Las Vegas, NV “Water is scarce, so I always hike with a reservoir, and I wear gaiters to protect my shins from prickly desert scrub.”
Griffith Peak, Humboldt-Toiyabe NF, NV
“I like trading the glitz of the Vegas Strip for these dazzling views from 11,000 feet,” says Simmons. The strenuous nine-miler starts just south of Mt. Charleston on rocky trail that crosses an aspen-filled avalanche chute, then switchbacks up 450 feet in half a mile. After a brief respite at mile two, the trail ramps up for the next two miles to the summit ridge and the half-mile homestretch. “You’ll score vistas of often-snowy Telescope Peak in Death Valley and the tops of the sandstone bluffs in Red Rock Canyon.” Trip ID1339668
Tip: Hit Vegas-area trails February to May and October to November, when temps range in the 60s to 80s.
Beaverton, OR “Blue-sky days in early fall are amazing. Every color looks better that time of year.”
Huckleberry Mountain, Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness, OR
Although this 4,378-foot peak is within an hour’s drive of Portland, it sees little foot traffic, says Berstein, which means you’ll get five-star views of Mt. Hood all to yourself. Starting just south of Mt. Hood Village, the 11.4-mile out-and-back follows the fern-lined (and faint) Bonanza Trail along Cheeney Creek’s riffling cascades, then climbs 2,800 feet in 3.5 miles to the ridgetop. Push past the wooded summit at mile 5.3 to reach a broad saddle less than half a mile later overlooking Mt. Hood. Trip ID1338195
Trung Q. Le
Portland, OR “There are two seasons here: rainy and about to rain. June through August has more of the latter."
Saddle Mountain, Saddle Mountain SP, OR
Perched between the Cascade Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, the diverse views from this under- the-radar Coast Range peak are a rare find, says Le. “You’ll see the deep blues of the ocean to the west—and Mts. Rainier, St. Helens, Hood, and Jefferson to the east.” The steep, 2.5-mile (one-way) trail snakes up grassy slopes to a saddle on the mountain’s two-mile-long ridgeline. Veer left and drop to a lower saddle before tackling the final quarter-mile climb to the 3,283-foot summit. Trip ID1338363
Berkeley, CA “Summer can be crowded at Sykes, but from September to April, you stand a nice shot of being alone.”
Sykes Hot Springs, Pfeiffer Big Sur SP, CA
Soak in three steaming, aqua- colored pools flanking the Big Sur River on a 19.2-miler south of Monterey. Pick up the Pine Ridge Trail at the Big Sur Ranger Station for a roller-coaster climb high above the river, linking redwood groves and chaparral hillsides. Nine miles in, descend switchbacks to the banks of the Big Sur (and Sykes Campsite), then follow the smell of sulfur to the hot springs. “Look for the pool that sits higher from the river—it’s hotter and shaded by a canopy of trees,” says Young. Trip ID1331424
Encinitas, CA “From December to March, rainstorms scrub the skies clean and turn the parched hillsides green.”
Echo Mountain, Angeles NF, CA
There’s no need to leave the city for mountaintop views: This 5.3-miler starts in a leafy neighborhood of Altadena and vaults up the side of the chaparral-covered San Gabriels. “The sprawling San Gabriel Valley is visible on nearly every step of the hike, and the spring displays of larkspur, penstemon, and monkeyflower are fantastic,” says Bray. On the 3,207-foot summit, wander around the crumbling foundations and rusted-out cog wheels of the White City, a ritzy resort built at the start of the 20th century. Trip ID1372028
Tip: Wildflower blooms are best from mid-April to mid-June.