When I moved to Houston, I was pleasantly surprised to find solace in some of the hikes listed here. These hikes are a great way to escape the concrete jungle until your next trip to Big Bend or Guadalupe. although I wasn’t always prepared, it was always great to get outside. I was tempted not to bring basic hiking necessities because I knew I was in the 4th-largest city in the U.S., so please learn from my folly: be prepared and stay cool!
When to go
The fall, winter, and spring are the best options to beat the heat. The summer may offer the occasional cooler day, so be prepared to take advantage. Consider hiking in the morning or evening. always remember to hydrate well, especially when it’s hot. Heed my warning: my first hike of only 4 miles resulted in dehydration since it was over 100 degrees at the time.
Sun protection! Sunscreen and a hat are a must. If hiking in the summer, extra water is also critical. Bug spray will also help, as many of these hikes are near water where mosquitoes breed.
Best hiking near Houston
1. Memorial Park
The biggest park is the logical place to start hiking. Located minutes from downtown, the former Army training camp for WWI soldiers is named in their memory. This easy 2.5-mile loop follows the Purple Trail beneath native pine and elm trees. You’ll meander beside and over several small streams with some possible bird sightings. The elevation gain is minimal here and the hike is very easy, but there are the occasional small hills. Use the Red Trail to loop back to your car for a total of 2.5 miles. Distance: 2.5 miles - easy Trailhead Location: Pick up the Purple Trail near the Ball Fields. Parking, restrooms, and water. 29.764786, -95.440278
2. Spring Creek Greenway
This hidden gem is an incredible hiking option just north of downtown. Walking along the sandy banks of Spring Creek, you may forget that you are so close to the city. If you need to pick up someone at the airport, consider going a few hours early to get some fresh air. The best section of the Greenway is located between Dennis Johnston Park and the Jesse H. Jones Park and Nature Center. This 12-mile stretch features sandy beaches and huge bald cypress trees from another time. Park at the Jesse H. Jones Park and Nature Center (20634 Kenswick Drive) and hike towards Dennis Johnston Park. You can get a shuttle or hike only part of the way. Plans are underway to extend the trail system that now totals over 30 miles. Return the way you came if you do not have a ride back to your car. Distance: 12 miles - easy Trailhead Location: Use the Spring Creek Trail and hike west. Return along the same trail. 30.0237147,-95.2948545
3. Buffalo Bayou Trail
This former eyesore is now a thriving destination for outdoor enthusiasts. While the trail is paved, it represents an environmental triumph. There is ample parking at the Dairy Ashford Road lot just south of Memorial Drive. Hike east for 2.2 miles to Wilcrest Drive and return the way you came. Expect to see joggers, bikers, and other hikers. Distance: 4.4. Miles - easy Trailhead Location: Dairy Ashford Road, just south of Memorial Drive. 29.761457, -95.605571
4. Brazos Bend State Park
Located about 45 miles from downtown, this nearly 5,000-acre park has something for you: camping, fishing, and gators! A 7.5-mile loop is possible along the bluffs of the Brazos River. Expect to see deer, raccoons, alligators, migratory birds, and maybe even an armadillo. Park at the visitor center and head towards the Big Creek Bridge Trail (0.5 miles) and continue onto the Bayou Trail for 1.4 miles and the Sawmill Trail for 1.79 miles. Then turn south on the Riverview Trail for 2.3 miles and return via the Bluestem Trail and Big Creek Bridge Trail. If you didn’t see a gator on this hike, head to the Elm Lake viewing platform. Distance: 7.5 miles - easy Trailhead Location: Brazos Bend State Park visitor center address is 21901 FM 762 Rd, Needville, TX 77461. 29.375092, -95.596844
5. Galveston Island State Park
If you’re more of a beach bum, go hike a dune! This state park is only an hour from Houston and worth it to escape for a little while. There are a few hiking options in the park, but a great 2.7-mile loop gets you a nice view of the wetlands, bay, and birds. Park at the Clapper Rail Trailhead and use that trail to cross over the water to the Heron’s Walk Trail and Egret Loop. When you return over the bridge, turn right on Clapper Rail Loop and add on the Caracara Trail loop back to the car. This will allow close inspection of both high and low marshes of Spartina and Juncus. Distance: 2.7 miles - easy Trailhead Location: The Clapper Rail Trail is about 10 miles west of the end of I-45 on Galveston Island just off Park Road 66. 29.200656, -94.962025
6. Big Thicket National Preserve
Turkey Creek Unit - Turkey Creek Trail Located about 90 miles from Houston, this place is out there! You will probably not see any other hikers, but could easily see raccoon, armadillo, and turkey. The shade of the oak trees is essential as you hike along the gently flowing Turkey Creek. The entire section of trail is 14.5 miles long between FM 1943 and FM 420, but there are two road crossings in between, so a variety of trail lengths are possible. A bicycle shuttle is practical here, since there is little elevation gain on the road or trail. If you didn’t bring two cars or a bike, or arrange a shuttle, return the way you came. Distance: 14.5 miles - moderate Trailhead Location: 4 miles east of Warren, TX on FM 1943. Hike south for 14.5 miles to FM 420. 30.619822, -94.356704