Although Houston may seem like a sprawling concrete jungle with little nature for humans to retreat into, you would be wrong.
The city actually has a number of urban parks within its boundaries. And a little further afield there are national parks as well as nature and wildlife reserves.
These locations are top spots for hikers who want to feel the earth under their feet, and offer either single, or multi day trips away from the city.
So here are 15 beautiful places to go hiking in and around Houston, Texas.
15 Places To Go Hiking In And Around Houston
Buffalo Bayou Park
Located directly west of the central business district in downtown, Buffalo Bayou Park is one of Houston’s most popular walking spots. It is the jewel in the crown of a $30 million city revitalization, and has won national acclaim.
Walkers can head out alone, or with company taking the different bridges that are roughly 0.5 miles apart, while using Allen Parkway as a guideline for orientation.
One of Buffalo Bayou Park’s most popular trails is a 5.6 mile loop starting at downtown and takes you to Shepherd Street Bridge to the west.
This loop runs down both sides of Buffalo Bayou, meaning scenic views of the city’s skyscrapers in downtown. As you walk you also go past lawn areas and bridges, which mix things up nicely.
For excellent tree-top views of Buffalo Bayou and the city skyline, cross Rosemont Bridge at the loop’s midpoint.
And if you want to see a cool display of bats, head to Waugh Drive Bridge at sunset where there is always a strong chance of seeing thousands of them.
The trail paths have a lane for pedestrians, and also one for cyclists, so be wary of this. And to rehydrate on your walk you will find several water fountains along the route.
These come in really handy as the trail has a few fills, so you can build up a sweat.
Well lit after the sun goes down, walkers have the option of journeying out at night. And there’s a pleasant walk through the Montrose neighborhood, which also connects to the White Oak Bay Trail.
Lone Star Hiking Trail
The Lone Star Hiking Trail is Texas’ longest continuous footpath, allowing hikers to journey 96 miles. And if you also include the 5 loop trails, then the total distance goes up to 128 miles.
The majority of the trail is within the boundaries of Sam Houston National Forest.
The western endpoint is close to Richards, roughly 70 miles to the northwest of Houston, and 40 miles east of College Station, which is also the home of Texas A&M University.
If you come out to the eastern end-point, you’ll find yourself near Cleveland, Texas.
Between the west and east endpoints, the trail takes a turn for the north until reaching the midway mark. Then it goes south across flat, easy terrain which includes paved roads. And one of these roads mirrors the I-45.
The Lone Star Hiking Trail is a medley of ecosystems, and contains many swampy areas and pine forests.
Hikers can enjoy passing through different habitats and the variety of nature which they support. And in springtime, burns are scheduled to remove the dead matter and keep the forest healthy and thriving.
Depending on your walking speed, the entire trail can be done in less than a week. However, this is around the average time which people do it in.
An escape from the city within the city, Memorial Park is one of Houston’s best loved hiking areas. Many consider Memorial Park to be Houston’s best urban park ground.
It is twice the size of New York’s famous Central Park, and started out as a WWI training camp in the early 20th century.
After the war, the park’s name was changed to Memorial to honor those who lost their lives during the conflict.
There are 10 miles of multi-use trails which serve hikers, mountain bikers, and runners alike. And along with the 10 mile of multi use trails, there is also a 3 mile running loop.
Everyone who hikes the trails at Memorial Park gets great nature viewings. The area is populated with various flora and fauna, and can make you feel far removed from Houston’s busy metropolis.
The park is located just under 5 miles from the city center, just inside of the 620 west of downtown.
As Memorial Park attracts runners and cyclists along with its hikers, it can get pretty busy. However, there is plenty of parking for those coming by car.
George Mitchell Nature Preserve, The Woodlands
Head out on an adventure at The George Mitchell Nature Preserve in The Woodlands. There are 220 mile of hiking and bike trails, as well as 150 parks throughout the township.
And the massive 1,800 acre George Mitchel Nature Reserve within the area is a visitor favorite for all the outdoor recreation activities you can do.
Hike the two miles, and watch out for birds migrating, as well as a host of other wildlife.
The preserve is part of the Montgomery Country Spring Creek Greenway, which is currently under development.
The project will connect up to 12,000 acres of forest that surround Spring Creek, which is located to the North of Houston.
To access the George Mitchell Nature Reserve, head to the Flintridge Drive trailhead, near The Recreation Center in Rob Fleming Park.
You will find Houston Arboretum on the western edge of Memorial Park. Its full name is Houston Arboretum and Nature Center, and offers city dwellers an exciting opportunity to experience nature.
