Seven Ways to Celebrate Thanksgiving Weekend Outdoors

Enjoy some of New England’s beautiful green spaces this November.

With coronavirus case counts soaring and the CDC encouraging people not to travel for Thanksgiving this year, many families are looking for ways to spend time together safely. One option? Staying outside. But as anyone who struggled to find parking near the Arboretum this summer could tell you, our green spaces are attracting quite a crowd.

That’s why thousands of outdoor organizations came together this fall for outdoor retailer REI’s #RecreateResponsibly initiative, including familiar local names like the Esplanade Association, Friends of the Blue Hills, and Boston Harbor Now. The coalition asks everyone using the outdoors to take a pledge to “Keep it Local, Keep it Clean” when spending time in parks this year.

If you’re choosing to hit the parks and trails this weekend, REI’s Northeast Regional Director Becky Smith has a few tips for you to keep in mind: Remember the age-old principle to “Leave no trace,” make sure you have a plan, and of course, don’t forget to pack a mask.

Below, find some fun and safe activities to enjoy Thanksgiving weekend, some of which are part of the REI program.

Go for a Scavenger Hunt

Whether you’re strolling through your neighborhood park, or venturing out to one of Mass Audubon’s 60+ wildlife sanctuaries, pack a print-out scavenger hunt challenge to take along the way. Mass Audubon locations that are close drives from Boston include Drumlin Farm in Lincoln, Boston Nature Center in Mattapan, North River in Marshfield, and Nahant Thicket in Nahant. Hunt for everything from lichen to animal tracks, all while making sure to protect and respect the wildlife as you search.

Free, multiple locations,

Take the Better Forest Challenge

If you haven’t been to Blue Hills Reservation yet, well, what are you waiting for? Hike the 2-mile Abigail Adams Trail with grand summit views of the Boston skyline. If you’re trekking with kids, try the Chickatawbut trail, a short hike with lots of rocks to scramble up and down. While you stroll, take part in the Friends of the Blue Hills’ Better Forest Challenge by snapping pictures of the plants and animals you see along your journey. Later, you can upload your images to the iNaturalist app to help researchers better understand and protect the reservation.

Blue Hills Reservation, Milton,

…Or Clean Up Some Trails

With Blue Hills Reservation’s popularity comes the necessity for trail maintenance and cleanup to keep the park healthy and beautiful. Join one of Friends of the Blue Hills’ upcoming small-group volunteer sessions to assist with trail maintenance and invasive species removal.

November 17, 9 a.m.-11 a.m. and December 2, 9 a.m.-11 a.m., Blue Hills Reservation, Milton,

Hike the White Mountains

There are over 1200 miles of trails to explore in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Head out for a family-friendly hike to Diana’s Baths Waterfalls, a stroll through the hardwood and hemlock forests of Green Hills Preserve or a challenging 2.8-mile trek to Cathedral Ledge. Wherever you go, Smith notes the importance of staying warm and hydrated, having a plan and packing a whistle in case you’re separated from your group.

Diana’s Baths Waterfalls, West Side Rd., North Conway, New Hampshire; Green Hills Preserve, North Conway, New Hampshire; Cathedral Ledge from Echo Lake, North Conway, New Hampshire,

Walk, Run, or Bike the East Coast Greenway

The East Coast Greenway is a 3,000-mile length of trails connecting the state of Maine all the way to Florida. And since the start of 2020, 10 new miles of trail have been added in Massachusetts. Whether you plan to walk a few miles, run, or bike, you can traverse from Boston to Lynn (34 miles), Salem (28 miles), Newburyport (64 miles), or even all the way to the New Hampshire border (75 miles). Note: Some of the itineraries on the Greenway’s site include short stints on the commuter rail, so prepare to take some public transit if you decide to take part. They also include tips on the best spots to stop and refuel—like Michael’s Restaurant on the Merrimac in Newburyport.

Multiple locations,

Tidy up the Coast

The season for lounging on the beach is long behind us, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a walk through the sand. For a $40 donation, Boston Harbor Now will send you some cleanup gear, then you can head to any beach of your choice on the 43-mile Boston shoreline or beyond and help clean them up while taking in some gorgeous wintry ocean views. Record your trash collection as you go through the Ocean Conservancy’s app or website and look forward to enjoying a picnic on the beach next summer without someone’s old Dunkin’ cup cluttering your view.

$40, multiple locations,

Fat Tire Bike a Muddy Trail

If slogging through a muddy trail doesn’t sound appealing, get behind the handlebars of a fat tire bike instead and soar through Charles W. Ward Reservation in Andover. The Trustees-owned reservation includes over 10 miles of trails to explore. At the top of Holt Hill, you’ll find the “Solstice Stones,” a compass-like arrangement that marks the solstice sunsets. Feeling unsteady on wheels? Meander through the reservation’s trail network on foot instead and explore numbered stations with information about Ward botany and geology.

65 Prospect Rd., Andover, MA,