I ride east coast rocky rooty (Roanoke, VA). I've ridden a hard tail on the local trails. Once. That's all it took to convince me that FS is where it's at (for me). Rode a 5" AM 26" wheel bike for a year, then test rode a Niner RIP 9. The 29" wheels make a big difference. The RIP 9 is all day comfortable, handles like a dream, and is worth every penny. Been riding the RIP 9 for 8 months and love every minute of it.
29" wheels fit me, but you may be different. More important is finding a bike that fits you right and you like. A bike that 90% of people love may not be the right bike for you. The best thing to do is test ride as many as you can, and not just in a parking lot. Rent them, find shops that'll let you ride the local trails, what ever it takes. That's the only way you'll really find the bike that is right for you.
Asking people what bike to get is basically asking them what bike fits them, not what's right for you. The more time you spend looking for the right bike, the higher the likelyhood you'll get the perfect bike for you.