The leaves turn to shades of ambers and browns and the cool winds blow outside while the turkey roasts inside, casting familiar and comforting smells throughout the house.  Except we live in California, so none of that comes into play.  Thanksgiving in California is not like almost everywhere else in the country.  Where others take a brisk walk after the meal and return home with rosy cheeks and the need for a pick-me-up whiskey, in SoCal we have the opportunity to explore nature more deeply.

So if you’re lucky enough to have Thanksgiving in our country’s little version of paradise, you are probably wondering what you can do to enjoy the time off of work to its fullest.  Enjoying our National Park system over Thanksgiving is a fantastic way to enjoy the holiday.  It’s a popular time to go camping and exploring, so reserve those campsites early, but enjoy these national parks well within a quick day’s drive from SoCal.

The Grand Canyon

It’s a long drive, but if you and your family have never been to the Grand Canyon, it’s time to do so this Thanksgiving.  It’s probably the most iconic of the national parks, and it’s also so majestic and grand that no single picture can give you an actual impression of what being there is actually like.  And even when you’re there, it’s a riddle and an enigma that your brain cannot figure out.  You are standing on the rim and you are told that the rim opposite is 8 miles away, yet it’s right there.  Our brain simply can’t process 8 miles of space from here to there.  It’ll be cold at the top but warmer as you descend, so bring layers and of course plenty of water.

Yosemite

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Yosemite is the first national park christened under the new national park system and there’s reason for it.  When you stand overlooking Yosemite Valley, you are whisked away to a time of simplicity, of great natural beauty.  An iPhone 6 almost doesn’t compute when you are seeing the Half Dome to your left, and the Valley laid out elegantly in front of you.  The drive to Yosemite is not only easy but incredible gorgeous.  You’ll never think of the woods or the forest again in the same way after you and your family spend thanksgiving trekking among the Sequoia trees and breathing air so crisp and clean that you will give your lungs an additional 5 years of life for every day spent in Yosemite.

Joshua Tree National Park

For you Gram Parsons fans out there, Joshua Tree is an absolute must.  For everyone else, it’s also a must.  It’s not maybe the most breathtaking national park we have in our system, but the 2 hour drive from LA and the abundance of the Dr. Suess looking Joshua trees makes the park an absolute blast, and maybe a less ambitious adventure to tackle on Thanksgiving.  You can go there, enjoy the park, and back in one day, so if you’re not looking to camp, consider Joshua Tree.  If you are, there’s plenty of great camping to be had in the park.

There are plenty of other national parks to enjoy on Thanksgiving, but these are the hot tips from someone in the know.