BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK, UTAH
The trail: Fairyland Loop. Known for: Unparalleled views of hoodoos—brightly colored stone spires and pinnacles jutting upward like a throng of Giacometti sculptures—from the trail. Trip tip: Off the beaten path, this hike avoids the congestion of the rest of the park's popular trails. Length: 8 miles. Skill Level: Moderate to strenuous. For info: Bryce Canyon National Park, 435/834-5322; www.nps.gov/brca.
MOUNT HOOD NATIONAL FOREST, Oregon
The trail: Timberline Trail. Known for: A grandeur rivaling that of the Matterhorn, with Mount Hood's jagged peak often swathed in a skirt of clouds. Trip tip: Numerous side trails give day hikers a chance to sample Timberline's delights without committing to the long haul. Length: 38 miles. Skill Level: Strenuous. For info: Mount Hood National Forest, 503/622-7674; www.mthood.org.
MARK TWAIN NATIONAL FOREST, Missouri
The trail: Taum Sauk Section of the Ozark Trail. Known for: Some of the last undisturbed wilderness in the country—in forest-speak, nothing says "Mark Twain" like sycamore, hickory, and sassafras. Trip tip: Watch for the Eastern collared lizard, who, if he doesn't know you personally, will stand upright and run away on his hind legs. Length: 33 miles. Skill Level: Moderate. For info: Missouri State Parks, 800/334-6946; www.mostateparks.com.
ROCKS NATIONAL LAKESHORE, Michigan
The trail: Chapel-Mosquito Loop. Known for: Beaches and inland waterfalls—the country's first national lakeshore is a 42-mile ribbon along Lake Superior on Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Trip tip: Take a dip at the sandy, swimmer-friendly Mosquito Beach. Length: 10 miles. Skill Level: Easy to moderate. For info: Pictured Rocks Hiawatha Visitor Information, 906/387-3700; www.nps.gov/piro.
GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK, Tennessee
The trail: Alum Cave Trail. Known for: Old-growth forests and sweeping views of the Smokies in all their mist-enveloped glory. Trip tip: Bring a picnic and refuel at the summit, where you can catch a 180-degree sunset from the lookout at Cliff Tops. Length: 10 miles, round-trip. Skill Level: Moderate to strenuous. For info: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 865/436-1200; www.nps.gov/grsm.