From the Field: West

Our trail scouts' top local hikes

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Point Reyes (AGE Fotostock)


Yovimpa POint, Bryce Canyon (Catherine Brooks)

Tomales Point Trail, Point Reyes Nat’l Seashore, CA

John Dell’Osso, Bear Valley, CA

See—and hear—the endemic Tule elk rut on this 9.7-mile out-and-back. You’ll also get constant ocean views from atop the spit of land separating Tomales Bay from the Pacific. At mile 1.5, look for some of the park’s 450-member herd in the bayside gulch where bulls gather harems of females with a high-pitched bugling call. Elk aren’t the only furry attraction on this route: Hikers also often see bobcats, long-tailed weasels, and skunks, Dell’Osso says. Trip ID304767

“Hundreds of ducks gather on Tomales Bay in September.”

Riggs Spring Loop, Bryce Canyon NP, UT

Jan Stock, Tropic, UT

See the other side of Bryce on this 8.5-mile loop through the park’s forested southern region, where pink cliffs meet evergreens and quaking aspens. Look for elk and deer in the first 1.5 miles, before the trail drops 1,500 feet off a plateau. Camp near Riggs Spring at mile 3.3, where a recent fire opened the aspen canopy to Bryce’s almost unparalleled night skies. “Unless you’re here under a full moon [see below], you can count over 7,500 stars,” Stock says. “In most parts of the world, 2,000 is considered pretty amazing.” Trip ID445535

“Our backcountry trails are not heavily used at all.”

Garnet Hill Loop, Yellowstone NP, WY

Jason Kauffman, Boise, ID

Transition from sagebrush hills to a wildlife-packed creek drainage on this 8.3-mile loop. (The backcountry feel is high despite the proximity to Tower-Roosevelt village.) Hike counterclockwise to begin with big-sky vistas across bison-frequented Pleasant Valley. “To the east, you’ll get good views of 9,000-foot Specimen Ridge,” Kauffman says. Take a break along the Yellowstone River near the halfway point, then climb through lush Elk Creek Valley to complete the circle around 7,000-foot Garnet Hill. Trip ID 265748

“Look for black bear on the second half of the hike.”

Cape Lookout Point, Cape Lookout SP, OR

Pete Marvin, Tillamook, OR

Walk among 200-foot-tall Sitka spruce and lush temperate rainforest at the tail end of the dry season on this five-mile out-and-back to a Pacific promontory. At mile .6, look for a plaque marking where a B-17 crashed during a military training mission in the ’40s. Continue descending gradually for periodic ocean views through the forest, though none matching the final panorama at the tip of the point. “Bring binoculars to look for seals and sea lions swimming 400 feet below,” Marvin says. Trip ID 406908

“Keep an eye out for gray whales spouting off the point.”

Three Sisters Trail, Idaho Panhandle NF, ID

Travis Lesicka, Sandpoint, ID

See Idaho’s largest lake from 1,800 feet above on this 3.6-mile out-and-back. Ascend through dense cedar and skirt a lush gully at mile 1.5 en route to the 3,800-foot viewpoint across glacier-carved Lake Pend Oreille (the overlook is also your turn-around point, so there’s plenty of time to linger). Extend the hike and go for a swim: Back at your car, drive 1.5 miles northeast to the Evan’s Landing trailhead (Trip ID 943172) for a four-mile out-and-back to a shoreline only accessible by foot or boat. Trip ID942813

“You’re most likely to run into moose on the ridges and at the top of the trail.”