Little Stony National Recreation Trail, Jefferson NF, VA
Trace a mountain stream through a hemlock-shaded gorge on this 7.8-mile out-and-back. Look for 24-foot-tall Upper Little Stony Falls at .2 mile and the 20-foot lower falls at .5 mile. Descend through rhododendron and mountain laurel (blooming early summer), and see 400-foot-tall, greenish-white sandstone outcroppings near mile 2. Cool off in the waist-deep swimming hole just before mile 3. Trip ID 40833
"The rock formations are the prettiest parts of the trail, but not many people hike deep enough to see them."
Field Scout: Chris Clark, Wise, VA
Mt. Monadnock Loop, Monadnock SP, NH
Take the route less traveled up what’s often called the most-climbed peak in the world. Reach the 3,165-foot New England summit on a 4.6-mile lollipop from the Marlboro trailhead. Climb to a rocky ledge at mile 1; forage here for ripe blueberries in late summer. At mile 1.2, turn south to hike counterclockwise to reach the treeless peak. There, 360-degree views extend across Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut and to Mt. Washington 105 miles north. Trip ID 7746
"On clear days, from the summit you can see Boston 60 miles southeast."
Field Scout: Patrick Hummel, Jaffrey, NH
Land Trust Loop, Note Sano Nature Preserve, AL
Spot sinkholes, springs, and outcroppings on this 4.6-mile loop. At mile 2, look for Dry Falls, a 50-foot limestone staircase that fills for two days after rain, turning the nearby resurrection ferns from shriveled brown to emerald green. “It looks semi-tropical,” Porter says. Continue .8 mile through oak-hickory forest to a .2-mile spur at Three Caves—a trio of tractor-size former quarry tunnels. Return past two 10-foot sinkholes and a handful of year-round springs. Trip ID7745
"Ruby-throated hummingbirds live above Three Caves; you'll hear their squeaks before you see them."
Field Scout: Hallie Porter, Huntsville, AL
Appalachian Trail, CT 4 to West Cornwall Road, CT
Cross four brooks and snag sweeping views of the Housatonic River and verdant Housatonic Valley on this 9.9-mile out-and-back on the AT. For easiest parking, start at the junction of US 7 and CT 4 and climb up the Mohawk Trail to the top of 1,027-foot Bread Loaf Mountain. Gaze across the valley to the rolling hillsides, then rock-hop across tumbling Hatch Brook; continue to the Pine Knob Loop Trail to overlook the valley once more. Trip ID47485
"Look for red-tailed hawks and turkey vultures soaring in the valley."
Field Scout: Jim Liptack, Ridgefield, CT
Boone Trail, French Creek SP, PA
Painted turtles, great blue herons, and beavers live along this 6.1-mile loop in the largest block of forest between D.C. and New York City. Enter a hardwood forest pockmarked by 40-foot circular terraces (where Revolutionary War-era ironworkers turned timber into charcoal). Continue through the woods past a group of Civilian Conservation Corps cabins and 22-acre Scotts Run Lake to close the loop. Trip ID 12358
"In August, you'll see colored mushrooms––purples, reds, yellows, and oranges––growing in damp areas."