North Country Trail
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
This 13.8-mile white-sand and falls-laden point-to-point “will make you love the upper peninsula for life,” says Steve Johnson of Dennison, Minnesota. From Miners Beach, go east along Lake Superior’s postcard-ready views of tree-topped arches, jagged headlands, and sea caves. Camp at Chapel Beach (permit required). Trip ID614547
Superior Hiking Trail (Print & Go)
CR 3 to Kingsbury Creek Loop
This easy-access Duluth ridgeline is a primo shakedown hike for summer’s big trips (or an SHT thru-hike). From the Munger trailhead, trek .2 mile east to link north on the SHT for an 8.5-mile traverse with views of the St. Louis River. At Kingsbury Creek trailhead, zigzag to the Munger Trail’s north terminus (on 75th Avenue) to loop back. Tip: Stash a bike at Kingsbury to speed your return.
Scioto Trail State Forest Loop
Roller coaster from hickory-shaded hollows with Dutchman’s-breeches (a cousin of the poppy with blooms resembling little white trousers that pop March to May) lining the trail to ridgetop views of Appalachian foothills. The 11.2-mile loop overlaps the 1,445-mile Buckeye Trail.
Horsethief Canyon Trail, Kanapolis State Park
The American Discovery Trail (the country’s longest at 6,800 miles) crosses Kansas on 570 road and shoulder miles. Our advice: Skip it and take this 4.4-mile loop on the Horsethief Canyon Trail. You’ll link winding sandstone gorges and 100-foot bluffs with vistas of Kanapolis Lake.
Winding Stair Mountain Loop
So few hike the Ouachita in Oklahoma and Arkansas that the trail’s governing body doesn’t even keep stats. Translation: Solitude abounds in these pine-covered hills and stark limestone bluffs. Get a taste on this 21.7-mile, two-night loop that locals call the most view-packed. Link Boardstand, Old Military Road, and Ouachita Trails.
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TEXAS HORNED LIZARD
Palo Duro Canyon SP, TX
Payoff Many critters deploy countermeasures to thwart predators—but few squirt foul-tasting blood from their eyes like Texas horned lizards. See one in this 29,000-acre wilderness just outside Amarillo. During the past million years, a fork of the Red River whittled 800 feet through pastel-colored mudstone, rusty sandstone, and milky gypsum to form a habitat of cliffs and mesquite.
Time Park scientists believe several hundred of these palm-size dinosaurs live in the park. You’re most likely to see them on 80°F days in spring and early summer, when the sun-warmed (but not yet scorching) ground rouses their favorite food, harvester ants, into action.
Place Pick up the Paseo del Rio Trail on the canyon floor at the first water crossing. Look trailside for lizards hunting in vegetation-free patches of earth. After one mile, connect to the six-mile out-and-back Lighthouse Trail, gaining 900 feet to the base of a 300-foot-tall stone pillar that overlooks the valley. palodurocanyon.com