It’s that time of year again where we start preparing for the holidays. We are scurrying around, trying to make plans, and get presents. and still take care of all the regular responsibilities we have. And, we are stressing ourselves out. But, taking care of ourselves is important. We all need to take time to appreciate our communities. The Houston Chronicle has some suggestions for a nice walk or run to relieve our stress.
Houston’s best runs: 8 beautiful places to get fit and enjoy nature
A guide to Houston’s most beloved trails and paths, including amenities and playlists.
Dec. 8, 2021Updated: Dec. 9, 2021 11:47 a.m.
Rice University is ringed by a 2.9-mile outer loop that’s great for getting in steps and miles.
Brandon Martin, courtesy Rice University.
Between the competing demands of work and social commitments, it takes some motivation to fit fitness into your schedule. Besides the benefits to your health and mood, walking and running on Houston’s multitude of urban trails rewards you with refreshing nature and skyline views.
With this mix of free choices, you’ll be stoked to slip on those athletic shoes.
At McGovern Centennial Gardens, walk or jog around beautiful features including fountains and native plant gardens.
1500 Hermann Drive
Every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed Christmas).
After deep breathing by the fountain-studded reflecting pool, move and groove on the paths surrounding the Great Gatsby-esque Centennial Green. You’ll pass themed flower and woodland gardens as you approach what seems like a mirage: the Mount, a 30-foot-tall hill down which a massive waterfall cascades. Spiral to its summit for long views.
Endorphin booster: Don’t skip the trail spurs. Be inspired by sculptures of Confucious, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Take a break at the Friendship Pavilion, a gift from Houston’s sister city Taipei. Watch for ospreys, warblers and woodpeckers by the loblolly pines.
Marvin Taylor Exercise Trail at Hermann Park is a great place to run, walk and condition your whole body beneath a lovely tree canopy.
Anthony Rathbun, courtesy of Hermann Park Conservancy.
1700 Hermann Drive
Every day from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Live oaks shade the two-mile Marvin Taylor Exercise Trail, which is edged by eco-friendly fitness stations. The trail is composed of decomposed granite and feels safe at night, but anywhere after dark, it’s good to exercise with friends and keep vigilant.
Running along a historic carriage route, the trail is named for Marvin Taylor, a community leader who organized neighbors to clean up Hermann Park.
Endorphin booster: Work that body on the TimberForm fitness circuit.
The Brown Foundation, Inc. Plaza and the Glassell School of Art on the Museum of Fine Art, Houston’s campus.
5101 Montrose Blvd.
Every day from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
What this fitness-friendly haven lacks in distance it makes up for with wowza views and elevation gains. There’s a grass-covered slope that multitasks as a roof, 360 degrees of city skyline, novel artworks and architecture of sand-blasted concrete and translucent glass.
Start ground-level on the Museum of Fine Art, Houston’s campus at the Brown Foundation, Inc. Plaza. Ascend the long ramp of steps up the green roof to the terrace topping the Glassell School of Art’s new building. Inside, climb the massive raw-concrete staircase as sunlight filters through windows shaped like triangles and rhombuses.
Back on ground level, zip around the plant-filled plaza’s refreshing splashpad fountains, then cool down at the adjoining two-acre Cullen Sculpture Garden.
Endorphin booster: Juice up your fitness session with MFAH’s Spotify playlist: Songs for Art. “Feel Good” sung by Nina Simone? You bet.
People walk, skate and bike at Buffalo Bayou Park.
Anthony Rathbun/Courtesy of Buffalo Bayou Partnership
Shepherd Drive to Sabine Street, between Allen Parkway and Memorial Drive.
Open every day. Lighted areas 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Sandy Reed Memorial Trail’s wide 4.8-mile concrete route loops around both banks of Buffalo Bayou between Shepherd Drive and Sabine Street. You’ll pass towering trees, wildflowers, footbridges, eye-pleasing and eye-teasing sculptures, fountains and the restored Lost Lake. Bonuses: no need to cross streets, pleasant elevation changes and the soothing presence of flowing waters. Tip: To avoid cyclists, hop on the five-foot-wide asphalt Kinder Footpath, flanking the bayou’s banks.
