13 Underrated Hikes Near Houston That We'll Be Taking This Fall
Lace up for scenic treks through the great outdoors, all within driving distance of Bayou City.
People don’t usually come to Houston specifically to hike. We get it. Our city—while actually under-the-radar kinda pretty—is flat AF. But don’t take that to mean there aren’t some pretty epic natural escapes within spitting distance (and by spitting distance, we mean around two hours or less from the city). Our local topography is a vast network of marshes, forested land, swamps, and prairies just begging to be unearthed. All you need to do is pack some water and hiking gear, pick up some Bucee’s jerky on the way if you know what’s good for you, and explore these awesome day-trip-worthy treks.
Looking for scenic trails to conquer within the city limits? We’ve got those, too, including Buffalo Bayou Park and Terry Hershey Park, among other beauts.
Distance from Houston: 32 miles
If you don’t believe Houston is pretty, head up to the lush ‘hoods surrounding Lake Houston. It’s over on the northern edge of the lake that you’ll find the heavily forested nearly 5,000-acre expanse known as Lake Houston Wilderness Park. A slice of serenity just a quick ride from the Big City, the park rocks overnight camping opportunities and 20-plus miles of trails to get lost (hopefully metaphorically) in.
Distance from Houston: 65 miles
Immerse yourself in the East Texas Pineywoods at this 2,000-plus acre state park and you’ll forget all about whatever’s feeding your latest anxiety nightmare. It’s a doable little piece of the much larger Sam Houston National Forest (more on that later), dominated by gorgeous loblolly pine and shortleaf pine trees, brimming with 218 species of birds, animal friends from white-tailed deer to armadillos—plus some alligators on the lake that may or may not spike that anxiety but not if you keep your distance—and winding trails for both beginner and experienced hikers.
Distance from Houston: 85 miles
Ride east to Beaumont to discover the 500-acre Tyrrell Park, which sports an easy 2.8 mile trail, houses the easy-on-the-eyes Beaumont Botanical Gardens, and sits adjacent the 900-acre Cattail Marsh Nature Area, where you’ll find 12 miles of hiking trails to explore and a scenic boardwalk jetting into a marsh that makes for a zen stopping point.
Distance from Houston: 26 miles
Did you know one of the country's largest urban wilderness preserves sits right over in the Bay Area? That’d be the Armand Bayou Nature Center, in all of its 2,500-acre glory. Break a sweat on the five miles of introspective trails, try out the guided night hikes and bat hikes, or just visit to get some steps in amongst the ‘dillos and gators.
Distance from Houston: 130 miles
Named for (most likely) the only Davy Crockett you know, this East Texas national forest spans over 160,000 acres within the Neches and Trinity River basins, rocking sky-scraping pines, boggy swamps, and primo hiking trails (including one for horseback riders). Gear up for the 20-mile-long Four C National Recreation Trail off Ratcliff Lake, or head out to the hardwood-draped Big Slough Wilderness area.
Distance from Houston: 135 miles
One of four national forests in the Lone Star State, Angelina offers more than 153,000 acres of gently rolling terrain right on the shores of the 114,500-acre Sam Rayburn Reservoir (fishing enthusiasts take note). Longleaf pine, loblolly, and shortleaf pine trees provide much-needed shade throughout the expanse. Stretch your legs along the five-and-a-half-mile Sawmill Hiking Trail, where a spur near the middle leads to an abandoned sawmill site.
Distance from Houston: 45 miles
Cruise less than an hour southwest to find this diamond in the rough, known for the awe-inspiring George Observatory plus 37 miles of trails to rev you up for exploring the galaxy. A blend of marsh, prairie, and woodland topography provides the stage for a boatload of wildlife—which most definitely includes gators, so brush up on your safety tips before you go.
Distance from Houston: 75 miles
The East Texas Piney Woods are home to the 130-square-mile Lake Livingston and this surrounding 632-acre park. While fishing is an obvious pastime here, the leisurely trails offer equal amounts of serenity. Try the easy-peasy Oak Flat Trail, go deeper into the woods on the Fó:Si Trail, or hangout with the woodpeckers along the two-mile Bakba Trail.
Distance from Houston: 60 miles
Yes, that Galveston Island. The 2,000-acre state park replete with wetlands, sand dunes, and coastal prairies is actually quite beautiful. Plus, the resident wildlife—from armadillos and coyotes to an impressive mosaic of birds—is on fleek (because if eyebrows could ever be considered “on fleek,” so, too, can a marsh rabbit).
Distance from Houston: 50 miles
A mere 50 miles north of Houston lies this massive 163,000-acre national forest, stretching over three counties and showing evidence of human occupation dating back 12,000 years. Channel your inner Indiana Jones by hitting the winding 128-mile Lone Star Hiking Trail.
Distance from Houston: 90 miles
Described as "one of the most biodiverse areas outside the tropics," this heavily forested area boasts over 100 species of trees and shrubs alongside 1,000 species of flowering plants and ferns. Head here to hike, bird-watch, and scare the crap out of yourself every time you step on a twig and think it’s a snake—the park plays host to all four groups of North American venomous snakes.
Distance from Houston: 50 miles
For a bit of isolation without the travel, venture out to this peaceful 12-acre park located just outside of town on the Brazos River. The site is home to Texas’ first colony, where Stephen F. Austin—a.k.a. Big Daddy (okay, fine, a.k.a. The Father of Texas)—settled with the Old Three Hundred under a contract with the Mexican government. Relive fourth grade Texas history class on the six-mile hike and bike trail, then bounce over to a Taco Cabana to relive it all again on the way home.
Distance from Houston: 130 miles
This 660-acre getaway (which is literally rising from the ashes after sustaining forest fire and flood damage in recent years) is home to the famous Lost Pines. The 13-mile forest containing 18,000-year-old loblolly pines and hardwoods is over 100 miles from the Piney Woods, which covers nearly 55,000-square-miles of East Texas, Southern Arkansas, Western Louisiana, and Southeastern Oklahoma. Get exploring, and be sure to snag a few panoramic selfies at stunning lookout points like Fehr’s Overlook.