A lake loop in Oregon
Hikers who don't mind a long, hard day will find the Eight Lakes Basin Hike in Oregon's northern Cascade Range a rewarding trip through old growth forest, past eight wilderness lakes, and upward to several fine views of 10,495-foot Mount Jefferson. To get there, take Interstate 5 south from Oregon to the Highway 22 exit near Salem (about 45 miles). Drive east on Highway 22 to the town of Marion Forks (40 miles). Turn east again on Forest Road 2255 (also called Marion Road). Reach the trailhead in 4.5 miles. The hike covers 16.2 miles, with an elevation change of 1,900 feet. The loop portion begins 1.7 miles from the trailhead, where you turn left for a clockwise trip. The trail first traverses the north slopes of Marion Lake, the largest body of water you'll see during the hike, then passes through cool forest and a series of streams from divided Mist Creek (be prepared for wet crossings or even fords). Pass over an old lava flow, and at 4.5 miles take a right fork to continue to Bowerman Lake. That's reached at 7.3 miles, after some fine views of scenic Mount Jefferson. As you continue bearing right, more lakes appear - Jorn Lake, Blue Lake and finally little Jenny Lake. Then Marion Lake again comes into view as you descend switchbacks before backtracking the last 1.7 miles to the trailhead. A wilderness permit is required for this hike, and is available at the Detroit Ranger Station, which is passed en route to Marion Forks. The station can be reached by calling 503-854-3366.
Hiking to the heights of New Hampshire
For a hike with views that extend into Maine, yet avoids the crowds of Mount Washington or the Presidentials, head for Baldface Range in northeast New Hampshire's White Mountain Range, about 150 miles north of Boston. To get there, drive out of Boston on I-95 to NH 16 North. Drive to Conway, then follow US 302 east to NY 113 North. The trailhead leaves NY 113 a short distance past the AMC Cold River Camp driveway. Starting at an elevation of about 500 feet, trails extend throughout the Baldface Range as high as the summit of Carter Dome - 4,832 feet. A 20.2-mile loop connects South Baldface (3,569 feet) with Mount Meander (2,782 feet) and North Baldface (3,591). Along the way, you'll come across miles of open ledges with views as extensive as you'll find in New England. Allow about three days for the 20.2-mile loop; options include several day hikes from the trailhead. Along the way, you're sure to see several of the 184 species of birds found in the White Mountain National Forest. You're also apt to see moose, deer and black bear - so if camping, be prepared to secure your food. For information, contact the Saco Ranger Station of the White Mountain National Forest (603-447-53448).
Hiking the North Country
The Huron-Manistee National Forests, a combination of two national forests located on Michigan's Lower Peninsula, is a testament to the recuperative powers of nature. Consisting largely of unwanted farmland and forests that were once logged off, the national forest now offers Midwest hikers a quiet getaway with riverside hikes through deciduous and coniferous forests, through wetlands, and to high points with views out across the scenic portion of the Midwest. To get there, take US-131 north from Grand Rapids, Michigan. At Cadillac, take MI-55 20 miles west, and then turn right on Warfield Road. After five more miles, turn left on the Coates Highway, and then drive two more miles to the Red Bridge Access parking lot. From here, find a trailhead that heads north up either a portion of the North Country Trail that traverses the Huron-Manistee, or that follows the winding Manistee River. To connect them, hike either trail north to a suspension bridge near Hodenpyl Dam, cross the bridge, then return south. The loop is about 20 miles, and makes a good two-day trip (summer weekdays are best due to crowding). Along the way, the trail goes as high as the top of Red Hill - 1,105 feet - and dips down to the shores of the Manistee River. For information, call the Huron-Manistee National Forests Headquarters, 616-775-2421.