Happy Trails

We Run This Town: Our Favorite Houston Trails

You’ve stretched out your hammies, leashed up your good dogs, and are ready to crank out the mileage. But where to?

By Gwendolyn Knapp Published in the February 2019 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Memorial Park Trails  

The park’s crushed-granite Seymour Lieberman jogging trail, now an honest three miles, is a runner’s low-impact dream, complete with workout track, brand-new bathrooms, and watering stations. Hardcore trail runners and mountain bikers love the seven-mile “Ho Chi Minh Trail,” which winds along Buffalo Bayou in all its overgrown glory—and yes, there are snakes. Elsewhere hardcore cyclists use the paved picnic area as a practice loop, and hikers flock to the peaceful Arboretum for three miles of shady, indigenous plants, bats, birds, and even a gator.

10+ miles | Shade | Bathrooms | Water fountains 

Brays Bayou Hike & Bike Trail  

This is the longest of all greenways in Houston—soon clocking in at 35 miles—making it perfect for long-distance runners and cyclists. There’s much to see along the way. In the east you’ll pass gems including the historic Gus Wortham Golf Course, The Orange Show, and Gragg Park. In the Third Ward, connect to the Columbia Tap hike-and-bike trail and ride through the TSU campus. And come 2020, you’ll be able to do a dim sum bike tour of Asiatown, thanks to the trail’s westward expansion.

18+ miles | Water fountains 

Terry Hershey Park

Terry Hershey Park Hike & Bike Trail  

Located along Buffalo Bayou between the Beltway and Highway 6, this incredible gateway to Houston nature boasts some of our greatest hike-and-bike trails. The Quail Trail—a shady, lightly hilly paved path stretching from Eldridge Parkway to Wilcrest—is perfect for both walkers and cyclists, and eventually connects to George Bush Park. Mountain bikers prefer the dirt-path “anthills” through the woods along the bayou.

10 miles | Shade | Bathrooms | Water fountains 

George Bush Park Hike & Bike Trail  

Don’t get scared if you hear heavy artillery—that would be the shooting range at the Energy Corridor–area park, located inside the Barker Reservoir. It just makes the place all the more Texan, right? Runners can get away from the park’s bike-centric paved path by opting for a loop around the lush grass near the epic Millie Bush Dog Park—named, of course, for Barbara and George H.W. Bush’s deceased springer spaniel—or the soccer complex (hello, bathrooms).

11+ miles | Shade | Bathrooms | Water fountains

Buffalo Bayou Park

What’s not to love about our hike-and-bike trail nestled up against downtown, home to the Waugh Bat Colony, the Cistern, the Johnny Steele Dog Park, a skate park, and one of the best restaurants in town, The Kitchen at the Dunlavy? This destination is as popular among bikers, runners, and walkers as among lovebirds on dates and families exploring the great outdoors. All will want to stop for selfies with the skyline and the park’s amazing public art.

4.5 miles | Bathrooms | Water fountains

White Oak Bayou Hike & Bike at TC Jester Park  

TC Jester Park in Oak Forest is a great launching point for running along White Oak Bayou. There’s a dog park, the EZ-7 skatepark, baseball fields, a frisbee golf course, and loads of locals getting their steps in on the park’s mile-long granite trail. Take that north, then hop onto the paved trail—watch out for cyclists—and you’ll hit the Watonga Bridge Bat Colony (1.5 miles away). Head south to connect to the Heights Hike and Bike Trail (8 miles away).

15 miles | Bathrooms | Water fountains      

The Heights Hike-And-Bike Trail

Heights Hike-and-Bike Trail  

Built on top of a former Missouri-Kansas-Texas railroad line, this path, also called the MKT Trail, connects the Heights to UH Downtown. Daily, hundreds of walkers, joggers, cyclists, and bike commuters take advantage of the vital shortcut the path offers between the East and West ends of the White Oak Bayou Greenway. But there are other reasons to appreciate it—fireflies near Lawrence Park, a safe walk home from Postino or Target, and an easy hop onto the Paul Carr Jogging Trail on Heights Boulevard among them.

4.7 miles

Lake Houston Wilderness Park Trails  

It’s not actually located on Lake Houston, but the 5,000-acre, city-owned park—30 minutes north of downtown, off US 59—does have its own lovely waterway, Peach Creek, and offers an abundance of natural, leafy, out-and-back trails. Start with the Ameri-Trail, a nearly eight-mile roundtrip run that delivers all the wilderness you can handle, plus beachy pit stops along the creek. If you’d like, turn around at the halfway point—which, fair warning, is easy to miss. Watch out for rogue mountain bikers muddier than Rambo in First Blood. $3 entry fee.

30 miles | Shade | Bathrooms | Water fountains             

Hermann Park

Image: Shutterstock

Hermann Park Trail

The park’s two-mile, crushed-granite Marvin Taylor Exercise Trail will take you past the Houston Zoo, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and Miller Outdoor Theatre (hello, short hill repeats), under the shade of beautiful, moss-adorned oaks for much of the way. Want more distance? Hop across Main Street to run the adjacent three-mile Rice University Loop—if you like dream homes, it’s one of the most magical trails in all of Houston.

2 miles | Shade | Bathrooms | Water fountains

Southbelt Hike & Bike Trail  

Never heard of this south Houston gem? The out-and-back path follows a flood-retention gulch through Clear Brook, with loads of coastal birds and three shady parks along the way. It’s an ideal trail for families with youngsters, dog walkers, or anyone doing long-slow-distance training. Start at Dixie Farm Road Park, where you’ll find bathrooms, covered exercise equipment, a shaded path for walkers, and a retention basin perfect for peeling off quick mile repeats, but do bring your own water bottle if you’re going long.

3.75+ miles | Bathrooms | Water fountains   

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