In the city
Memorial Park Mountain-bike here, and see how urban jungle isn’t mere metaphor.
In the heart of America’s sprawling fourth largest city, some 10 miles of singletrack wind through pine and oak woodland so thick and lush that the two main sections have earned the monikers Cambodia and Ho Chi Minh. You can access both areas from the baseball fields off Picnic Lane (for HCM, ride south toward Buffalo Bayou; for Cambodia, head east). Then let the fun begin: Singletrack loops curve, plunge, and climb in steep bursts that defy the city’s otherwise cracker-flat topography.
Get There The park is located directly east of Loop 610 West (I-610).
Get Info The Greater Houston Off-Road Biking Association (www.ghorba.org) maintains trails. Memorial Park, (713) 845-1000
Village Creek State Park End your steamy summer trek at a primo swimming hole.
This modest state park offers 8 miles of mellow trails and one extraordinary surprise: a quiet sandbar beach. Thanks to a mile-long hike-in, this shaded waterfront stretch sees only 10 to 15 people a day despite its proximity to a city full of hotheads yearning to chill out. The best hike in the park is an easy 5-miler that starts on the Water Oak Trail and loops out to the Yaupon Trail. On the wide dirt paths you’ll traverse cypress swamps and dense stands of pine and magnolia.
Get There The park, in Lumberton, is 100 miles from Houston via I-10.
Get Info (409) 755-7322; www.tpwd.state.tx.us/park/village/village.htm
Big Thicket National Preserve Enjoy shady solitude on the Turkey Creek Trail.
With more than 97,000 acres, 1,000 species of flowering plants, and a selection of birds that draws globetrotting ornithologists, Big Thicket is hardly a pinpoint on the map. Yet its trails are unknown to many Houstonians. On the 15-mile Turkey Creek Trail, you’ll find solitude and ample shade. From the south, access the trail via the Kirby Nature Trail. Weave between creekside hardwood bottomlands-a mix of 100-foot water oaks, hickories, and cypress trees-and occasional stands of upland pine. A mile or so after Gore Store Road, near the hike’s midpoint, is the best place to camp. On day 2, take a detour on the Pitcher Plant Trail to see some of the park’s carnivorous plants.
Get There The trailhead is off FM Road 420 near Kountze, 105 miles from Houston.