I suppose some of it's going to come down to what sort of trails you're expecting to ride. Technical trails, lots of scruff and rocks and boulders, maybe pedaling up the face of Half Dome (grin), a full bore tight geometry mountain bike. You can go with as much suspension goop as you want, but remember that all the extra weight, while it may help going down hills, will certainly be there when you have to pedal it all uphill as well. I like hard tail mountain bikes, and mostly ride without front suspension as well (fast and nimble), but it's a personal choice. Middle tier is almost all the same. High end, Breezer Bikes. Joe Breeze built the first mountain bike, lives near Mt. Tam, and his bikes are superb. I'm sure there will be other posts with notes on makers.
If you're thinking more of trails ridden by people who retain a shred of sanity, I'd go with a bike that can handle trails well and still shine on pavement. MIddle and high end from the same guy, Bruce Gordon Cycles. Middle is the BLT, made in Taiwan, HIgh is the Rock n Road, built in Petaluma, CA. Bruce built the first frame, the Rock n Road, that is now dubbed a 29er. It's basically 700c wheels but on a frame that can handle either nice skinny road tires or big honkin' 45c knobs for trails. Certainly worth checking out.
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