Backpacking Trips in America’s Southwest

Is there anything people do for fun that is more disagreeably named than backpacking? Loading weight on one’s back and lugging it up long slopes, not to mention the chafing straps, blisters, dreary food, getting lost… “Backpacking vacation” sounds like the ultimate oxymoron.


people hiking the grand canyon south rim


So how is it that backpacking trips are so popular? Start with the fact that it sounds so unappealing to most people. Backpacking becomes a challenge and thus a reward. To be self-sufficient in the wilderness and not only survive, but thrive, is turned into a badge of honor.


Backpacking trips are also a return to the simple life. In a time when people are going on “internet fasts” to break their bonds with the relentless demands of a 24-hour connected world, backpacking reduces life to its bare essentials. You carry only what you need on the trail, and on that trail, as the miles fall away, you begin to realize an intoxicating rhythm to your day. Your senses heighten with every step. You come to appreciate that when your life’s concerns are reduced to food, water and shelter that you are, for once, truly living.


Of course there are also your surroundings. Nothing casts those worries of everyday life further away than the landscapes of the American West. Nights and days descending ever deeper into the magnificent sandstone canyons of Utah or climbing into the craggy granite domes of Yosemite will yield a peace that is unobtainable even on day hikes. The sense of accomplishment while backpacking is palpable as the miles pile up. Eight miles today, ten miles yesterday, six miles to look forward to tomorrow. It is no wonder that backpackers tend to talk about their experiences in mystical tones.

hikers backpacking yosemite


Also, what about those hardships associated with backpacking? Backpacking trips actually become a vacation when handled by guides. All the gear – and only the gear you need – is accounted for, so those packs are not so onerous. Pack weights are meted out based on backpacker ability. Freeze-dried meals are replaced by delicious, multi-course feasts prepared by experienced outdoor chefs. When you go off the beaten path with a backpacking trip guide, you can be assured that you will make it back to spend the night at your intended campsite. Those campsites, and your routes, will also have been scouted out in advance from years of backcountry trips. So there is no danger in discovering more wilderness than you can handle.


When you put it that way, backpacking trips are indeed a vacation. It’s not like the good ole’ sport of sledge pulling after all. Your experience in the wild and within the backcountry of the southwest will be a positive and earned experience to remember.

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