Echo Canyon Trail, Camelback Mountain Recreation Area
Where: Echo Canyon Place off McDonald Drive (44th Street) in the middle of Phoenix
This steep 1.25-mile trail, popular with local runners, rises a total of 1,300 feet through cacti, creosote, and chuparosa to the 2,704-foot summit of Camelback Mountain. Your sweat earns you the best view of townfrom town.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Rinconada Canyon Trail, Petroglyph National Monument
Where: Three miles north of I-40 on Unser Boulevard
Thousands of petroglyphs, up to 12,000 years old, dot the basalt boulders along this gentle 2.5-mile trail. The rising and setting sun reveal different glyphs throughout the day, so even if you don't happen to see a roadrunner or a circling hawk, you'll always see something new.
Los Angeles, California
Devil's Chair, Devil's Punchbowl County Park
Where: End of Longview County Road, about 60 miles from downtown L.A.
Hike one mile on the Burkhart Trail, passing through the jumbled sandstone seam of the San Andreas Fault, then take the upper trail to Devil's Chair, two miles farther. The 6,300-foot outcropping overlooks crater-size Devil's Punchbowl and the Mojave Desert.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Silica Dome Trail, Valley of Fire State Park
Where: 55 miles northeast of Las Vegas on I-15, near park headquarters at Rainbow Vista Trailhead
A 1.5-mile trail leads to the summit of Silica Dome, with the ochre Jurassic sandstone also found in Zion and Bryce National Parks spread out below. Hike in the morning, and in the afternoon devour that all-you-can-eat buffet on the Strip or swim at equally depraved Lake Mead, five miles east.
San Diego, California
The Slot, Anza-Borrego State Park
Where: Buttes Pass Road (dirt) off California 78 at mile marker 87
Named after Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza and the local borrego, or bighorn sheep, 938- square-mile Anza-Borrego State Park is 85 miles east of San Diego. On this two-mile in-and-out trip you probably won't see borregos (or Juan Bautista), but you will drop into the dark and narrow Slot, one of the park's twistiest sandstone canyons.