Houston Hiking Advice from the Locals
Houston does have hiking! Dirt trails that twist, turn and go up and down. Surrounded by trees and running along bayous, it’s a great way to take a break from a city of 2mm people!
And the best part… they are inside the loop.
No one is saying you’re going to get hiking like Colorado or the Smokey Mountains. Houston and the surrounding area definitely has enough for you to recharge after a long week of working, drinking or sitting on your couch.
And if you go in the spring, you’ll get the added experience of wildflowers growing around you.
Despite the extra warm temperatures and occasional hurricanes you may find, the great thing about Houston is that hiking can be done almost 365 days a year, sometimes it just needs to be done a little earlier or later in the day.
The most important thing to remember when you decide to go hiking…
Tell someone where you’re going!
It’s so easy for something to go wrong… yes, even here in Houston. Here is a simple list to be more prepared for a short day hike.
- Water (last night’s activities impact your today… bring plenty of water even on short hikes. You’ll always find my 100oz bladder full in my BCG hydration pack.
- Snack – it’s easy to throw a bar or two or even some trail mix in to your bag. Don’t underestimate the amount of energy you will exert.
- Sun protection – it’s easy to think you don’t need it when you’re young, but a hat, long sleeves, sun screen and sun glasses will go along way. And the long sleeves will also help with the bugs.
- Long Pants – Protect those sexy legs with long pants. One of the few times I had my pants rolled up, I got a nasty spider bite. I had to get antibiotics and I still have a small scar from the bite. Never got bit with long pants on!
Another thing to remember about Texas weather, is that it can change dramatically in winter and early spring. We’re talking dropping 20 degrees within an hour, so make sure you don’t leave home without layers in your pack. We’ve found Smart Wool or an equivalent for a base layer in the cooler months works great, and a synthetic wicking fabric in the summer months will make a significant difference.
For your toesies, you can’t go wrong with a wool sock; a lighter version for summer and thicker version in the winter will do the trick. If you are prone to blisters, you might even purchase a sock liner to add in a little extra buffer between your shoes and socks. And, before you spend the big bucks on an expensive pair of hiking boots, check to see if you will even need them. Sneakers and Chaco sandals are sometimes more appropriate in the South. Hiking boots are best used in the mountains where you will need ankle support and protection on the bottom of your feet.
A couple of things to keep in mind when searching for your perfect shoe! First, comfort is an absolute must! If you don’t feel like you’re walking on a cloud in the store, good-luck when you’re on the trail! Typically, you’ll want to choose a half or maybe even a full size larger than your usual street shoes as your feet will swell the longer you’re on them.
Remember, having hiking boots is not a necessity in our area. In fact, you might be better off with sneakers, waterproof boots or hiking sandals for the sand and creek crossings you’re sure to encounter. Plus, it’s a lot easier to kick off shoes and sandals then boots when you’re going for a dip after a long day of walking!
Places we love to hike in and around Houston:
Huntsville State Park – The best ecosystem I think I’ve seen in the Houston area… NO Mosquitos! I’m not sure how they do but the number 1 thing that stands out to me after a hike in Huntsville is I don’t have any bites. And this is coming from someone who always gets bit! Moderately easy day hikes through lush forest surrounding Lake Raven. Find the trail head at the Nature Center.
Memorial Park – A short and simple day hike in the heart of Houston. Enjoy a 5-mile network of trails that interloop at the 155-acre center. Encounter tall pines and some small hills. Keep your eyes open for mountain bikers as it is a local favorite. Trail head begins off the Purple Trail near the Soccer/Rugby fields. Park there or park at the bike trails.
Double Lake - Just 1 hour away from Houston, findover 18 miles of new trails. A 5-mile hiking trail leads to Big Creek Scenic Area, and there is also access to the Lone Star Hiking Trail, which offers an opportunity to see the "back country" of East Texas. See the map for trail head.
Lone Star Trail - North of Houston, this 129-mile National Recreation Trail meanders through the Sam Houston National Forest. It is a great warm-up thru-hike for those wanting to undertake the Appalachian or Pacific Crest Trail one day. There are many easy-to-find trail heads, but keep in mind this atrial is primitive, so there will be no water fountains or restrooms along the way!
Brazos Bend - Can you say alligators?! You won’t finish your hike without spotting at least five. This massive park has something for everyone; the Brazos river, tree lined paths, a Nature Center, camping, wild boars and equestrian trails. Found about 28 miles southwest of Houston, it covers roughly 5,000 acres. Check the map for various trail heads.
Lake Houston - The Forest Trail, which does not feature much elevation change, is difficult due to its length as a 8.82-mile loop. It starts at the parking lot.