I've hit up a few friends already for advice, and I know it comes down to test rides and going with what feels best, but I'm window shopping for a hardtail mountain bike in the $1,500 range. I'm guessing most places will have 2012 and some 2011 bikes on hand they're looking to clear out, and I'd like to take advantage on any deals this time of year.
I'm not married to a particular brand - leaning towards Scott from current research - but am more concerned about decent components and durability at that price. Something that's good for entry level and can withstand a beating - riding or falling.
I run the trails a lot and would like to experience them on two wheels.