It is 155 acres in total, and a nature sanctuary. And there are educational programs there to help Houstonians of all ages understand the natural environment.
Houston Arboretum is a beautiful hiking area, and also a highly underrated one within the Houston area. There are 5 miles of trails that connect the park.
And the longest one is a 1.76 mile long loop going all the way around the entire area. Whilst walking the loop you can see several bird species, as well as local varieties of plants.
Other hikes within the Arboretum network include a bird trail, a wildflower trail, along with a host of other forested and shady paths. There is also a concrete section which provides access to visitors with disabilities.
The park has a number of trails which are currently going through renovation. This is a part of the overall area plan, and is worth keeping up to date on to plan future hikes.
Lake Houston Wilderness Park
Lake Houston Wilderness park (LHWP) is a picturesque, green, 5000 acre forest expanse. It is situated around 30 miles north of Houston, and just 3 miles east of New Caney, just off Highway 59.
The majority of the park is covered with forest, and over 20 miles of hiking trails allow you to get lost among the lush woods.
By combining the Forest, North River, and South River Trails, you can walk a round-trip seven miles to the San Jacinto River.
The route will take you over Peach Creek, and passes through woods where magnolias, pines, as well as other trees grow.
Along with these tree species, you can also see intricate species such as the American beautyberry and hummingbird.
There is plenty of mileage to hike at Lake Houston Wilderness Park. And luckily, it happens to be the only park in Houston’s park network which allows overnight camping.
Hiking aside, visitors can also cycle and kayak, and if staying in a tent is not your thing, then you can rent one of the cabins.
This North Houston hikers park is a beautiful 500 acres nestled with plenty of forest. It is one of the shortest hiking trails in the Houston area park network, but the vast tree coverage makes it an adventurous place to spend a few hours exploring.
It is nestled with pines, and around 140 acres of the park have been dedicated to old-growth trees.
When done with walking, you can learn about Keith-Weiss Park’s rich history. In the late 1970’s The Elkins couple deeded the 500 acres to the City of Houston to be turned into the park.
Mrs Elkin’s father was Harry Weiss, who was the president of the Humble Oil and Refining Company.
And her mother was Olga Weiss, an heiress to a timbre empire whose charitable actions saw grants donated to all kinds of health, educational, recreational, and historical institutions within Texas.
Finally, along with being a great hiking location, Keith Weiss Park serves the city as a flood barrier.
After the 2001 floods caused by tropical Storm Allison, the city decided to use 111 acres of the park for detention ponds. These capture excessive amounts of water and slowly release it into the Bayou area after floods have passed.
White Oak Bayou Greenway
One of Houston’s newest hiking trail areas, White Oak Bayou Greenway is a lengthy off-road trail, and it forms a greenway alongside one of the city’s bayous.
Beginning at The University of Houston Downtown, the trail runs northwest for 15 miles until West Little Oak Park.
It is a paved trail, and passes through a flurry of parks. These include Woodland, Stude, TC Jester, Watonga Parkway. Along with the parks, it also goes through the historic communities of Heights and Woodland Heights.
For the most part, the trail is tranquil and green, but there are some sections which are a little less scenic, mainly due to industry.
The trail is still under development, but what has already been completed is well signposted. And this directs hikers to landmarks located nearby.
White Oak Bayou Greenway is a part of a greater vision to make Houston accessible for pedestrians by foot or bike, and development of the greenspace continues.
Terry Hershey Park
Terry Hershey park is a smaller Houston green space that holds a special place in the hearts of naturists. It is named after Terry Hershey, a conservationist who passionately campaigned to stop the banks of the Buffalo Bayou from being paved.
There is a network of trials for hikers to enjoy. They run along the bayou from State Highway 6 all the way to the Sam Houston Tollway.
In total there are around 10 miles of trails, and nature loving hikers will be in their element. A good part of the 10 miles are located in wooded settings, and the park’s natural diversity is perfect nesting ground for many Gulf Coast birds.
As well as hiking, the park is renowned for cycling trails. So if you want to give your feet a rest, hop on the saddle and get those legs pumping.
Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge
Located near Angleton, Brazoria, and Clute, Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge is a hiking and wildlife lover’s dream.
There are several footpaths for walkers to choose from, which each lead to a wide variety of natural habitats.
Some of the trails include the half-mile Big Slough, which has boardwalks over the slough and wildlife observation platforms. And the two-mile Middle Bayou.
This trail is an elevated trail, and it follows an abandoned railway through a rare bluestem coastal prairie.
Whichever trail you choose, none are too taxing, and the terrain is mostly flat, so no need to bring bags of supplies. A small day bag with some water and snacks will be fine.
