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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Trail Bike Trails at Memorial Park

Upper Left: Trail Entrance Upper Right: Trail marker Bottom: Typical Trail
Introduction: Within Memorial Park are a set of trails collectively called the "Ho Chi Minh" trail. In fact, only one part of the trail is named Ho Chi Minh, but somehow the name was popularized to include the whole set. These may be the best trails inside the loop in Houston. The bike trails in Memorial Park are made for trail bikes, but are used by other cyclists, walkers, joggers and even horses. Unlike most Houston trails, they undulate, go up and down, cross creeks and run-offs, and are visually interesting. The trails twist and wind so you don't see what's ahead.

Location: The bike trails are directly across Memorial from the 3 mile track and right next to the baseball fields. If you're going west on Memorial, take a left on Picnic Loop. Barely to the right is one of the entrances to the trails. It is marked by a sign posting rules and a map. There actually are several entrances depending on which part of trail you want to walk on. See map for more details. Map is found at http://texashiker.com/Memorial_Park_Map.gif
Additional maps of Memorial Park are at http://www.memorialparkconservancy.org/index.cfm/CFID/33891231/CFTOKEN

http://www.ghorba.org/trail-info/memorial_park The trail colors do not mean anything on this map, they just indicate a trail.

Additionally, there are trails including the West Memorial extension through the woods sometimes called "the triangle" also known as the Infantry Woods. To get to it, enter off the sidewalk near the Arboretum entrance, then go through the tunnel under Woodway. Meander east and, after 2 more tunnels, exit at the train tracks. Turn around, walk trail back to starting point.

Hours: Memorial Park is open from 6 am to 11 pm.

Scoring: Walking = 4 Nature = 5
Walking: Since the paths are shared with cyclists and visibility is limited due to curves, one must stay alert. The paths can be quite muddy after a hard rain. There are no restroom facilities or water on the paths. No lights either. There also are trail markers that indicate ease of trail, but not names of trails, so you can get lost. The great thing is the undulating paths, and the changes in grade and altitude. It makes walking a lot more interesting.

Nature: Surrounded by large trees, walking across and by creeks, Buffalo Bayou, and changes in the ground level by as much as 40 feet or so, it is a great walk for an inner city location. It is beautiful. Only drawback was noise from Memorial, although not nearly as pronounced as on the three mile track across the road. The farther you go back on the trails, the less the noise. Truthfully, I didn't find the noise distracting.


Coolest Thing About Park: Hard to believe these woods are so close to downtown. Friendly people on the trails.

Trails: I haven't walked all of it yet, but what I have walked is enticing. Trails are packed dirt, an occasional wooden walkway over low spots, sometimes level and sometimes up and down across gullies. There are lots of trip hazards, tree roots, potholes caused by bikes and repeated walking. The trails are shared by cyclists, walkers, joggers and horses (although I've never seen any horses). The trails are from narrow, maybe two feet across to road-sized. Some of the trails are along power easements and fire roads. At this writing (January 2007) several of the trails have been closed by he City of Houston. This and the fact that new trails are added or changed by bikers, the maps are just slightly helpful.

If you enter by the rugby pitch, you can walk about 1.5 miles in on wide level path before you have to turn around and come back. If you stay on the wide path , it's easy to see where you are. This trail is mostly flat and wide.

If you enter by the ball fields, there is a wide walkway (marked lavendar path) that goes about a mile in before veering off into a narrower path. The end of this mile is blocked although if you go around the sawhorses blocking the way, you will meet Buffalo Bayou shortly.
As you enter this trail, there is a blue marker turning left. If your turn here instead of following the lavendar trail above, you'll be on the blue trail. The blue trail is up and down and fairly narrow, but really nice. It connects with the lavendar trail to return you to the same place where you started. It's my favorite so far.

The trails use a marker system that indicates how difficult the path is for trail bikes. Red means easiest, blue means intermediate and black means difficult. But from my note above, I'm not sure these are valid on the map anymore.

Other things you'll want to know:

1. There are no lights.

2. The trail is mostly shaded.

3. No facilities (restrooms) or water on trail, although both are available within Memorial Park.

4. I only saw squirrels and birds, but there are snakes, turtles, raccoons, and other wildlife in the park.

5. Take water, cell phone and ID with you in case of mishap.

6. While you can feel lost, you can't get truly lost. The trails are bordered by Buffalo Bayou, baseball fields and a wide utility easement, the Arboretum and Memorial Drive. Eventually you'll hit one of them and know where you are. I just pay close attention to landmarks and usually find my way back easily.

Feel free to add any comments you think would be useful to others about this blog.

Photography by Mary Anne Fields.
All blog content is copyrighted, all rights reserved, Mary Anne Fields and Life Unfolds, 2006


At Wed Jul 09, 09:04:00 PM CDT, Blogger Moctezuma said...

Great blog. I´m new in Houston and I was looking for Bike Trails. I went to the Buffalo Bayou and it is also nice, but I was planning also to go to the Memorial park. Thanks for the info, very good explanation.

At Fri Jul 11, 08:41:00 AM CDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the thorough description of the mountain bike trail. I've been in Houston for some time and have never hit the trails due to lack of experience. To tell you the truth, people have been telling horror stories for yearsabout the difficulty of it so I wanted to wait until I had mountain biking down. Thanks to your blog and maps I have a better chance of livig thru the infamous trails of Memorial Park. Pray for me. JK<;)

At Fri Jul 11, 11:55:00 AM CDT, Blogger lifeunfolds.com said...

May the Force be with you! Happy Trailing.

At Sat Mar 07, 07:29:00 PM CST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hush! No one needs to know about the trails. They feel like my personal retreat. They are, in my opinion, the most impressive, least known thing about central Houston.

At Wed Sep 09, 12:51:00 PM CDT, Blogger Mike said...

I've been using these trails for almost 2 yrs. and recently lost my keys. To confirm this Bloger's statement, people here are generally nice. A fellow runner understood the "just lost my keys"-look and pointed to the Trail Entrance structure. That's where all lost/found keys go. I just wanted to spread the word in case someone didn't know. I even found my friends key which was lost 2 weeks before my mishap.


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