Falls Ridge, George Washington National Forest
Follow the crest of a limestone ridge.
Discover a Mid-Atlantic gold mine of solitude, with views across an ocean of lush deciduous forest. The 11.7-mile loop starts from the end of Dellinger Gap Road (15 miles from Woodstock). Climb north on the yellow-blazed Falls Ridge Trail, where vistas open onto Long and Devil’s Hole Mountains. Once atop the ridge, turn left onto Great North Mountain Trail and track through rock outcrops and open meadows with views of Tibbet’s Knob and Big Schloss. In May and June, gray beardtongue, wild flags, and mountain laurel color the trail. After 4.1 miles, pass left around radio towers, then descend a steep pipeline clearcut (ankle alert). In a half mile, link left onto the Laurel Run Connector Trail and follow it 1.4 miles to the Stack Rocks Trail. Follow that for 1.5 miles back to the first junction near the trailhead. Sweet camping option: the pond and small spring near the start of the ridgeline stretch.
Map hikingupward.com/GWNF/FallsRidge Info (540) 984-4101; fs.usda.gov/gwjnf
Gallatin Crest Trail, Gallatin National Forest
Climb past waterfalls in Big Sky Country.
Test your legs on this strenuous—but straightforward—ridgewalk. You’ll stay above treeline for nearly the entire 28-mile hike, and on the way, summit 10,298-foot Hyalite Peak. Do it as a point-to-point between Grotto Falls and Windy Pass trailheads, or as a logistically simpler 50-mile out-and-back. Start from Grotto Falls trailhead at Palace Butte Campground, 4.3 miles south of Hyalite Dam (23 miles south of Bozeman via 19th Street and Hyalite Canyon Road #62). Climb south past a trio of waterfalls to Hyalite Lake (mile 5.5), then switchback 1,400 feet to Hyalite Peak. Turn south on the crest to camp at Crater Lake (mile 11.5). Beyond here, you’ll rely on snowbanks (persisting until late July) for water. Cross The Sentinel (9,945 feet, mile 21.5), then 200 yards beyond the Windy Pass Forest Service cabin, turn west on the Windy Pass Trail and descend 2.5 miles and 1,100 feet to the trailhead on Hidden Lake Road. (Spin at the cabin if you’re going out and back.)
Maps USGS quads Fridley Peak, Lewis Creek, and The Sentinel ($8 each, store.usgs.gov) Info (406) 522-2520; fs.usda.gov/gallatin
For all but six miles, this route hugs the Continental Divide, providing matchless viewsheds in a state overflowing with them. Hike east-to-west (for easier routefinding), from Wolf Creek Pass on US 160 to CO 110 outside Silverton. From the 11,700-foot trailhead, you’ll stay between 11,500 and 12,500 feet with near continual views of timberline lakes and meadows teeming with elk. Find good campsites at Spotted Lake, Piedra Pass, Cherokee Lake, Trout Lake, just north of Squaw Pass, Weminuche Pass, Twin Lakes, and across the tundra flats north of Hunchback Pass (mile 86). The trail crosses one airy cliff section on the Knife Edge (mile 34), and miles of summer wildflowers on the Highland Mary Plateau. Only have a week? Make it a 58-mile route by descending north from Weminuche Pass to the campground at Rio Grande Reservoir.