Many people might think of Houston as a huge, industrial sprawl in a flat, swampy area of Texas. While that stereotype is somewhat true, there are tons of lesser-known hidden spots to find nature in and around the city. For locals and visitors alike, there are several places to go hiking in Houston and the surrounding areas if you look hard enough. To help you start your search, we compiled a list of the best Houston hiking trails that will speak to your soul if you love hiking as much as we do!
Places to Go Hiking in Houston
1. Buffalo Bayou Park
Buffalo Bayou Park is one of Houston’s most iconic parks, and is located just outside of downtown. The park boasts fabulous skyline views of the city, a unique underground cistern you can visit, and several trails that wind around the park. Filled with industrial bridges, tons of trees and plants, and the flowing Buffalo Bayou, it’s a perfect spot for urban hiking in Houston.
There’s a 4.8-mile loop in the park that’s popular with runners, bikers, and hikers, that offers up beautiful skyline views and lots of greenery. Additionally, the Buffalo Bayou Trail extends through the park for 15 miles, and is a popular spot for hikers, bikers, and runners. From end to end, this paved trail also passes through a handful of other parks, forested areas, and waterways, so if you’re up for a longer hike, you won’t be bored.
2. Memorial Park
To the west of downtown Houston lies the quiet, family-friendly neighborhood of Memorial. Filled with giant, grandiose homes and large corporate complexes, Memorial is a popular place to live and work. Its namesake park, Memorial Park, is filled with gravel pathways that are a popular hiking trail with Houston inhabitants.
Gravel paths and wooded areas characterize the park’s 2.88 mile loop trail. In the evenings and weekends, you’ll find that there are several other friendly neighbors out in the park hiking, biking, or playing games in the nearby fields.
3. Houston Arboretum
Located in the Memorial Park area as well, the Houston Arboretum is one of the most underrated and beautiful spots for hiking in Houston. There’s a 5-mile network of trails that connect the park, with the longest being a 1.76-mile loop around the entire park. Here, you can find several local plant species and birds in a very serene conservation area.
Head to the Houston Arboretum for the day and while away the hours hiking through the many different trails in the area, including a birding trail, a wildflower trail, and many more forested, shady paths.
Note: Houston Arboretum charges a $5 parking fee, except on Thursdays. Visit here for more information.
4. White Oak Bayou Trail
As one of the longest continuous trails in Houston, the White Oak Bayou Trail extends nearly 17 miles through some of the most beautiful areas of Houston. Situated between Rice Military and The Heights, it’s perfectly located in a stretch of greenery alongside the quiet White Oak Bayou. Of course, there are also several overpasses to remind you you’re still in the fourth largest city in the United States, but otherwise, it’s a quiet and peaceful spot to go long-distance running in Houston.
The trails on White Oak Bayou are paved, and you’ll often see walkers and bikers on the trails alongside you. Bring lots of water if you’re heading out for a longer run, as there aren’t many water fountains along the way.
5. Terry Hershey Hiking Trail
Situated in the green, wooded neighborhood of Memorial, the Terry Hershey Hike and Bike Trail is a local favorite. With over 10 miles of trails, this hiking and running path is perfect for those wanting to get out of the downtown areas without going too far outside of the city.
At Terry Hershey Park, a mixture of gravel and paved paths will greet you, and the tree cover provides shade from the hot Houston sun.
6. Lake Houston Wilderness Park
For a simple and picturesque getaway from Houston, head north about 30 minutes to Lake Houston Wilderness Park, a 4,000+ acre wilderness area with lots of trails and activities to try. There’s wildlife, kayaking, and camping available here, as well as several miles of gravel trails to explore, perfect for a weekend of hiking in Houston.
The most popular and scenic trail in Lake Houston Wilderness Park is the Ameri-Trail Forest Loop, a 9.6-mile loop that passes by a lake and some quiet forest areas. It’s dog-friendly and close to campsites in the area in case you’d like to extend your stay.
