1. Brookside Conservation Area (Westport)
Like apple pie and Thanksgiving, Bread and Cheese Brook sounds like quintessential Americana. And at the Westport Land Conservation Trust’s Brookside Conservation Area, conveniently located off Route 177, you can discover this beautiful waterway with ease.
At Brookside Conservation Area, you can explore Bread and Cheese Brook – the headwaters of the mighty Westport Rivers – and discover the remains of a century-old granite bridge that once connected Gifford Road to Reed Road. It’s the perfect place to celebrate the holiday by retracing our ancestors’ footsteps through the historic Westport Mills District.
2. Cornell Farm and Frank Knowles/Little River Reserve (Dartmouth)
With a network of trails through fields and forests, and wooden boardwalks snaking through salt marshes, The Trustees’ Cornell Farm and the Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust’s Frank Knowles/Little River Reserve are a wonderful destination for outdoor enthusiasts of all levels. These two adjacent conservation areas each have their own identity, but share one important commonality: they are both refuges where you can immerse yourself in nature.
Walk about a mile down the trail on either property, and you’ll find a unique feature that draws many visitors to this spot: a suspension bridge swinging across a stream that forms the headwaters of Little River. From the observation deck at the top of the bridge, you can look out over the forest or sit and enjoy the quiet stillness of the outdoors.
3. Flora B. Peirce Nature Trail (New Bedford)
If you live in New Bedford, you don’t even need to leave the city limits to enjoy a nature walk. At the edge of the North End lies Flora B. Peirce Nature Trail, a wooded preserve sandwiched between two forested swamps. Flora Peirce includes two easy loop trails that offer views of a pine forest, a large pond, and the headwaters of the Paskamansett River.
For a fun family activity, print out a copy of the Flora Peirce trail guide and bring it with you on your walk. It’ll help you stay on the trail and look for signs of the plant and animal life that abounds at Flora Peirce in winter.
4. LaPalme Farm (Acushnet)
Situated close to the center of Acushnet and the North End of New Bedford, the Coalition’s LaPalme Farm is a convenient natural getaway that’s great for a walk this time of year. The half-mile trail leads you through an old farm field and into the forest, where the wooded banks of the Acushnet River wait for you to discover.
LaPalme Farm is a particularly good place to look for wildlife during the colder months. Keep your eyes peeled for tracks of deer, rabbits, mice, and other creatures imprinted in the mud and snow. It’s a good reminder that even in winter, our region is a special place that so many species call home.
5. West Island State Reservation (Fairhaven)
The 338-acre West Island State Reservation, sandwiched between Sconticut Neck and Nasketucket Bay, is another perfect place to walk off that turkey dinner. With wide trails through the forest, brackish ponds and salt marshes, and a panoramic beachfront view of Buzzards Bay, this state-owned reservation has something for everybody to enjoy. Ramble through the woods and out to the shoreline, where you can see sea ducks congregating on the Bay’s open waters.
Whether you want to explore the woods, take the dog for a walk, or simply catch an early sunset over the Bay, West Island makes for a scenic post-Thanksgiving spot.
6. Mattapoisett Rail Trail (Mattapoisett)
One of the most beautiful places to take a walk in Mattapoisett is also one of the easiest to enjoy. The Mattapoisett Rail Trail — the mile-long Mattapoisett portion of a popular bike path that links the town with Fairhaven — is a paved, even path that families of all ages can explore. And with easy entrance points at Brandt Island Road and Mattapoisett Neck Road, the rail trail is accessible to all.
But don’t let its accessibility fool you — in spite of its popularity with local residents, the rail trail maintains a serene, natural feeling. The trail cuts through the woods along the path of an old rail line, crossing a scenic brook along the way. If you journey further onto an unpaved extension of the path, you can walk all the way to the Mattapoisett River, near where it opens up to Mattapoisett Harbor.
7. Radio Tower Property (Marion)
Known as the “Radio Tower Property,” this 109-acre preserve owned by the Sippican Lands Trust is more than just a walk in the woods. In 1914, a telegraph company erected 14 radio towers here, each reaching 440 feet into the air. The U.S. Air Force used these radio towers during World War II. In the 1950s, all but one of the towers was dismantled. But you can still find remnants of the radio towers scattered throughout the woods, making the Radio Tower Property a unique outdoor adventure to discover with your family.
The Radio Tower Property links to several other protected Sippican Lands Trust properties, creating a 225-acre oasis of conservation. In addition to the radio tower remains, look for natural features like wetlands and the crossing of Benson Brook as you wander the trails.
8. East Over Reservation (Rochester)
If you want to explore a scenic spot the day after Thanksgiving, look no further than The Trustees’ East Over Reservation in Rochester. The farm next door to the reservation is well-known for its golden yellow barns, which provide a festive pop of color even after fall’s bright foliage has faded.
But East Over is more than just a family farm. The reservation is home to miles of trails through a mosaic of fields and forests, all lined with neat stone walls. This quiet, rural area evokes a simpler time, which makes it the perfect place to explore during the holiday season.
9. Birch Island Conservation Area & Horseshoe Mill (Wareham)
Along the Weweantic River in West Wareham, you can explore not one, but three connected conservation areas in one spot. Together, the Coalition’s Horseshoe Mill and the town of Wareham’s Birch Island Conservation Area offer a network of trails where you can discover the river, the surrounding forest, and the area’s unexpected industrial history.
Beginning at the town-owned parking area at the end of Station Street, head east toward Birch Island, a hilly parcel of land where pine trees dominate. Or meander west into Horseshoe Mill, where the Weweantic runs wild as it meets fresh water flowing from upstream. As you walk, look for dark, metallic pieces of “slag” on the ground — the by-product of a horseshoe factory that produced iron ore here through World War II.
10. Bourne Sisters Woodland (Bourne)
If you’re seeking a short walk that will get your blood pumping the day after Thanksgiving, look no further than Bourne Sisters Woodland. Located near Monument Beach and Cape Cod Canal, this 22-acre property owned by the Bourne Conservation Trust offers a loop trail that snakes along wooded slopes and valleys. Thanks to the varying elevation of the woods, the trail packs lots of interesting natural vistas into 0.6 miles.
Near the start of your walk, look out for a lovely brook meandering across the trail. If you want to find a more extensive adventure, take one of the cross trails bisecting the main loop. One of these, running along the northern edge of the property, provides a scenic view of a stream and a neighboring cranberry bog.
11. Beebe Woods (Falmouth)
In this season of giving thanks, The 300 Committee’s Beebe Woods is a wonderful symbol of all we have to be thankful for here in the Buzzards Bay region. In the 1970s, this beautiful 388-acre tract of woods atop Cape Cod’s glacial moraine was slated to become a 500-home subdivision. But at the last minute, a Falmouth benefactor purchased the land and donated it to the town for conservation.
Today, Beebe Woods is a great place for Falmouth residents and visitors to take a walk any time of year. The property includes a network of foot paths and bridle trails leading you through the woods. Evidence of retreating Ice Age glaciers is everywhere, from huge boulders and irregular-shaped hills to scenic kettle hole ponds.
Need some new ideas for places to go? Check out our list of 11 (more) day-after-Thanksgiving walks to discover.