If you are like my family, with the closure of playgrounds and community pools so far this summer, you might be moving hiking, or “walking in the woods” as my toddler says, to the top of your outdoor activities. One of my favorite things about the Houston area is the wide variety of ways to immerse yourself in nature, often just minutes from the city. Whether you are in the mood for hiking, a family bike ride, fishing, or even camping, there is something for everyone.
Looking to explore in your area? Check out the All Trails App which lets you explore outdoor spaces by location, difficulty level, and even sort for ones that are kid friendly.
Conroe: W. G. Jones State Forest is one of the largest working urban forests in the nation, and is a part of the Texas A&M Forest Service. Fifteen miles of trails are available for hiking and horseback riding, and downloadable maps and geocaching guides can be found on their website.
Cypress: Zube Park is a must see spot in the Cypress area. The park has trails for hiking and biking, as well as a picnic area, and 18 hole disc golf course.
Little Cypress Creek Preserve has 57 acres of interactive trails to explore along Cypress Creek.
Downtown: Buffalo Bayou Hike and Bike Trail has 20 miles of hiking and biking trails winding through the city from Shepard Drive through Downtown to the East End.
White Oak Bayou Greenway is 17 miles of hike and bike trails connecting White Oak Bayou in Northwest Houston, and Buffalo Bayou Downtown. This trail also intersects with the Houston Heights Hike and Bike Trail.
Humble: Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center is a 312 acre nature preserve with eight miles of paved pedestrian trails accessing the beaches along Spring Creek, and canoe launch. The park also has several primitive trails, and connects to the larger trails system of Spring Creek Greenway.
Huntsville: Huntsville State Park is a bit of a drive, but can be a great day trip for the family. With 21 miles of trails for hiking and biking, a lake for fishing, canoe/kayaking or swimming, and overnight camping options, you could easily turn this into a weekend trip. Passes must be reserved in advance online or by phone.
Katy: Terry Hershey Park has 496 acres in the heart of Houston with 12 miles of trails for hiking and biking, fishing, canoe launch, a butterfly and wildflower garden, and picnic areas.
George Bush Park has 7800 acres and 11.36 miles of trails for hiking or biking. The park also has a lake for fishing, equestrian trail, shooting range, and a model airplane airport. Fields for soccer and baseball and a dog park bring something for every member of the family to enjoy.
Kingwood: Alexander Deussen Park overlooks Lake Houston and has 309 acres to enjoy. The park has hiking trails, a boat launch, multipurpose fields, and a gazebo built over the water on the lake.
Livingston: Lake Livingston State Park is an hour north of Houston, and offers trails, biking, hiking, swimming, fishing, boating, and camping. Fishing enthusiasts, Lake Livingston is known for its white bass population.
Memorial Park: Memorial Park Conservatory has paved hiking and biking trails, a picnic area, sports fields, and its well known color trails, which are 30 miles of color coded trails for hiking, mountain biking, and exploring the natural ecosystems of the Houston landscape.
Houston Arboretum & Nature Center is located at the southwest corner of Memorial Park, and is a non profit organization whose mission is “to provide education about the natural environment to people of all ages and to protect and enhance the Arboretum as a haven and as a sanctuary for native plants and animals”. The center has several self guided “habitat hikes” with education field stations to learn about the different plants and animals found in each habitat. The center also puts on lots of programming throughout the year for adults and children.
Needville: South of Sugarland you can find Brazos Bend State Park, a nature preserve with 37 miles of trails to explore. Some are even wheelchair friendly! Take a self guided tour, learn from exhibits, hike, bike, fish, or camp. Horses welcome. Be sure to read the alligator safety tips on their website before your adventure.
New Caney: Lake Houston Wilderness Park is a former state park now owned by the Houston Parks and Recreation department. 4786 acres of land includes 20 miles of hike and bike trails, and 13 miles of equestrian trails. The park also has camping available, and creeks for kayaking.
Pasadena: South of Houston near the Space Center, you’ll find Armand Bayou Nature Center, which has extended their hours for summer, giving you more time to explore in the cooler hours of morning or evening. The center has live animal displays, a bison viewing platform, and an 1800’s farm site for families to explore, along with trails through forest, prairie, marsh, and natural bayou habitats once common to the Houston and Galveston area.
Spring: Mercer Arboretum and Botanical Gardens is a hidden gem in the heart of Spring that is part of the Harris County Parks System. The Botanic Gardens features over 60 acres of beautifully maintained gardens with a variety of plants. Be sure to check out the children’s garden with touchable plants and all of the butterflies that visit! Across the street is the Arboretum with walking trails, ponds, and a visitors’ center.
Spring Creek Greenway Nature Center is just off of 99 and is the entrance to trails covering several nature preserves that are part of the Spring Creek Greenway, including Peckinpaugh Preserve, Spring Trails Preserve, and Old Riley Fuzzel Road Preserve.
Sugarland: Sugarland Memorial Park features 2.5 miles of hiking and biking trails, open space for sport activities, and fishing, canoeing, or kayaking in the lake.
Cullinan Park Conservancy is 754 acres of greenspace that has miles of trails to explore, and boasts lots of wildlife and opportunities for bird watching. Download their bird checklist from their website and make a day of spotting birds as a family.
Tomball: Burroughs Park is a 320 acre park with a seven acre fishing lake, trails for hiking and biking, sports fields, and pavilions.
The Woodlands: George Mitchell Preserve is part of the Spring Creek Greenway, which connects several parks and nature centers throughout Humble, Spring, and The Woodlands. The 1,700 acres has miles of hiking and biking trails, and is a great spot to get lost in the woods not too far away from the hustle and bustle of The Woodlands.
Montgomery County Nature Preserve also in The Woodlands offers bird watching, native plant observation, hiking on the trails meandering through their 71 acres. Signs throughout the preserve tell about the native flora and fauna. Download the Montgomery County Fact Sheet before you go to have a family nature scavenger hunt!
Webster: Challenger Seven Memorial Park is named for the seven astronauts who lost their lives in the Challenger space shuttle crash, and features a memorial to them. The park has trails for hiking and biking, a pond for fishing, and a boat ramp.
What outdoor spots in the Houston area are your favorites? Where does your family go to get lost in nature? Try one of the places listed, or tell us about one you’ve discovered!