Houston is in the process of developing the largest urban hike-and-bike trail network in the USA, (not including the fine trails in parks outside of town). The City of Houston Parks and Recreation Department maintains 128 miles of trails in all parts of the city. For a complete list see www.houstontx.gov. Most of the trails in the smaller city parks are relatively short, with adequate amenities. Read on for a list of the best hiking trails in the Houston area and get out and enjoy the beautiful summer weather while it lasts.
Memorial Park (Terry Hershey Park)
15200 Memorial Drive
Houston, TX 77079
Probably the most accessible hiking trail in Houston is in Terry Hershey Park, a part of the larger Memorial Park system. The hike-and-bike trail should not be confused with the popular exercise path visible from Memorial Drive. The hike-and-bike trail (also used by mountain bikers) is about 12.5 miles long. It extends from the Barker Dam on the west to Beltway 8 on the east. There are 10 bridges and five grade separations at Highway 6, Eldridge Parkway, Dairy Ashford, Kirkwood and Wilcrest. See the website for more trail details and parking options.
Brazos Bend Park
21901 FM 762
Needville, TX 77461
For the more adventurous hikers, nature may have a few surprises in Brazos Bend Park. Three hike-and-bike trails are located around three lakes; Hale, Elm and 40-Acre. However, they interconnect. The best place for viewing alligators is from the 40-Acre and Elm Lake Trail system. The foot trails lead to the hardwood forest. Pets are allowed, but only on a leash, and the leash must be six feet or less. Do not allow pets to drink from or enter the water. The phrase “Know your Alligator Etiquette” may be seen on park maps and posted throughout the park. For a simple explanation, watch the short video produced by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
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Sam Houston National Forest
394 FM 1375 W.
New Waverly, TX 77358
For longer hikes, Sam Houston National Forest offers a 129-mile trail, part of the National Recreation Trail that winds through the breadth of the Sam Houston National Forest. It passes through the eastern edge of the forest near Montague Church on FM 1725 near Cleveland, Texas and continues on the western edge near Richards, Texas. The terrain is relatively flat with some wet areas, but bridges allow for easy creek crossings. Trailhead parking areas are at the main access points, but because the trail is intended to be primitive, there are no restroom facilities.
22306 Aldine Westfield Road
Humble, TX 77338
Mercer Arboretum is 22 miles north of downtown Houston near Bush International Airport. The entrances on the west and east sides of the road are well marked and there is ample free parking with picnic areas, playgrounds and toilet facilities.
The park includes 300 acres of gardens and walking trails, bogs and playgrounds. The west trail is 2.25 miles long and the east side is about 1.5 miles. There are no significant hills on the trails, so hikes are relatively easy and virtually all parts of the park are picturesque with maps and benches. Mercer Arboretum is generally open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but hours may vary during the year.
Davy Crockett National Forest
Kennard, TX 75847
For those who were “raised in the woods so they know every tree” like the legendary Davy Crockett, the forest that bears his name is a healthy challenge. One commentator stated, “if you don’t get lost in Davy Crockett National Forest, you won’t get lost anywhere.” The Four C National Recreation Trail is 20 miles long. It begins at Ratcliff Lake and winds through the forest of tall pines, hardwoods, bogs, sloughs and upland forests. The Walnut Creek campsite with five tent pads is about midway down the trail. Ammenities include a shelter and pit toilet. There is also another campsite just north on the trail with two tent pads. At the north end of the trail, you can experience a panoramic view from Neches Bluff Overlook in the Neches River bottomlands. A picnic area and primitive camping facilities are available.
Marc Pembroke is a freelance writer covering all things Houston. His work can be found on Examiner.com.