Find wild horses and waterfowl like herons, egrets, and sandpipers on this 11.2-mile loop tracing sandy beaches, dunes, and brackish marshes on an undeveloped barrier island. On the way home, stop at The Shrimp Boat in West Ocean City, MD, for steamed fresh shrimp (facebook.com/theshrimpboat). Trip ID 10240
Circle the shoreline of a wetland-lined lake on this undulating 1.9-mile loop in Pocahontas State Park, 20 miles from downtown. Then head to the park’s larger Swift Creek Lake to paddle, canoe, or kayak its 200 acres (paddleboats $6/hour; canoes and kayaks $8/hour) and fish for crappie, bass, and bluegill. Trip ID 7753
Crowders Mountain Loop
You’ll earn a panorama of the city skyline from the summit of 1,624-foot Crowders Mountain on this 5.2-mile loop along sheer 150-foot cliffs through dense hickory and chestnut oak forest. On your way back to Charlotte, stop at Rankin Lake Park for an 18-hole round of disc golf (free; BYO discs; gastondiscgolf.com). Trip ID50172
Bring Your Family
Take the whole crew (including Fido) on an easy hike in Pennsylvania's Poconos.
It’s not often you can see eight waterfalls on a 2-mile loop, let alone on a flat, shaded one. Spend time with the kids and dog (on-leash) this summer in eastern Pennsylvania’s Bushkill Falls, 56 miles north of Allentown. After Hurricane Sandy roared through—downing trees, decimating walkways, and forcing an early closure in October 2012—the 300-acre, privately owned park is open again. Start out at the visitor center and hike north on the Red Trail under a canopy of hemlock and pine for views of all eight falls. Keep your eyes peeled for bald eagles (more common in winter) and red foxes and black bears (common in summer). Around mile 1, enjoy a view of spring-fed Bridal Veil Falls, a 25-foot, misty cascade to the east, and let the kids splash in the basin below 20-foot-tall Lower Bridesmaid Falls. Contact (570) 588-6682; visitbushkillfalls.com; $12.50/adult, $7/child/day.
See This Now
Cumberland Falls Moonbow, Cumberland Falls State Park, KY
Called the “Niagara of the South,” Cumberland Falls spills 60 feet over a 125-foot-wide sandstone face. Glimpse its most unique feature at night this summer: When the full moon’s light refracts off the falls’ spray on a clear night, the result is a moonbow that stretches downstream from the base of the falls to the large boulders planted in the river. One of the few places in the world that produces enough mist to create this elusive sight—others include several falls in Yosemite National Park and Victoria Falls in southern Africa—Cumberland should boast a full moonbow August 17 through 22, weather permitting (see tips below). For the best view of the phenomenon, hike a rugged, 1.5-mile cliffline loop on the Eagle Falls Trail, off the KY 90 trailhead within the park. Drop to the river on a spur trail near the halfway point for a front-row seat. The moonbow will be most distinct once the moon has cleared the ridge and shines directly into the river basin (around 1 a.m. in August). Tips Call ahead to ask about weather conditions—cloud cover will limit the amount of light that hits the falls—and find a complete 2013 moonbow sighting schedule on Cumberland Falls SP’s website. Contact (800) 325-0063; bit.ly/CumberlandSP
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Ryan Hock, 24, of Wheaton, IL, snapped North and South Bubble Mountains across Acadia’s transparent Jordan Pond. “Grab some coastal views and glimpse waterfalls on the Around the Mountain Trail loop,” he recommends. “Then rest up at Jordan Pond before heading back to your car.”