheimen National Park—the “Home of the Giants.” Read my story.
Probably the most-read story at The Big Outside, my “10 Tips For Raising Outdoors-Loving Kids” deserves a spot on this list not because it describes specific trips, but because it offers some insights I’ve gleaned over the years on how to pull off big adventures with little people. See also my “10 Tips For Getting Your Teenager Outdoors With You.”
Last but hardly least, this dusk photo shows a campsite two friends and I shared on the Dome Glacier, with a stunning view south toward Washington’s Glacier Peak, an adventure I will write about in a future story at The Big Outside. Meanwhile, see my story “Tent Flap With a View: 25 Favorite Backcountry Campsites.” You might also like my “Photo Gallery: 12 Nicest Backcountry Campsites I’ve Hiked Past.”
You’ll also find ideas and inspiration at my All Trips page, which has menus of all stories at this blog, in my Ask Me posts, and in my stories “New Year Inspiration: My Top 10 Adventure Trips” and “My Top 10 Family Adventures.”
Did you enjoy this story? I’m Michael Lanza, the creator of The Big Outside, and I appreciate connecting with my readers. I invite you to subscribe to this blog by entering your email address in the box at the top of the left sidebar or on my About page, and follow my adventures on Facebook and Twitter.
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