At night, the trail’s lunar-cycle lighting transitions from blue to white in time with the moon’s phases.
Endorphin booster: Rousing artworks include “Tolerance,” Jaume Plensa’s silvery human figures composed of alphabetic symbols, and Gus S. Wortham Memorial Fountain’s brass sprinkler pipes, which create spherical sprays of water resembling a dandelion.
Rice University’s one-mile inner loop treats you to beautiful views of art and architecture such as Lovett Hall.
Brandon Martin, courtesy Rice University
6100 Main St.
Every day from dawn to dusk.
How about some school spirit? Rice University’s 2.9-mile gravel outer loop trail is lined with stately shady oak trees. Bounded by Main Street and Sunset, Rice and University Boulevards, this trail is best for daylight exercise since it is not well-lit.
For an even more stimulating fitness session, enter the beautiful 300-acre wooded campus and hit the one-mile paved inner loop. You’ll pass cool buildings such as granite-and-marble Lovett Hall and public artworks like “Twilight Epiphany,” an entrancing Skyspace by artist James Turrell.
Endorphin booster: The new Rice Public Art app designed by students lists artworks in order of proximity to your phone’s location, displaying photos and backstories. Or download Rice’s public art map.
Runners on Seymour Lieberman Exertrail at Memorial Park.
Courtesy of Memorial Park Conservancy
6501 1/2 Memorial Drive
Every day from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Memorial Park is where jogging was popularized nationally by Seymour Liebermanin the 1950s and 1960s. Now you can get super-fit on the Seymour Lieberman Exer-Trail, a 2.9-mile crushed granite path that dries quickly after rain. Interval-train with exercise stations located trailside and near the tennis center. This pedestrian-only trail is lighted and offers restrooms and water fountains.
The Conservancy opened a new running route Dec. 1 on this trail. Panoramas span the city skyline to picturesque oak groves. Working out has a long history here: it was the site of Camp Logan, where 70,000 World War I soldiers trained.
Endorphin booster: Have a need for speed? Sprint at the quarter-mile asphalt timing track just north of the tennis center.
A runner on Brays Bayou Greenway near Texas Medical Center at Richard E. Wainerdi Bridge.
Anthony Rathbun, courtesy of Houston Parks Board
Fannin Street Metro Station to the Almeda Road edge of Hermann Park.
Open every dawn to dusk.
The Brays Bayou Greenway Trail is planned to eventually cover 31 miles through rural and urban landscapes. One safe, scenic 1.6-mile segment runs between Fannin Street Metro Station by the Texas Medical Center and the Almeda Road boundary of Hermann Park. The rising and setting sun illuminates the massive buildings and parkland. Tip: take a meditation break Bayou Parkland’s micro-forest near the bayou’s banks.
Endorphin booster: Bill Coats Bridge spans the banks of Brays Bayou in Hermann Park’s Bayou Parkland. This cool pedestrian bridge’s intersecting tubular arches resemble bicycle wheels.
A family walks the Post Oak Trail at Houston Nature Center and Arboretum.
Brandon Huttenlocher, courtesy of Houston Nature Center and Arboretum.
4501 Woodway Drive
Every day from 7 a.m. to dusk.
Walk through nature’s charms on the free-admission Arboretum’s 1.76-mile Outer Loop and its five shorter self-guided Habitat Hikes. The habitats — Prairie, Woodland, Wetland, Savanna and Ravine — feature naturalists’ favorite spots, such as ponds attracting wildlife, insect houses and curious trees.
Endorphin booster: The Arboretum and the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra curated soundtracks that complement each trail’s ecosystem. Find them here.
These trails will keep you on your feet, but when you want a change of scenery, find more trails and maps at www.alltrails.com/us/texas/houston/trail-running and www.traillink.com/city/houston-tx-trails.
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