Note: This park is currently closed on Tuesdays.
7. Armand Bayou Nature Center
For a fun, immersive experience in nature, Houston’s Armand Bayou Nature Center is a wonderful spot for hiking, wildlife watching, and more. The center is home to over 370 species of local wildlife, which you can see from one of its 5 miles of trails and hiking areas. While it’s meant to be a family-friendly learning center and urban wilderness conservation, it’s great for avid hikers who enjoy wildlife and bird spotting.
The center offers guided hikes and tours of its grounds, including a bat hike to see local bat species flying through the sky.
Note: The nature center is only open Wednesday-Sunday. There is a $6 fee for adults and a $4 fee for kids.
8. Brazos Bend State Park
Brazos Bend is one of the coolest and most beautiful state parks in the Houston area, located just 45 minutes from downtown. With its wide variety of wildlife, including various species of birds, mammals, and reptiles, you can find some of the best hikes in Houston here.
There are 37 miles of trails in Brazos Bend State Park, with several designated hikes around the premises, including Elm Lake Loop Trail, and the 40 Acre Lake Trail.
Places to Go Hiking Near Houston
9. Galveston Island State Park
While most people don’t think of hiking and state parks during a trip to Galveston, it’s actually a fantastic place for coastal hikes in Houston. With 15 miles of trails, it’s great for viewing wildlife, especially coastal birds like herons and pelicans. Because it’s only 10 miles away from the city of Galveston, it’s fairly easy to access by car.
Hike one of the many trails, that take you to wetlands and other coastal ecosystems. Alternatively, you can hike some of the trails that lead up to paddling sites where you can take off on a canoe, kayak, or paddleboard.
Note: Due to renovations, the beachside area of the park is closed until 2022. For more information, check here.
10. Martin Dies Jr. State Park
Located near the border of Louisiana, Martin Dies Jr. State Park consists primarily of piney woods. It’s 60 miles north of the city of Beaumont, and it is a lovely place for a hiking getaway near Houston. With its prime location at the convergence of the Neches and Angelina Rivers, there are 6 hiking trails in the park ranging from 0.29 to 2.24 miles in length.
Martin Dies Jr. State Park is great for learning about the different trees native to this region of Texas, including beech, pine, cypress trees and magnolias. Take a hike to see several areas of the rivers and forests, or extend your weekend into a full camping and hiking expedition.
Note: For information on park closures, check here.
11. Sam Houston National Forest
As one of the four national forests in the state, Sam Houston National Forest lies 50 miles north of Houston. The forest connects the towns of Huntsvile, Cleveland, and Richards, and is full of wooded hiking trails you can explore. Because it’s so close to the city, Sam Houston National Forest is a perfect spot to go hiking near Houston if you’re looking for shady, mossy forests and quiet tranquility.
One long hiking trail, the Lone Star Hiking Trail, passes through the entire forest for a whopping 128 miles. On a trip to the forest, you can enjoy piney woods, or pair your trip with a jaunt to Lake Conroe for kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, or other water sports.
Note: Forest roads and recreation areas have been affected by excess rain. The multiple use trail is currently closed due to storm damage. Be cautious and always check the conditions before visiting. For more information, visit here.
12. Lake Livingston State Park
Lake Livingston State Park is a large park surrounding a peaceful, forested lake. Just one hour north of Houston, it’s a great way to escape the city for a day trip or a weekend hiking getaway. Each of the hiking trails range from 0.3 to 2 miles, with nearly 6 miles of total trails.
Here, you’ll find quiet forest paths, and if you look or listen closely, you can pinpoint plenty of woodpeckers who call the area home. Enjoy the beautiful Lake Livingston shoreline on your hikes while enjoying the beautiful nature of the park.
Note: The park is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays every season except for the summer. Additionally, for those 13 and older, there is a $5 fee to enter.
