In this article, I look at the 10 best places to run in Houston, Texas.
Buffalo Bayou Park
Start: Downtown near City Hall
Buffalo Bayou Park is located directly west of the central business district at downtown. The centerpiece of a $30 million urban revitalization plan that has won national acclaim (More info here), Buffalo Bayou Park is one of the most popular places to run in Houston. One can put together a run of varying distances, using the numerous bridges that are about 1/2 mile apart, using Allen Parkway as a guideline. Bonus: well-lit at night. About 1.5 miles south of the trail, there’s nice running in the Montrose neighborhood. Can also connect to the White Oak Bayou Trail.
A popular, pretty 5.6-mile loop runs from downtown to Shepherd Street Bridge to the west. The loop runs along both sides of Buffalo Bayou, offering scenic views of Houston’s downtown skyscrapers. You also pass by some lawn areas and bridges as you run. We recommend crossing Rosemont Bridge at the halfway point of the loop for a spectacular tree-top view of Buffalo Bayou and the Houston skyline. Paths feature one lane for cyclists and one for pedestrians and several water fountains along the route. It is a little hilly, too. Note, at Waugh Dr. is a “bat bridge”, where there are reliably at sunset, thousands of bats.
For a longer run (~11.5 miles), you can combine Buffalo Bayou with Seymour Lieberman Exercise Trail at Memorial Park. You can find an underpass at Shepherd Street Bridge which leads to a sidewalk that will get you to Memorial Park, about 1.5 miles west of the bridge. See the route here.
Start: Memorial Park Running Trails Center (7575 N. Picnic Lane)
Note: Memorial Park Running Trails Center – can leave stuff, take shower!
Memorial Park is a 1466-acre green treasure and one of the largest urban parks in the United States. It is also the heart of Houston’s running community, offering fabulous paths in the greens along with spectacular views of the Houston skyline.
A great choice for a “loop” is crushed granite, 2.9-mile long Seymour Lieberman Exercise Trail. The trail is lit and filled with other people running so you can feel safe even after dark. It is also well-shaded and has restrooms and water fountains along the way. The route is accessible from all parts of the park, but a good option is to start from the southeast corner. There you can find Memorial Park Running Trails Center, located at 7575 N. Picnic Lane, where you can leave your belongings to lockers or even go to shower after your run. At the northwest part of the route, near the Tennis Center, you find a quarter-mile asphalt timing track and a work-out station for cross-training. There is also some great off-road terrain, east of the Arboretum, west of Wescott.
New trees are being planted and other improvements to the park are underway, as the record drought in 2011 and hurricane Ike have shrunk the number of trees in recent years.
Start: Short Run: In Park, Long run: Main St. & Sunset Blv.
Hermann Park is another spectacular woodsy area in Houston, with multiple points of interest such as Houston Zoo, Miller Outdoor Theater, Museum of Natural Science, Garden Center, and Japanese Garden. There are numerous paths to choose from, the most popular being the 2-mile loop called the Marvin Taylor Trail, circulating around the park’s golf course under the shades of historic live oaks. Add one mile and make it a 3-mile loop by going through the underground pedestrian tunnel under MacGregor Way to the Bill Coats Bridge — a contemporary suspension bridge for pedestrians to cross Brays Bayou. Head south and then east, and cross the river again over Cambridge Bridge to rejoin the Marvin Taylor Trail.
Rice University Loop
The trail surrounding Rice University is a local favorite running spot and is also one of the iconic landmarks where the Houston Marathon splits from the Half Marathon route. Consistently voted as one of the most beautiful college campuses in the United States, the outer loop running trail is a picturesque spot to go running in Houston.
With gravel paths, water fountains, and lots of shade, this loop trail is just under 3 miles and is the perfect place to go for a run, even in the heat of the summer. Practically any time of day, you can find college students and fellow Houstonians running on Rice’s outer loop trail.
Pro tip: Pair it with a run in nearby Hermann Park (below) for a longer,~4.5-mile route. Or, alternatively, you can lengthen your run by entering Rice’s iconic main entrance and taking a jog through the campus itself.
George Bush Park
George Bush Park is a giant, sweeping park located on the far west side of Houston, near the Energy Corridor. There are thousands of acres of the park here, which includes an 11-mile trail perfect for running in Houston. Whether you live or work in the Energy Corridor area or simply find yourself out in that direction, George Bush Park is a fantastic place to go for a jog. Here, you’ll find yourself by recreational fields and picnic areas, as well as lakes and bridges.
Brays Bayou Trail
Start: East terminus: MacGregor Park. West terminus: Brays Bayou Park in Braeburn. Or any point long.
The Brays Bayou Greenway Trail is a long, open trail that runs ~14 miles runs between the University of Texas Medical Center/Zoo area, west to the intersection of Bissonnet St. & Gessne. The trail is a mix — parts industrial and not that attractive, other parts going through parks and pretty residential areas. In some areas, it might be good to run with a partner.
The trail passes through Hermann Park and the Museum District, then stays just south of the medical area. The trail runs on the north side between Hermann Park and Buffalo Speedway, then mostly on the south side, to Braeburn. The 3-mile section between MacGregor Park and Hermann Park has trails on both sides of the river, with bridges connecting them. The section closest to NRG Stadium is where Main St. crosses Braeswood Blvd. The map below has good info on trail segment distances, restrooms, water, and other landmarks. There is ongoing work to add to the trail.
Terry Hershey Park
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 running path is perfect for those wanting to get out of the downtown areas without going too far. A mixture of gravel and paved paths will greet you, and the tree cover provides shade from the hot Houston sun.
Paul Carr Jogging Trail
Paul Carr Jogging Trail is a 6.1 kilometer moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Houston, Texas that offers the chance to see wildlife and is good for all skill levels.
This trail is partially shaded and heads from 20th Street to the Interstate 10/Katy Freeway Frontage Road, at the White Oak Bayou. There are numerous road crossings along the way.
Located 30 miles north from Houston downtown and 15 miles north from Houston international airport, is a master-planned community within a native forest. It features 205 miles of running trails in the greens and there are plenty of great routes to choose from.
Brazos Bend State Park
Brazos Bend State Park, an hour drive from Houston, is a worth-it spot for a destination run. The park features six lakes and 37 miles of multi-use trails that are easy and scenic for running. There are wetlands, woods, an observatory, and lots of opportunities to see alligators! Note: the park can get full — check the website for day use reservations.
Rather than map a specific route, we suggest consulting this trail map to plan your run, as there are many opportunities to mix and match. There are four ‘lake loops‘, ranging from 1.2 to 1.9 miles, and they can be fairly easily combined. For a longer, straight, easy-to-follow run, combine the 1.9-mile River View Trail and the 1.8-mile Sawmill Trail.
Additional Running Resources
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Steve Carmichael is a running coach, sports performance coach, nutrition coach and has been a recreational runner for over 18 years. Steve holds multiple certifications as a certified running coach through the RRCA and USA Track and Field as well as he is a NASM certified personal trainer, and PN1-L1 certified nutrition coach.
Steve has been coaching since 2010 and has helped thousands of runners online and in the Central Ohio area maximize performance and run injury-free.