As tempting as it might be, wandering away from the trails is not a good idea. There is a diverse range of wildlife at the refuge, and not everything wants to be your friend.
Alligators lurk in the watery areas, to whom humans could make a tasty snack. And poisonous snakes slither through the taller grasses. Bumping into either of these could spoil a nice day of hiking!
If after your hike you fancy seeing a little more of the refuge area but not on foot, there is also a 7.5 mile driving tour. This circles the large ponds, and shows you the reserve from a different perspective.
The Discovery Center has all of the information about hiking and tours, so make sure to stop there at the start of your day to know what’s what.
Armand Bayou Nature Center
The first thing to know about going to hike at Armand Bayou Nature Center is that it is not free to enter unless you are 3 years of age or younger. children are charged $4, and adults $6.
The second thing to know about Armand Bayou Nature center, is that paying the fee is well worth it.
The nature center is located in Pasadena, 25 miles southeast of Houston, and boasts 2,500 acres of reserve. The center is primarily for families to learn about urban wilderness conservation.
But it is also a great day out from Houston for hikers and people who like to nature-watch.
Within 2,500 acres there are 5 miles of hiking trails. These are surrounded by close to 400 different species of animals and thousands of plant life.
If you are worried that going it alone means that you will not learn as much about the reserve, then you can book a guided tour.
The tour includes visiting a bat cave, and here you can watch the winged critters swoop around.
Brazos Bend State Park
Brazos Bend State Park is known to be one of the coolest in the Houston area. It is roughly 45 minutes from downtown Houston.
The park is full with all kinds of wildlife, including various species of birds, mammals, and reptiles living here. These include armadillos, racoons, river otters, alligators, and butterflies.
And it features part of coastal prairie, a bottomland forest, wetlands, lakes, and marshlands.
In total there are a decent 37 miles of trails to be hiked. For a milder trek, combine the Pilant Slough Trail, the Elm Lake, and the 40 Acre Lake Trails.
Combined these make up a scenic 4 miles that pass around the park’s shallow lakes. The route also goes by three separate observation decks, and there is a high chance of alligator sightings.
Brazos Bend State Park really is a great park for those who can spend all day walking and watching animals.
Just be warned that the park has a maximum capacity. And if this is reached, then staff will not allow anybody else to enter. So it is a good idea to contact the visitor center beforehand.
Martin Dies Jr. State Park
About halfway between Houston and the border with Louisiana, Martin Dies Jr Park is mainly pine woods.
To get to the park, head northeast from Houston for 2 hours, and 60 miles north past Beaumont you will find it.
There are 6 trails for hikers to dig their feet into, and these range from 0.29 to 2.24 miles in length. This means that the park is great for hikers of all ages, especially those with little legs which tire easily.
Martin Dies is also a great park to learn about species of trees which are native to the region. And aside from pine, you can find cypress and beech trees.
As well as varied tree-life, there is also a wide range of animals. These include racoons, white tail deer, and bobcats.
The forest is vast and hikers can get lost for hours exploring. And if you fancy extending your trip, then pitch your tent, as you can camp here.
And as well as hiking, there is fishing, swimming, volleyball, and at night stargazing to enjoy.
Sam Houston National Forest
Sitting pretty 50 miles north of Houston we have one of four of Texas’ national forests.
Sam Houston National forest connects the towns of Huntsville, Cleveland, and Richards, and features extensive hiking trails. The most popular of these is the Lone Star Hiking Trail which we previously mentioned.
Trails are marked with aluminum so that hikers do not get lost. And close by you will often find camping sites to pitch tents for the night.
Lake Conroe is also within the park, and means that you can also kayak and stand up paddleboard during your visit.
Galveston Island State Park
About an hour away from Houston we have Galveston Island State Park. It is not the usual place that comes to mind when thinking about going for a hike in the Houston area, but it should be.
With 15 miles of trails, it offers great coastal walks, and plenty of wildlife viewing. Herons and pelicans are common, as are other species of coastal birds.
Make sure to wear your good walking boots, because the trials are long. And they offer views of beaches, wetlands, dunes, estuaries, brackish and fresh-water ponds.
Some of the trails also lead to paddling sites. At these you can hop on the water with a canoe, kayak, or a paddleboard.
For anyone 13 years of age and older, there is a $5 fee to enter Galveston Island State Park. And as this is paid daily, a multiday trip will tally up the fees.
- How to add a water bottle holder to a hiking backpack - May 3, 2022
- Hydration Bladders 101: Tips for Buying and Maintaining - May 2, 2022
- What to Wear When Hiking – Guide for Any and Every Season - April 23, 2022