From The Field: Central

Our trail scouts' top local hikes
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Our trail scouts' top local hikes

Dunes Trail, Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore, MI

Lisa Myers Empire, MI

Roller coaster through a four-square-mile complex of sand dunes perched atop a glacial moraine on this 3.5-mile out-and-back to blue-green Lake Michigan. Enticing as
the water is, don’t forget to look down: “On the dunes closest to the lake, you’ll see big clumps of endangered Pitcher’s thistle in pale
pink bloom in July and August,” Myers says, plus seagulls, cormorants, and endangered piping plovers on the shoreline. “When the wind bends the dune
grasses low, they make patterns in the sand.” Trip ID 999807

“Try the route sans shoes in the evening for cooler sand.”

Lake Trail, Cuivre River SP, MO

Anthony Harrison Arnold, MO

Get a taste of the Ozarks’ famed karst topography–where eroding subterranean limestone forms sinkholes and caves–on this 3.6-mile loop tracing the
shoreline of Lake Lincoln (60 miles northwest of St. Louis). Look for coneflowers lining the northern end of the lake on both sides, where you’re also likely
to spot butterflies. “The black-and-yellow swallowtails can be really thick in the summer,” Harrison says. Ticks are also thick this year after a mild
winter, so be sure to bring repellent, he advises. Trip ID 1208005

“After hiking, cool off in the water at the trailhead beach.”

Eagle Creek, Loop, Eagle, Creek Park, IN

Janet Cohen Indianapolis, IN

With more than 5,000 acres of land and water, one of the nation’s largest city parks offers escape just 10 minutes from downtown Indianapolis. Follow this six
mile route to cross a hibiscus-lined causeway bordering a bird sanctuary; watch for great blue herons, bald eagles, ducks, and Canada geese (stop in the bird center
for free binocs and ID assistance, Cohen says). Continue into a mature hardwood forest that’s alive with cicada song and deer, but “bring some mosquito
repellent, especially if it’s been rainy.” Trip ID 40820

“Ruby-throated hummingbirds abound until September.”

Brower Trail, Itasca SP, MN

Connie Cox Park Rapids, MN

Glimpse glacial topography that’s remained unchanged for centuries on this 7.8-mile out-and-back tracing the eastern shore of 1,077-acre Lake Itasca.
“It’s rare to find an undeveloped lake in this area,” Cox says. At mile one, enter a small grove of 250-year-old red pines, reaching 70 to 120
feet. You may share this remote section of trail with mink, deer, and foxes; also, look for blue-winged teal feasting on wild rice along the shoreline in late
August. Trip ID 32374

“Come at dusk to hear owls, loons, and even wolves.”

Smith Spring Trail, Guadalupe Mountains NP, TX

Michael Haynie Carlsbad, NM

The majority of this grassland’s annual 15 to 20 inches of rain falls from July to September, producing bright green grasses and flowers such as yellow cowpen
daisy and skeleton-leaf goldeneye. “We get incredible afternoon and evening thunderstorms,” Haynie says. “A lot of people are surprised at the
sheer variety of plant and animal life, especially in late summer.” Take this 2.3-mile loop to Smith Spring, a mossy, travertine-terraced oasis that seeps even
during the driest year on record (last year). Trip ID 555344

“You can see horned and whiptail lizards along the trail.”