16 Great Thanksgiving Hikes
Sandhill Crane, Photo by Dwayne Longenbaugh
Don’t let that holiday turkey be the only bird your family encounters this Thanksgiving. Go for a hike. A post-feast nature walk can be as much a family tradition as cranberry sauce and stuffing. While burning off calories, you can enjoy the fresh air and see some wildlife. There are plenty of places to go. Visit one of Audubon’s 48 centers laced with trails. Or choose a National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge System encompasses 150 million acres, and there is at least one refuge in every state. Many of them are Important Bird Areas. The following 16 National Wildlife Refuge hikes are family-friendly and relatively short. Each one offers a chance to see many birds and other wildlife in late November.
Atkeson Cypress Trail, Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge
Length: 0.5 miles
Wildlife: Sandhill cranes, waterfowl, migratory songbirds
More info: http://www.fws.gov/wheeler
The refuge is two miles from Decatur. Pick up a refuge map outside the visitor center. From this walk, go a short distance to the Observation Building Trail, which leads to a viewing area with scopes.
Upland Nature Trail, White River National Wildlife Refuge
Length: 0.8 miles with optional short add-on
Wildlife: Wood ducks, mallards, blue-winged teal, woodpeckers, warblers, vireos
More info: http://www.fws.gov/whiteriver
No entrance fee. Pick up a map and brochure from the box at the refuge entrance. This hike can be turned into an easy 1.5-mile loop by walking along the riverbank at the trail’s end to the foot of boardwalk.
Wetlands Walking Trail, Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge
Length: 2 miles, with optional shortcut
Wildlife: Shorebirds, grebes, ducks, geese, raccoons
This marsh trail has a viewing platform. See even larger concentrations of ducks and geese along the 6-mile auto tour route. Entrance fee: $8 per vehicle. Pick up a map and brochure at the kiosk outside the visitor center.
North McCoy Trail, Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge
Length: 1.12 miles
Wildlife: Terns, vireos, pelicans
Indigo Trail, J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge
Length: 2 miles
Wildlife: Roseate spoonbills, white pelicans, egrets, herons
More info: http://www.fws.gov/dingdarling
Entrance fee of $5 per carload or $1 per hiker or cyclist
Allan Cruickshank Trail, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
Length: 5-mile loop
Wildlife: Bald eagles, roseate spoonbills, ducks, pintails, blue-winged teal, migratory birds, northern harriers
More info: http://www.fws.gov/merrittisland/
You’d like a shorter hike? The Wild Bird Trail is only .25 miles. Both trails are located off Blackpoint Wildlife Drive, the refuge’s 6-mile auto route and the best place on the refuge to see birds. Entrance fee: $5 per car. When the visitor center is open, as it is Friday, Saturday and Sunday of Thanksgiving week, stop by the office to borrow a Junior Birder backpack, with bird guide and binoculars.
Wetland Walkway Trail, Sabine National Wildlife Refuge
Length: 1.5 miles
Wildlife: Egrets, great blue herons, roseate spoonbills, variety of ducks