Climb past the treeline in the intermountain West and you'll enter an alpine realm of snow-laden peaks, jewel-like pocket lakes, and summer wildflowers.
Of course, hiking at these altitudes does require more care than a walk through the woods. Weather is always a factor: Pack layers of clothes and rain gear that you can add or shuck as needed, and head out early in the day to avoid thunderstorms, which can appear with little warning. Stay on designated trails; the meadow wildflowers and sparse ridgeline vegetation you'll find near mountaintops are fragile and grow slowly because of the harsh environment and short growing season. And remember that high elevations make hiking more difficult than usual. Take your time and be alert for symptoms of altitude sickness (refer to the Outdoor Action Guide to High Altitude for more information).
The following seven trails of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming are some of our favorites. All but one, Jefferson Lake, are rated difficult, but take the precautions above, and any strong hiker should be able to enjoy the sweeping views that you can find only high above the trees.