Time 2 Go: Hike With Birds

Whether you've got hours or weeks, here's where to go for the birds.

2 hours

DeSoto NWR, IA/NE

This avian haven straddles an old Missouri River channel, drawing a rotating roster of migrating species: white pelicans in August, warblers and raptors in mid-fall, and a half-million snow geese come November. Cruise nearly 4 miles of wooded trails, then push off into 788-acre DeSoto Lake for a paddle among the refuge's 20 duck species. www.fws.gov/midwest/desoto

4 hours

Cape May POINT State Park, NJ

These peninsular dunes and beaches are a bird paradise: The Cape is landfall for northbound flyers crossing the Delaware Bay and a popular stop for southbounders. Hike 3 miles on the park's interconnected Red, Yellow, and Blue Trails. Then head north on the beach to glass September's shorebirds and migrating raptors - especially when weather pushes them toward the peninsula's tip. (609) 884-2159

8 hours

Marin Headlands, CA

The 30,000-plus northbound raptors that soar over the Golden Gate Bridge use thermals to save energy. On a fog-free day, hike an 8-mile loop starting on the Miwok Trail, just north of the span. Climb 1,000 feet up Hill 88, home to an old Nike Missile site (also use the Bobcat and Wolf Ridge Trails). Descend on the Coastal Trail for closeups of wind-loving red-tailed hawks and peregrines. www.nps.gov/goga/mahe

2 days

Coronado NF, AZ

Madera Canyon, part of the South-west's fertile Sky Islands, endures late-summer monsoons that rouse 16 of the country's 22 hummingbird species, including the blue-throated hummingbird, the largest of the bunch. Tackle a 12-mile round-trip that switchbacks upcanyon on the Super Trail. Follow the ridge to the bald top of 9,453-foot Mt. Wrightson, then descend to camp at Bog Springs. (520) 281-2296

3 days

Bridger Mtns., MT

Prevailing winds from the west make the Bridgers a pick-me-up for migrating birds, including golden eagles: 200 pass over on a busy day. Get a birding primer from hawk counters atop Bridger Bowl, then head north on the Bridger Ridge Trail for 20 miles along the range's spine to 9,665-foot Sacagawea Peak. Snake 1,900 feet down to your shuttled vehicle at Fairy Lake. www.fs.fed.us/r1/gallatin

4 days

Hawk MTN., PA

Pennsylvania's boot-busting stretch of the AT might make you envy the 20,000 raptors that fly over in autumn. Hike almost 30 miles from PA 183 to protected Hawk Mountain; the 1,615-foot Pinnacle (mile 25) showcases Pennsylvania Dutch farmlands. At Hawk, hone your ID skills with naturalists - then test them on 8 miles of sanctuary trails. www.hawkmountain.org

1 week

Nova Scotia, CN

Doze off to the spectral call of the common loon nightly on Kejimkujik National Park's 37-mile Liberty Lake Trail. Keji's cathedrallike red pine and hills of hardwoods attract pileated woodpeckers; black ducks and common mergansers cruise the watery habitats. Afterward, hop 2 ferries to Brier Island to watch migrating hawks from 12 miles of coastal paths. (902) 682-2772

2 weeks

Big Bend NP, TX

Big Bend boasts the national park system's greatest bird diversity (450 species). Hike the 30-mile Outer Mountain Loop Trail from high-elevation Chisos woodland to remote desert; look for rarities such as the Colima warbler and zone-tailed hawk. Then spend 8 days paddling the Rio Grande's Lower Canyons, home to rippling limestone walls, peregrines, and hordes of shorebirds. www.nps.gov/bibe

2 weeks

Veracruz, MX

The Sierra de los Tuxtlas, a set of jagged ridges in southern Veracruz, is known for shamanism and endemic birds such as the Tuxtla quail dove and the long-tailed sabrewing. Camp near Lake Catemaco and hire a guide to explore the surrounding rainforest and climb 5,000-foot volcanoes. Then head for Cardel's annual River of Raptors, where 5 million birds of prey (the world's largest concentration) soar overhead. www.pronaturaveracruz.org