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.

I’ve developed these trip-planning strategies over more than three decades and thousands of miles of backpacking all over the United States and around the world, including the 10 years I spent as Northwest Editor of Backpacker magazine and now even longer running this blog.

That experience has not only convinced me that much of the success of any outdoors adventure comes down to everything you do before the trip—but it has also refined how I choose each of the numerous multi-day hikes I take every year.

Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-guides to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

A backpacker on the Tonto Trail above the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.
” data-image-caption=”Mark Fenton on the Tonto Trail in the Grand Canyon.
” data-medium-file=”″ data-large-file=”″ width=”900″ height=”559″ src=”″ alt=”A backpacker on the Tonto Trail above the Colorado River, Grand Canyon.” class=”wp-image-36018″ srcset=” 1024w, 300w, 768w, 1080w, 1200w” sizes=”(max-width: 900px) 100vw, 900px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />Mark Fenton on the Tonto Trail in the Grand Canyon.

Here’s what I mean by saying many backpackers follow a backward decision-making process: They pick a place they’re eager to explore—say, Yosemite, Glacier, or the Grand Canyon—and the dates that work for them. I do essentially the opposite: choosing from my long list of trip ideas (which now exceeds 21,000 words) by first considering
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