What to do after your lavish Thanksgiving-day feast when that post-meal lull creeps in? Grandpa is nodding off in front of the television and you’ve got energetic, well-fed kids to entertain. It doesn’t need to be complicated. You live in an area that offers spectacular natural settings where kids can wander, and wonder, carefree. Take them on an outdoor holiday hike and give thanks for beauty of our natural world. Here are some favorite holiday day hikes where you can enjoy fall colors, fresh air, and just enough activity to earn a second slice of pie.
Photo: Virginia State Parks via flickr
If you really want to give thanks for nature’s magnificence, the falls at Great Falls is the perfect place. If you have older children who like to scramble over rocks, try the Billy Goat trail on the Maryland side. If you need to tone it down for little ones, stick to the riverside trails on the Virginia side. Just be sure to make a stop at the falls, because they are spectacular. ($1O per car or $5 per for walking or bikes (15 and under/free)
9200 Old Dominion Dr. (McLean, Va)
Just a few miles down Georgetown Pike from Great Falls on the Virginia side, Riverbend is your spot if you’re looking to enjoy a river hike, but need to accommodate small kids in strollers. The park’s 2.5- mile Potomac Heritage Trail, which begins at the nature center and ends at the falls of Mather Gorge, features a paved, stroller-accessible portion called the Duff-n-Stuff. There are also picnic tables for resting, and plenty of wide open spaces for those with energy to burn.
8700 Potomac Hills St. (Great Falls, Va)
The Boardwalk Trail at Huntley Meadows runs directly over a marsh area and features plenty of cool wildlife sightings, including big, small and medium-sized turtles, stoic great blue herons, colorful cardinals and a plethora of frogs. At only a mile long, the Boardwalk is perfect for small kids and strollers. If you want longer, more challenging hikes, you’ll find plenty of those in the 1,425 acres of woods and wetlands here.
3701 Lockheed Blvd. (Alexandria, Va)
Hopefully, you are not new to this captivating park that run through the middle of the city. Here you’ll find 32 miles of paved paths and dirt trails designed for hiking and biking. From the two primary hiking trails, the green Western Ridge Trail and the pink Valley Trail, you can branch off onto a variety of smaller loops. We suggest you start at the park’s Nature Center where you can take the 2-mile Rapids Bridge hike, the 1.75 mile Milkhouse Ford hike, or the 3-mile Rock Creek Ramble, all of which begin and end at the same spot. If you want less hike and more unleashed exploration, take the .25-mile Wooded Trail just behind the Nature Center where you’ll discover some of the most common trees found in the park.
5200 Glover Rd., NW
Patapsco Valley State Park
If variety is what you prefer, head north of the city to Patapsco Valley in Howard County. This park extends over 32 miles along the Patapsco River and features more than 70 hike-worthy trails. If you have younger kids, stick to one of the shorter 3-mile trails that follows the stream.
8020 Baltimore National Pike (Ellicott City, Md)
It may surprise you to learn that Greenbelt Park, just 15 minutes north of the city, is one of the best local spots for kid-friendly hikes. Choose from four different trails that range from one to five miles. Plus, there’s a playground you can throw into the mix. The shortest hike is the Blueberry Trail (0.8 miles) that begins at the Ranger Station. The longest hike is the Perimeter Trail that begins at the park’s entrance, but has several access points throughout the park. The Azalea Trail (1.2 miles) begins at the Sweetgum Picnic area and the Dogwood Trail (1.5 miles) begins at the parking area along Park Central Road. Pick up a map at the Ranger Station near the campground.
Do you take a hike after Thanksgiving dinner? Tell us where you go in the comments below.