Burn Off Thanksgiving Dinner With These Alabama Hikes

The best seat in the house. A view from an overlook along the Pinhoti / Cave Creek Loop.
The best seat in the house. A view from an overlook along the Pinhoti / Cave Creek Loop. Joe Cuhaj
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It’s no wonder people feel like passing out after Thanksgiving dinner. According to the Calories Control Council, the average American consumes more than 3,000 calories during a Thanksgiving meal—4,500 calories if you include appetizers and drinks.

Of course, it’s tough to resist that delectable dressing and gravy, as well as the pecan pie. So, instead of depriving yourself, work it off by hiking during your holiday break. After all, you can burn hundreds of calories per hour while hiking, and it’s a great opportunity to spend quality time with your family and friends.

In Alabama, you’ll find plenty of great hikes that not only burn calories, but also take you to high-mountain views, quiet streams and beautiful waterfalls. When you’re ready to work off your Thanksgiving feast, consider one of the following invigorating hikes.

Pinhoti Trail/Cave Creek Loop

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Along the Pinhoti Trail/Cave Creek Loop you’ll pass a bronze marker celebrating the connection of the Pinhoti Trail to the Appalachian Trail. Joe Cuhaj

Cool, crisp mountain air and one of the best views of the Talladega Mountains await you when you hike the 6.8-mile Pinhoti Trail/Cave Creek Loop.

This moderate hike begins just northeast of Cheaha State Park at the stone portal of the Cheaha Trailhead on Highway 281. Half of this loop uses Alabama’s famous long path, the Pinhoti Trail, which is appropriate since Pinhoti is an Indian word for "turkey." Along the Pinhoti section you’ll pass the bronze marker that’s embedded in a granite boulder commemorating the connection of the Pinhoti Trail to the Appalachian Trail. Further along, you’ll reach McDill Point, which offers spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. To return, you’ll use a connector trail to reach the Cave Creek Trail. In one section you’ll do a little rock scramble, but you’re rewarded with more great views.

Turkey Creek Nature Preserve

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Take in the tranquility of the rushing waters of Turkey Creek at the preserve that bears its name in Pinson. Andy Montgomery

If you’re looking for quiet solitude in the woods and a fun place to work off the mashed potatoes, take a ramble along the 5.3-miles of trails at the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve in Pinson.

The preserve is closed on Thanksgiving Day, but it reopens the following day.

The paths range in difficulty from easy to moderate as they wind through a thick forest of pines and hardwoods. During your hike you’ll encounter babbling streams, a boulder field, and the rushing waters of Turkey Creek. Normally, in the summer months the creek is filled with locals and visitors splashing in its icy waters, but in late fall this is a tranquil place where you can rest beside a garden of small watefalls and let the sound take you away.

Martha’s Falls

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Hike to Martha’s Falls in Little River Canyon. Alan Cressler

If you’re in the Fort Payne the day after Thanksgiving, you can join a guided hike to Martha’s Falls in Little River Canyon. Volunteers with the Jacksonville State University Field Schools will lead the hike, which begins at the Little River Canyon Center at 10 a.m. During the 3.2-mile roundtrip walk, you’ll enjoy beautiful views of the deepest canyon east of the Mississippi and visit Martha’s Falls, where tumbling rapids spill into a broad pool. While you don’t have to register for the hike, you should to visit the JSU Field Schools Facebook page for updates in case the hike is cancelled due to inclement weather.

Land Trust of North Alabama

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The Monte Sano Preserve in Huntsville has an impressive array of trails. Shannon McGee

Maybe you’d like to get in your exercise before you gobble down all that great food. If that’s the case, join the staff and volunteers of the Land Trust of North Alabama for their annual Thanksgiving Day hike at the Monte Sano Preserve in Huntsville. The preserve has an amazing array of trails with towering bluff lines, old quarry caves, springs, waterfalls, and interesting history.

The organization has been hosting this event for the past 24 years, and the 4-mile trek begins at 9 a.m. and ends at the Three Caves Quarry. If you don’t want to hike back to the trailhead on Bankhead Parkway, a shuttle will be provided.

Originally written for BCBS of AL.

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