Urban Hiking – Houston – Inner Loop – 16 mile – Walkabout

With fall now upon us, Houston becomes an urban hiker’s dream.  Here is my go to hike when I feel the need to recharge my batteries.  This is a beautiful long walk in the inner loop to downtown that connects Upper Kirby district, Buffalo Bayou, Memorial Park, Uptown, the heart of the Galleria, and ending at the Water Wall.

There is very little elevation change and you can do this in around 4.5 hours (extreme speed walking) or 5+ hours with breaks included.  You can shorten the hike by cutting off the Buffalo Bayou portion (though this is some of the best scenery), by going north on Shepherd and left on Memorial (before entering the Buffalo Bayou park); this eliminates about 4 miles of the route.  For ultra-hikers, you can include a loop around the Memorial Park trail (adding another 3.5 miles) to do a full 20 miles!

hwtach

hwelev

The most extreme traffic will be when crossing under loop 610, but caution should be taken as a pedestrian at all times!  Traffic will lighten (generally) on miles 4 -13 and non-existent when hiking the bayou and memorial park trails; Galleria traffic at Post Oak and Westheimer will congested, but you’ll be in good company with all the shoppers.

Following this route is no guarantee of safety, please keep head on a swivel, obey all traffic laws, don’t text and walk, and don’t get distracted with your phone.  I would suggest only listening to music when walking on park trails.

Map from RunKeeper

Supplies

  1.  If you are like me, I like to use a hiking app (which uses location services), needless to say this drains the battery.  I’ve invested in a small portable power supply.  I also tried Suntastics solar panel, which is extremely portable, but doesn’t charge quick enough for my brief rest stops.
  2. I’m somewhat of a fan of hiking poles, but find them somewhat cumbersome for concrete. I do however, have the Black Diamond Z Trekking poles which fold up.
  3. I’m a big fan of a good hat and a neck/face protection.
  4. Bring rain gear if necessary.
  5. Bring phone!
  6. Bring money!

Routing

hwsplits(Notes:  areas of interest are just noted for areas of interest in the inner loop and are not included in the hiking times and distances).

  1.   Mile 0 – start at the Water Wall and make your way to Post Oak (south) and go east on Richmond, continue for 3 miles to Kirby Drive.

Interests:  Water wall, trust me, take a pic now.  Ragin’ Cajun, Costco, Urban Harvest (large weekly Farmer’s market).

2.  Mile 3.5 – head north on Kirby drive, I stop at Becks Prime for a restroom break and to get a drink.

Interests:   House of Pies (a house full of pies!), north of Westheimer you’ll enter River Oaks enjoy the beautiful homes and also the Rienzi will be on the route.

3.   Mile 5.5 – Kirby will cross Shepherd Drive and becomes Allen Parkway, jump onto the Buffalo Bayou trails (there is the road trail and the lower trail, the lower trail adding a little distance).

Interests:  Lost Lake & Waugh Bat Colony, Johnny Steele Dog Park (if doing the lower route).

4.  Mile 6.5 – you can go south on Waugh Drive to Dallas (one block from the trail) to get to a Whole Foods Market for another potential rest stop and fuel up.

5.  Mile 8 – do a 180 at Sabine Street, drop back down to the trails by the Skate Park.

Interests:  Eleanor Tinsley Park, Lee & Joe Jamail Skatepark.

6.  Mile 10 – you can stay on the Buffalo Bayou trails as it crosses under Shepherd Drive, but you’ll quickly join the sidewalk on Memorial.  You can also cross on the street level, but the crossing is difficult to time.

Interests:  Rosemont Pedestrian Bridge, the north side of the trail is the most “isolated” and should not be missed.  Houston Police Officers’ Memorial.

7.  Mile 11 – stop at the Starbucks for another potential rest stop.  This will be outside of the Buffalo Bayou park about a mile.

Interests:  N/A.

8.  Mile 11 – 13 – stay south on Memorial Park Dr., follow the road by the baseball fields (go under the railroad tracks – this is the tricky part) – you’ll be at Woodway (which was a moment ago Memorial) at 610.  There are park restrooms available in the park, but they are primitive.  There is also a Smoothie King on the north side of the trail if adding the memorial loop trail to your hike.

Interests:  Houstonians in their natural element!

9.  Mile 13+ – cross 610 at Woodway, follow 610 feeder south, there is a nice pedestrian (west side of 610 feeder) walkway believe it or not.  Kayak launch for Texas Paddle trails.

Interests:  Memorial Park Running Trail Center (if you can find this, take the trail under the railroad tracks to exit the park).

10.  Mile 14+ – enter Uptown shopping district.  You can use Café Express as a restroom/rest stop and or buy a gourmet cupcake next door at Crave Cupcakes.

Interests:  Starbucks, Crave Cupcakes, Cafe Express, Champs, Uptown Sushi (one of my top 3 sushi places in all of h-town).

11.  Mile 14 – 16 – Exit Uptown by following Post Oak boulevard (southwest).  You will cross Westheimer and Alabama, the Water Wall park will be on your right (you rock!).  Take your shoes off and take a nap!

Interests: Westheimer at Post Oak is heart of the Galleria, you can do a strong finish to the Water Wall or enter the mall at Neiman Marcus (just south of Westheimer on Post Oak – follow the crowds).

Houston/Texas/Urban Hiking/2016