Enjoy some fresh air this Thanksgiving weekend at these 5 must-see Mississippi locations
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Mississippi Clarion Ledger
Enjoying a big Thanksgiving meal with family makes the holiday festive, but what else is there to do?
Watching football, going to the movies, or going shopping for Christmas gifts might be on the menu, but what about taking in the great outdoors?
In Mississippi, we are surrounded by the gifts of nature so it's easy to find a place close to home or add a location to an already-planned trip.
Here are five outdoor places where you can get some fresh air and take in the state's natural wonders — for free.
Red Bluff, also known as the Little Grand Canyon, is located near the Foxworth community in Marion County.
Its deep red clay is the perfect setting for a hike into the canyon, but the color really shines as the sun begins to set.
While it may be beautiful, Red Bluff isn't for everyone. The hike down can be challenging, and even more challenging to get back to the top. The trail is on private land that isn't maintained, so you are on your own.
If you're not up for the challenge, bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the view from the top.
Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge
The Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge is a preservation area in Jackson County between Ocean Springs and Gautier. The area provides a habitat for the critically endangered subspecies of the sandhill crane.
While finding the cranes along the trail is rare, the two walking trails are open to the public. The trails offer opportunities to view other south Mississippi birds and showcase south Mississippi's natural beauty in the native wet pine savanna.
Signs along the trails help nature lovers identify the flora of the area. Both trails are dog- and kid-friendly.
The C.L. Dees Nature Trail is the shorter and easier of the two trails at three-quarters of a mile and a few small inclines.
The Fontainebleau Nature Trail is a little more difficult with steeper climbs in some areas and the potential for waterlogged areas. The Fontainebleau trail is approximately 1.7 miles.
The Longleaf Trace is a walking, cycling, and equestrian trail that runs along an old railroad line 44 miles from downtown Hattiesburg to Prentiss with plenty of stops along the way.
The equestrian trail begins at Clyde Station in Lamar County and ends at the Carson Station.
The paved path is part of the Rails-to-Trails program that has been offering free recreational opportunities in the Pine Belt for more than 20 years.
In addition to the main trail, there are several spurs along the way, where detours offer a glimpse of the surrounding area.
While completing the trail on foot isn't on most people's to-do list, cycling the entire trace — 88 miles roundtrip — is the goal of many experienced cyclists.
Tanglefoot Trail is another Rails-to-Trails park with just under 44 miles of trail way that runs through towns like Pontotoc, Houston, and New Albany.
The trail meanders through the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, so the elevation runs between 319 feet at its lowest to 441 feet at its highest.
The Natchez Trace Parkway runs through Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee, so there are plenty of areas to stop and visit, take a walk or go on a cycling tour.
Near Canton, visitors can take a walk on the Boardwalk Trail through the Cypress Swamp, a holdover from when the Pearl River flowed through that area.
Across the parkway from the Cypress Swamp is the trailhead for the Yockanookany Section of the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail, with hiking trails to the north and south.
Where are your favorite outdoor places in Mississippi? Contact Lici Beveridge at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @licibev or Facebook at facebook.com/licibeveridge.