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Backpacker September - October 2021

Published nine times a year, Backpacker is a magazine of wilderness travel, offering practical, "you can do it, here's how" advice to help you enjoy every trip. Filled with the best places, gear, and information for all kinds of hiking and camping trips, each issue delivers foldout maps and stunning color photography.

United States
Pocket Outdoor Media, LLC
Back issues only

in this issue

3 min
editors note

Autumn is far and away the best season for hiking. To be clear, I love getting outside in every season, no matter the conditions. When you hike year-round, you learn more about the environment, your gear, and yourself. These are all good things, and hiking the entire calendar is a worthy goal. But in fall, everything comes together in a way that sings, putting the rewards of backpacking in easier grasp and casting your experience in a golden hue. For me, it’s the apex of the year. Here’s why: The temps are Goldilocks. Summer’s heat and winter’s cold make some serious demands, and if you don’t acquiesce you will be miserable—or worse. But in this superior shoulder season, daily highs are temperate and nights are crisp. The former is good for…

2 min
the good fight

The last few months have brought a lot of good news for wildlife and the environment: reinstated protections and a return to forward progress on certain climate policies. For some, though—like the endangered sea turtles of Texas’s Padre Island National Seashore—this year hasn’t been so rosy. With 70 miles of coastline, Padre Island National Seashore is the longest remaining stretch of undeveloped barrier islands in the world. It also protects Laguna Madre, one of only a few hypersaline lagoons on the planet, and rare coastal prairies. This unique collection of ecosystems provides a home or migratory stopping point for almost 400 species of birds and more than 40 different kinds of butterflies. Most importantly, it is also a nesting ground and important habitat for five endangered species of sea turtles, including…

4 min
when the humans are away

I’m not usually a worrier, but the animal dangers of this trip to the Crazy Mountains started to seem real when my hiking partners and I debated whether or not to bring the bear canister. “There will be trees to hang food. We don’t need it,” my dad said. I pointed out that anything over a dozen feet tall is rare at high alpine lakes in Montana, but our desire to not carry the awkward and heavy container overwhelmed that spark of logic. It was early fall of 2012. My parents and I were planning to hike to a small but picturesque lake for a last quick trip before I started my junior year of high school the following week. The trailhead, marked by a tiny reflective marker miles of dirt road…

1 min
chasing the light

There’s a chill in the air as I hop out of my car and buckle on my pack. I’m parked in a remote pullout on Forest Road 75 in Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia. At this point, I’m only about a mile from the Dolly Sods plateau, which runs parallel to the road; the crest of the range is my destination on this early morning. It’s still dark and utterly still as I set off down a game trail. There’s a sense of discovery to these dawn hikes that always gives me a thrill: I never know what the sunrise will look like and feel like until it sweeps me up. The first hint of light begins to spill through the trees as the game trail vanishes and I start to…

4 min
an unexpected autumn rainbow

1 Mt. Major Mt. Major State Forest, NH Info bit.do/mtmajor Trailhead 43.5190, -71.2736 September hits Mt. Major with a bang, turning the grasses, sedges, and shrubs that cover its summit bright yellow, orange, and deep red. In addition to the colorful foliage, the 3-mile out-and-back trail to the top opens to painted views of Lake Winnipesaukee and the White Mountains, providing top-notch photo ops. 2 Maah Daah Hey Trail Little Missouri National Grassland, ND Info mdhta.com Trailhead 47.5863, -103.2786 Whether you're tackling a section of this path or the full 144-mile thru-hike, autumn is the season to visit the Maah Daah Hey Trail. The most colorful of the 60 distinct species of prairie grasses along the route are little and big bluestem and switchgrass, which each turn bright red and gold in September and October. 3 Raven Cliff Falls Chatahoochee National…

2 min
a land away from time

The archipelago that makes up California’s Channel Islands National Park is a time capsule. When you step off the ferry, you enter a vanished world: Sheer seaside cliffs and inland meadows, where elephant seals rather than tourists crowd the beaches. As the fog parts before the ferry bow, the noise of one of Earth’s most populated regions is left far behind, replaced by the roar of waves and the shrill cries of gulls and falcons. In these islands fall is a season of animalian visitors, with migratory songbirds sweeping in to join endemic shrikes and bright blue scrub jays in Southern California’s most important seabird nesting ground. Offshore, blue whales head south for the winter, blowing spouts of seawater towards the cliffs. This is the best time for backpackers to…