Walking is not only healthy for you, it is a necessity for your dog to stay happy and healthy. Whether you have a large or small dog, taking it for a scenic walk along a long or short trail will please you and your pup. There are many places around town outside of the dog parks where you can take your dog for a refreshing walk. When visiting these sites, always be mindful of other trail users, which may include walkers, runners and cyclists. Doing so will ensure that you and your dog remain safe on your walk.

Houston Arboretum & Nature Center
4501 Woodway Drive
Houston, TX 77024
(713) 681-8433

Perhaps the best place for you to take yourself and your dog is the Houston Arboretum. The trees overhead keep it cool and shady in the summer. You would not believe that this oasis is just a few hundred yards from one of the busiest highways in Houston, the West Loop. It is free to get into the grounds and nature center building, and you can walk your dog on a leash anytime between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Be sure to keep your pet on the trails. Your dog can even go into the tiled areas of the nature center. You can walk your dog around the large outer loop trail for an invigorating two-mile walk, or choose to take your pooch along some of the inner trails for a shorter stroll. There are water fountains and restrooms at the nature center, and always be mindful of others on the trail by cleaning up after your dog.

Terry Hershey Park Hike and Bike Trails
15200 Memorial Drive
Houston, TX 77079
(281) 496-2177

While Terry Hershey is technically a park, it is better known as an area for runners and bikers for its trails. These trails are also pet-friendly if you want to bring Fido on a leash. Watch out for bikes that frequent these trails, but the cyclists are good about using bells or vocal signals to indicate that they are coming up behind you. The miles of Hershey Park’s trails meander along Buffalo Bayou on the far west side of Houston and include flat trails and more secluded nature trails to enjoy the wildlife. With so many miles of trails, it will take a long time before you repeat your dog walking route here.

Related: Places To Take Your Dog In Houston

Mercer Arboretum & Botanic Gardens
22306 Aldine Westfield Road
Humble, TX 77338
(281) 443-8731

You can bring your dog to enjoy nature from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily at the Mercer Arboretum. The park consists of two parts. The west side consists of natural trails through the piney woods, while the east side has a formal botanic garden and some shorter nature trails. If you want to bring your dog to this park, you must have it on a leash, and you can only walk it along the trails to the west of Aldine Westfield, which is the separating line between the two halves of the park. The west half is the larger of the two, and you can take your dog for a 2.25-mile walk if you follow the entire loop. Intersecting trails allow you to shorten your walk as you see fit for you and your dog. There are restrooms and water fountains near the two picnic areas on the west side as well as near the middle of this section of the arboretum.

Faulky Gully Hike and Bike Trail
Lakewood Forest Drive
Houston, TX 77379
(281) 353-4196

The Faulky Gully trail is a smooth, blacktop-coated trail that is ideal for scooters, bikes, wheelchairs, strollers and dog walkers. You must keep your dog on a leash less than six feet long and clean up after it along the trail. This is a good trail that meanders behind a neighborhood, and when you come to Louetta Road, you have a safe underpass to cross the road. The total length of this trail is 1.9 miles, with Louetta Road as the boundary between the two segments of roughly one mile each. Most of this trail is not shaded, so take your dog out in the morning or evening before sunset or after sunrise to keep both you and your pet from getting overheated. Parking for this trail is at the Heatherwood Clubhouse on Willow Branch Drive.

Related: Best Dog Parks In Houston

Buffalo Bayou Park
1800-3600 Allen Parkway/Memorial Drive
Houston, TX 77019
(832) 395-7000

There is a reason that Houston is called the “Bayou City,” and Buffalo Bayou, which flows through downtown Houston to the far west side, is a big part of that moniker. Along the bayou, you can take your dog for one of the most scenic city walks imaginable. The portion of the bayou that is lined by this park is left in a natural state, instead of being channelized by concrete. You can see trees, birds and more as you walk your dog along the many miles of trails. You will likely run into other dog walkers near the Wortham fountain, which is near Waugh Drive, or in the park near the intersection of Studewood and Allen Parkway. These are informal meeting places for dog walkers along the 10 miles of trails along Buffalo Bayou in this park, so you won’t feel like you and your dog are alone.

Crystal Hessong ia a freelance writer and a lifelong, fourth generation Houstonian. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.