10 Day-After-Thanksgiving Hikes the Whole Family Can Do to #OptOutside
Skip the madness of Black Friday shopping and #OptOutside with out-of-town relatives on these hiking trails. If you’ve never hiked before, don’t worry. All of these spots offer more than one trail, so you can choose a difficulty level you’re comfortable with (and go back for more the next weekend if you catch the hiking bug).
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Red Rock Open Space, Colorado Springs, Colorado
With a view of Pikes Peak, wild rock formations rarely seen elsewhere, and paved, flat walkways that make for an easy stroll, Garden of the Gods is one of Colorado Springs’ major tourist attractions—and one of the most stunning city parks in America. It will be hard not to bring your out-of-town family here. But if you want a more relaxed hike without any of the crowds, venture just down the road for Red Rock Canyon Open Space, which offers more varied terrain for hiking, gorgeous views, and always has space to park.
Congaree National Park, South Carolina
Just 30 minutes outside of downtown Columbia, South Carolina, Congaree National Park offers a wide variety of hikes and other outdoor activities for the whole family. For beginner hikers or a group spanning all ages, try the Boardwalk Loop Trail. It’s 2.4 miles accessible for wheelchairs and strollers, and there are many benches along the way to enjoy the scenery. If you’re able to visit before Thanksgiving, try to go in late October or early November for peak fall foliage.
Minnehaha Falls, Minnesota
A short drive from Minneapolis and St. Paul and easily accessible by public transportation, Minnehaha Falls in Minnehaha Park is a short trail that’s particularly beautiful in late fall and winter when the waterfall freezes over.
McDowell Sonoran Preserve, Arizona
You’ll hike among cactuses in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve outside Phoenix, but don’t worry about overheating—this is prime time to visit the desert and the weather is perfect for hiking. Take the Lost Dog Wash Trail into the preserve for several choices of hikes of varying length and minimal elevation gain.
Niagara Falls State Park, New York
You’ve no doubt seen photos—and likely even visited—our most recognizable waterfall. But on the U.S. side, Niagara Falls State Park offers 3,000 acres of hiking trails suitable for all ages, and difficulty levels for the whole family.
Great Falls National Park, Virginia
In Northern Virginia, Great Falls National Park offers a quiet respite from the city. Most trails here are easy to moderate and fairly short. For something a bit more challenging, hike the River Trail (three miles, round trip) for a short rock scramble to overlook the Potomac River.
Everglades National Park, Florida
Take the wheelchair-accessible Anhinga Trail in Florida’s Everglades National Park, and you might just see an alligator. Less than a mile round-trip, the whole family will be able to enjoy this walk together. For something more challenging, options abound: Everglades is the third-largest park in the lower 48, covering 2,400 square miles. From fishing and canoeing to boating, hiking, biking and camping, there’s no shortage of things to do here.
Muir Woods National Monument, California
You’ll have to crane your neck to see these massive redwoods, and even then you might not be able to see the top. Trails in the Muir Woods National Monument are paved or on even boardwalks, ideal for strollers and wheelchairs. Kids will love ducking into the hollows of some of the biggest trees, and parents will love the quiet zone intended to help you reflect on the wonders of the forest. If you’ve got the time and a sense of adventure, wander onto some of the trails winding through the canyon adjacent to the boardwalk area.
Hamilton Pool Preserve, Texas
In the summer months, you need to plan ahead and reserve time to swim at the popular Hamilton Pool in Dripping Springs, Texas, not far from Austin. When you get there, you’ll see why--the falls pour over a limestone outcropping into a brilliant blue pool that’s a perfect backdrop for a picnic. But in the fall and winter, you can visit the park anytime. The trail to the pool is steep in places but quite short, and you can walk behind the falls if you choose to. Continue on other trails in the park if you want to hike off more of your turkey dinner.
Linville Falls, North Carolina
Linville Falls is an easy hike from the Blue Ridge Parkway on the Falls Trail, just 1.6 miles round trip. For a tougher hike, take the Gorge Trail, 1.4 miles, or link up with one of the many other trails in the area. If you have some outdoorsy relatives in town for a long weekend, consider a backpacking trip if the weather agrees.