The Buffalo Bayou Trail at Downtown Houston is a part of a much larger trail which runs through the entire Houston area. I have taken a hike through the untamed grasses of the Buffalo Bayou Trail in Katy, and I have taken a run through the Heights along the Buffalo Bayou Trail. But the Buffalo Bayou Trail at Downtown Houston is my FAVORITE stretch of the trail. The trail is lined with parks, art installations, towering sky scrapers, the bayou (of course) trees and flowers and no matter the direction you head there is a good chance you will find yourself within walking distance of a spectacular eatery, event, or venue.
Buffalo Bayou Trail at Downtown Houston Rubric
|1 low quality||2 average quality||3 best quality||Score|
|cost||expensive, charge per individual||small fee||free||3|
|trail length||requires laps to get adequate workout||1 mile minimum||loop of manageable length, 1 mile minimum||3|
|trail material||broken sidewalk cement, grass||gravel, dirt, sand||paved with large wheels in mind (cement, road material, etc)||3|
|trail width||hardly large enough for single||single but easy to pass||double wide, easy to pass, side by side||3|
|bugs||doused in bug repellent and still leave itchy, mouth closed breathing||carry bug spray, could get on with out it, possibly leave with a couple of bug bites||like being indoors, a pretty butterfly would be a treat||3|
|view||grimy, no greenery, no tree cover from sun and wind, no visual appeal in the distance or directly near by||visual appeal either in the distance or directly near by, some greenery, some tree cover from sun and wind||visual appeal both in the distance and near by, green, seasonal foliage, tree cover from sun and wind||3|
|crowd (quantity)||too many people to maneuver as desired||some passing required but doable||comfortably populated||2|
|crowd (culture)||hobo community directly off path, rude or abrasive individuals||people keep to their self, not negative and not positive interactions with individuals||friendly individuals on and off the trail, smiles of encouragement, helpful if needed||3|
|cleanliness||nearly hazardous due to trash, very unappealing aesthetically, unpleasant smell||trash here and there, minimal impact to aesthetics||spotless, clean||2|
|safety||not getting out of the car, too dangerous||share trail with bikers, some risk due to wildlife, surprise dark and scary and secluded tunnel or bridge, poor upkeep of trail material or signs||minimal risks, visible security/police, well-maintained trail material and signs||2|
|parking||sparsely spots available in trail lot, street parking, may have to hike to trail, charge to park||adequate parking in trail lot, some hike required to get to trail||adequate parking in trail lot, no hike to trail||2|
|amenities||not encouraging the hanging out in any way||limited water, limits to any desired amenity||toilets, benches, workout section, water||3|
Buffalo Bayou Trail at Downtown Houston earns a score of 32 out of 36! Keep in mind this is a score based on my typical experience and my own experiences vary from day to day based on the area or even the day or time of day. Some of the things I love or can ignore about the trail may be undesirable for you that is why I give a detailed breakdown below.
More Than 12 Reasons to Visit Buffalo Bayou Trail at Downtown Houston
- Start with the cost: which is FREE (Yea!) Don't get me wrong, if you are in downtown Houston there is a good chance you are going to spend money, but there are days I go and I don't spend money so it is possible.
- The trail length is seemingly endless, although the Bayou does flow into the Houston Port I'm not confident the trail is accessible throughout the Houston area.
- The trail material varies, there are pedestrian paths made of an asphalt material and there are shared paths made of cement. The trail also is occasionally made of a gravel material. The trails that line the bayou do erode due to water and weather (nature really) and there may be some closures while repairs are made.
- The trail width is reasonable for passing on comers, the bike access trails are even wider and allow for safer passing space.
- There are bugs, those nuisance gnats that seem to linger right at face level. The combination ducking and nose and mouth exhale keeps them from entering the orifices on the face. (That is a special evasive technique I find effective when I see them ahead of me on the trail) I rarely see a mosquito and I do not use bug repellant on this trail. I have freaked at the sight of an enormous looming shadow which turned out to be a large butterfly. Before I knew what was approaching the growing shadow made my heart jump out of my chest and I felt compelled to duck down as I saw the giant shadow come across my own shadow looking like a pterodactyl and then the beautiful large wings of a black and blue butterfly dropped into my path and I gasped at it's beauty and laughed at my panic. (Oh nature!)
- The view is hard to beat! It is why people live in the city. Our city scape really does compliment the parks and bayou features that intersect our bustling community. This is one green space that feels like a buffer from the city and provides peace and nature while providing a constant reminder that you never actually left the city. Now, not that I want to be negative, but occasionally there is graffiti which does quickly get washed away by city maintenance. Also, the bayou is essentially rain water drainage, and especially after a storm, there is an unattractive collection of trash floating in the water. I see the city making an effort to keep the area clean and I appreciate their effort.
- The crowd (quantity) is never too much. I feel safe when I pass and I never feel like if I were to injure myself I would wait for days to be found and rescued.
- The crowd (culture) is absolutely diverse. I have been cheered by other runners, I have had friendly chats, and inquires as far as safety and convenience. The people I meet are really nice, and the people I don't meet keep respectfully to their self, even the vagrants.
- The trail is clean. There is some washout from the higher ground after storms but I have seen this cleaned up over time by trail maintenance. There is the trash in the bayou I mentioned earlier but I have also witnessed the cleanup method, and they use a net funneling method to keep it from spreading downstream. There are trash cans lining the trail and also as mentioned before there is some graffiti in some of the underpass areas, but I don't think these linger.
- I feel safe when I run the Buffalo Bayou Trail at downtown Houston. The trail is regularly patrolled by security, maintenance workers, and mounted police. I am always on guard, which I feel is a necessary state of mind as a mother and in public. I have also witnessed convict clean up crews, so, there is that. I know there are wild animals on the trail, I have never seen any man eaters, but there are some underpasses where bats have made a home, and I personally have a slightly irrational fear of zoonosis, so watch yourself, but it is unlikely you have anything to worry about from the wildlife in the area.
- Parking is free in some lots and depending on when you come to the trail it may be metered. Free lots are located at the Lee and Joe Jamail Skate Park, but it is small and can fill up quickly but there is parking across the street at the city lot C which is free on the weekends. The Lost Lake area also has a free lot, but it fills quickly too. It can be hit or miss depending on where you want to start on the trail.
- Of course the places I chose to park also accommodate my need for amenities. The Lee and Joe Jamail Skate Park lot is near bathrooms, there are canoe launches, bike rentals, dog park, playground, open grassy spaces, water fountains, desirable sites, and attractions, food trucks park on the circle on Saturdays, I have seen a couple of ice cream vendors on various other days parked on the circle. The trail is within walking distance of a multitude of restaurants, museums, and other attractions. When the downtown events are in full swing people will walk the Buffalo Bayou Trail to get to these events and avoid parking directly on site or enjoy the leisurely walk.
Runners Looking For Hills in Houston
This trail may meet your needs if you are looking for a good HIIT workout. If the highs and lows on the trail are not enough there are stairs which take pedestrians from street level to trail level located at intervals along the path. These stairs make a great addition to the runner's workout especially those looking for hill sprints for that extra cardio kick. There are infinite possibilities for entertainment so get out on the town! The Buffalo Bayou Trail at Downtown Houston will not disappoint come explore our city up close let me know what you think!
Happy (running) Trails!