I live in Houston, TX. There are no mountains here. The Gulf of Mexico coast is not exactly scenic. Once you get out of the city, there are some pretty pastures that become covered in bluebonnets during the spring….. but mostly it’s just flat grasslands and the city highways around here.
I’m pretty outdoorsy. I love exploring the world around me and getting outside of my comfort zone – whether it be on my bike, running with my dog, or getting into trouble on my own two feet. Although Austin, TX has the Greenbelt area and at least real hills, it’s hard to find any sort of elevation or change in terrain here in Houston.
So how do folks around here train to climb in cycling? Well, “in the loop,” a lot of cyclists ride the man-made bridges to get some elevation. It does make a little bit of a difference, especially if you do “hill repeats” by hitting various bridges and parking garages, but it’s neither safe nor scenic.
Therefore, most drive out of the city to the nearest place with some actual hills – usually about an hour and a half drive. Bleh.
But Houston does have a saving grace: the trail system. In the past year, there have been a lot of successes in securing funding and permissions to rebuild and extend the trail system to connect throughout the city. Some of these are paved trails, but there are some good dirt and gravel trails for both running/hiking as well as mountain biking around the city. I thought I would share my (still somewhat limited) knowledge about the trails I have grown to love in my 2 years living here in Houston…
Memorial Park is centrally located, just south of I-10 and inside the 610 loop. There is a huge loop that attracts LOTS of runners every day – I know that guys always joke that that’s where to go run if you’re single, because you’re bound to run into lots of (attractive and fit) ladies. But the actual trail system where you can mountain bike as well as run is actually across the street. The trail system is mapped by different colored trails – Red, Orange, Green, etc. Each one has it’s own personality, but none of them are really that long or technical. And it’s pretty much flat. There has been an initiative to re-build the Memorial Park trail system, so I expect that they will get a little better. Also, there is an ever-popular Picnic Loop that road cyclists ride ALL the time. It’s a 1.2mile closed paved loop, making it really the safest place to get away from cars. Overall, I think Memorial Park is a little crowded, but I have used that Picnic Loop a lot, and it’s always fun to do a quick ride through the trails there. I stay away from the big runner’s loop because it’s too crowded for my taste.
Heights Bike Trail
This is a completely paved trail, but it needs to get an honorable mention on this list because I have probably used it 300 times. I lived half a block from it for a year and a half, and used it for running with my dog almost every night. It’s called a bike trail, but really everyone uses it for walking throughout the heights…there are so many stop signs that it isn’t for a speedster cyclists, more for the commuter. I will also mention that there is a gravel “trail” that shoots off of it down Heights street – it runs from I-10 up to 20th street, but it’s surrounded by trees and is a nice detour if you want a longer run.
Located in Terry Hershey park on the west side of Houston, the Anthills are a fun group of trails that run right along the bayou. And I mean right along – when we get a lot of rain or the bayou raises up, you can’t ride the inside trail. I have gotten to know the Anthills like the back of my hand, and there are some fun little jumps and downhills built in. There is also the “bowl,” a section that gets special attention from the BMXers who maintain man-made jumps to have a good time with. I always feel pretty out of place there in my kit and mountain bike, but it’s fun to hang out there and watch. Just be sure to stay out of the way :) Anthills have been my favorite trails here in Houston thus far.
So I just moved up here on the northwest side, and I have gone running in the trails that start near Stuebner-Airline and Cypresswood (on the east side of 249). Evidently there are 20 miles of mountain biking trails back there, but I’ve only run, and mostly on the paved trail that runs alongside. The area isn’t well lit at all, so it’s pretty sketchy at night. Hopefully I can hit these up on a weekend during the day.
Cypress Creek Trails
This is my most recent discovery. Located on the west side of highway 249, a good starting point is at the skate park near the intersection of Jones and Cypresswood. I took my mountain bike out here to explore, and I was very impressed by how deep the trails go. AND there is a group of folks who have been working diligently to transform the flat creek trails into actual up and downs! A guy took me into one part and I didn’t even have the confidence to make it down or up some of the areas. I am really looking forward to getting to know these trails, and they are only a couple miles from where I live now!
So that’s my little Houston trail tour for you… I know there are other trails I haven’t mentioned, but these are the ones I “know.” I can’t wait to explore more around here :) Trails are the best thing Houston has to offer for those of us who wish we lived in Colorado!
Houstonians – please share your favorite trails or outdoors adventure hotspot :)