Ridge-Creekside Loop, Clear Creek Nature Preserve, OH
Encounter a variety of habitats on a 5-mile loop in Ohio’s largest nature preserve. Climb 400 feet to a hickory-topped ridgeline; in June, look for translucent, chlorophyll-free Indian pipe sprouting from tree roots. Near the halfway point, enter a meadow alive with the high-pitched, ascending song of migratory prairie warblers. Descend to the banks of Clear Creek and take a .2-mile spur north into a hemlock hollow (home to Canada warblers). Trip ID20735
"June is peak breeding season for birds; listen for adults singing in the open to declare territories."
Field Scout: John Watts, Westerville, OH
Devil's Hall, Guadalupe Mountains NP, TX
Experience desert microclimates on this 4.2-mile out-and-back up a boulder-strewn wash. Enter Pine Spring Canyon, where sotol and prickly pear dot south-facing slopes and big-toothed maples litter northern aspects. Climb a 30-foot natural staircase, and see 8,751-foot Guadalupe Peak at the top. Continue to Devil’s Hall, a 100-foot-deep slot canyon carved into the sedimentary rock layers laid here by an ancient inland sea. Trip ID577845
"As the slot canyon narrows, each twist and turn reveals a new view."
Field Scout: Michael Haynie, Carlsbad, NM
Castle-Medicine Root Loop, Badlands NP, SD
Find Technicolor splendor on this 4.2-mile lollipop from the Saddle Pass trailhead. Ascend the Badlands Wall .3 mile to the Castle Trail for views of the park’s 75-million-year-old wind- and water-deposited sedimentary rocks jutting from the prairie. After rain, they shine vibrant shades of red, purple, and green. Return amid violet pasque flower, white sego lily, and scarlet globemallow (all blooming in June) via the Medicine Root Trail. Trip ID10239
"May and June are probably the best times of year here. The prairie come alive."
Field Scout: Aaron Kaye, Interior, SD
Pallette Lake, Northern Highland-American Legion SF, WI
Trek through dense hardwood-pine forest en route to a sandy beach on this 4.9-mile lasso circling a 180-acre lake. Hike clockwise over rolling hills and gain lake views near mile 1.5. Continue around the north shore to an ideal swimming beach (shallow water and few reeds) near mile 4. Camp here (no permit required) for an easy overnight. Bonus: Bonfires are allowed in the fire pit. Day two, continue south to close the loop. Trip ID47074
"Look for wolf or black bear tracks in sandy spots along the trail."
Field Scout: Tony Martinez, Rhinelander, WI
Turkey Snout Loop, Beech Creek NSA, OK
Venture into one of the state’s wildest (and quietest) areas on a 4.3-mile loop in its southeastern corner. “Beech Creek is not well known,” Bollinger says. Hike south on the Turkey Snout Trail beneath walnut, hickory, pine, and holly. At mile 2, take the Beech Creek Trail for a mile to cool off in clear swimming holes. Backtrack to the main trail, then climb 200 feet along the loop’s northern half en route to your car. Trip ID364247
"It sounds wild, but Beech Creek reminds me of southern Canada, where the woods are thick and beautiful."
Field Scout: Bob Bollinger, Stillwater, OK