The Great Outdoors

Get Out: Biking the Anthills in Terry Hershey Park

Take in 500 unspoiled acres of Buffalo Bayou from your bike.

By Katharine Shilcutt January 22, 2016

Hop your bike over the hills in Hershey Park this weekend.

By now you've hopefully heard the news that I-1o East inside the Loop will be a horrorshow this weekend. With that in mind, head west, young men and women—west to Terry Hershey Park. The 500-acre park has rightly been called an "oasis" in the middle of the city, with nearly 6 miles of hike and bike trails along the western stretch of Buffalo Bayou that's still as rustic as the day Houston was settled. (Okay, that's a bit hyperbolic, but it's certainly the most unmolested stretch of the bayou you'll find in the city limits.)

When I was a kid, the heavily wooded Terry Hershey Park was my backyard, and it felt like escaping from the noise of the Beltway and homogeneity of the suburbs into a wild, untamed countryside. The older I get, the more I'm pleasantly surprised it still feels that way; like the bayou itself, Hershey Park has remained mostly untouched since its official designation in 1989 save for a few flood control "improvements" along the way.

Its namesake, environmental activist Terry Hershey, a woman George H.W. Bush once called "a force of nature," would be proud—after all, if it weren't for her, this branch of the bayou would look much different today. Together with then-newly-elected state congressman Bush, she helped persuade Congress not to provide funds for a project in the 1960s that would have channelized and paved Buffalo Bayou—and we all know how that went for the other channelized bayous across the city.

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PSA: Please wear a helmet like this gentleman while biking.

Today, the best way to honor Hershey's work is by enjoying her park to its fullest. Between Beltway 8 and Highway 6, you'll find everything from playgrounds for the kids to stationary work-out equipment for the adults; water fountains, dog fountains and public restrooms; kayak and canoe launching points; walking paths, hiking trails, and biking trails both flat and hilly.

The latter have been given the nickname "anthills," primarily because of the relatively small stature of the trail's hills themselves—but that doesn't mean they aren't fun to fly over on a mountain bike. And you thought there was no decent off-road biking to be had in Houston...

This weekend's shaping up to be mostly sunny, with no chance of rain—but since we've had rain recently, that means the Anthills will be nice and tacky. (For future reference, you don't want to ride on these too soon after a rain; you'll run the risk of either wiping out or ruining a nice anthill for the bikers who come after you.) Drop in on the trailhead that's just off the parking lot at Eldridge and Memorial, then see if you can make it all the way east until the anthills' terminus that runs a long, looping trail between Dairy Ashford and Kirkwood. On your way out, take a moment to consider what brought you here: a force of nature who proved that one person can make an enormous difference.

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