13. Big Thicket
Not far from Martin Dies Jr. State Park lies Big Thicket Park, a large, forested sanctuary that is home to lots of local wildlife and unique plant life. In the park, you can see carnivorous marsh plants, turtles, and alligators, as much of the park is comprised of a marshy, tropical terrain. There are over 84,000 acres in the park, making it one of the most massive expanses on our list.
Within the 40 miles of trails ranging from 0.3 to 18 miles, you can come hiking here whether you’re a beginner or an experienced hiker. As one of the most biodiverse areas in the world outside of the tropics, you won’t have a shortage of things to see and do in Big Thicket!
Note: As of May 2021, the Lakeview Sandbar and Day-Use Area are closed indefinitely. For more information on closures, visit here.
14. Stephen F. Austin Park
Located on the banks of the Brazos River, Stephen F. Austin Park is a beloved recreation area located just 50 miles west of Houston. For history buffs, Stephen F. Austin Park is also the site of the original Anglo-American colony in Texas. Because the park has 5 miles of short and easy trails, it’s great for families with kids or those who want a short, leisurely hike through the forest and riverside.
Note: As of June 2021, all trails are closed due to storm damage. However, the park remains open. Check here for more information on park closures. Additionally, there is a $4 fee for adults to enter.
15. Bastrop State Park
Located in the Lost Pines area, Bastrop State Park is an area that has frequently been ravaged by forest fires and floods. As a result, the terrain and scenery here consists of tree stalks dotted with tropical ferns and other unique plant species.
Within the park, you’ll find short trails, with two longer, historic cart paths that span 5 miles. For more experienced hikers, we’d recommend the more challenging Lost Pines loop trail, a 5-mile trail that winds through the hilly and rocky surroundings. Additionally, there are several historic old cabins on-site, where you can stay overnight to extend your trip.
Note: As of July 2021, the Orange Trail, lake dam, and cabins/cabin areas are closed. Check here for more information on park closures. Additionally, there is a $5 fee to enter unless you’re under 13 or a disabled veteran.
Additional Resources for Hiking Near Houston
What to Bring
- Breathable hiking clothes – For warmer hikes, you’ll want to stay cool in a sweat-wicking shirt/tank top and breathable pants, like these Patagonia hiking shorts for men and women. For cold-weather hikes, we recommend dressing in layers, including merino wool baselayers for men and women, a down puffer jacket for men and women, and a Northface waterproof outer shell for men and women. And don’t forget a pair of the best women’s and men’s hiking socks in the world! For more information, check out our guides to hiking shorts for men and women and our top tips and gear for hiking in winter.
- Trekking poles – You won’t need these for every single hike, but we suggest throwing them in your car just in case. We recommend the Black Diamond Trail Ergo cork trekking poles, which are lightweight, easy to transport, and durable. For more information, check out our guide to the best trekking poles.
- Water bottle – Having water available at all times is a huge must. To limit disposable plastic, we recommend bringing your own refillable water bottle. We’re obsessed with Hydro Flask water bottles because they keep water cold for hours.
- Sunscreen and bug spray – This should be self-explanatory, but sweatproof sunscreen and DEET bug spray can help you avoid sunburn and bug bites, two of hiking’s most annoying after-effects. Our favorite kind of sunscreen is Sun Bum, as it is free of harsh chemicals and safe for marine life, including coral reefs.
- A brimmed hat or cap – The sun can be brutal in open hikes, so always pack a brimmed hat or cap for day hikes in the sunshine.
- Emergency blanket and first aid kit – We’d strongly recommend bringing a first aid kit and a lightweight emergency blanket on every hike. Why? Because the unfathomable can happen, and it’s always best to play it safe.
- Durable day pack – A durable day pack is the perfect spot to stash all your hiking gear. While any backpack will do, we recommend the Osprey Tempest 20 or the Talon 22 day packs because they’re comfortable and breathable for long hikes. For more information, check out our best day packs for any terrain guide.
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