If you've never been on any part of Bray's Bayou Trail you're completely missing out; especially if you like to walk, jog or bike - auto traffic-free for many miles. Bray's Bayou Trail begins in MacGregor Park (located just south of University of Houston) and stretches about 15 miles to the west, ending just before the 59/Southwest Freeway. Elaine and I have been walking it in sections, not really knowing what to expect in each area but being pleasantly surprised by the diversity and continuity of the trail. This being our first time at the east end of the trail we decided to start out from the very beginning (see map above), which is located within MacGregor Park. We parked inside the park which has ample, free parking. There happened to be development construction going on in the area and some street signs were missing, so a GPS would come in handy if you're not familiar with the neighborhood.
The park itself is relatively large and one could get plenty of exercise just by walking around it a few times (which we saw some people doing), but we stuck to our plan and headed down the Bayou trail. The trail is on the North side of the park - just head toward the bayou (visible from the park) and you can't miss it. This part of the trail has a dual name so don't be confused when on the trail you see a sign marked Levi Vincent Perry Jr. Jogging Trail - rest assured you are on the Bray's Bayou trail as well.
At the beginning of the trail we saw lots of university housing (you may even see a Greek sign representing your fraternity or sorority nearby) and then almost immediately, in sharp contrast, the trail lets into a lovely neighborhood with enormous homes over-looking the bayou. This is for sure one of my favorite parts of the trail, walking among those large houses with the their big front lawns made me feel I had gone back in time. In this section the trail was very quiet and the few people we encountered were friendly and energetic. We were passed by only a few bikes; on this weekday it was mostly walkers.
The trail seemed endless with its big, loose curves and larger properties on either side, but eventually we moved into an area where the back yards were facing the trail, which did tighten up the trail slightly but also gave us so many trees and blooming plants to look at. We were surprised at how many things were in bloom in December. We can only assume that the blooms were an effort at recovery after the recent drought Houston experienced. Whatever the reason it made for a spring-like walk in mid winter. A lovely experience.
Still heading west, and ever closer to Hermann Park, we soon began to see a few businesses, apartment complexes, and more cars along the cross streets. We decided after about 2 1/2 miles to turn around, which happened to be at Ardmore Street.* We had walked thus far on the south side of the bayou, not quite sure if the trail on the north side was completely asphalt or partially dirt. The bayou is wide enough and has just enough grass growing along it's edges, it often shrouds the trail on the opposite side. In some areas there is an asphalt (or concrete) trail, and other areas there is only a well-traveled dirt trail, and still occasionally no trail at all. Pleasantly though, at the east end of Bray's Bayou Trail there are fully maintained trails on both sides. For our return trip, we crossed over the bridge on Ardmore, headed east on the north side and were equally happy with this sister trail. Here we sighted things like the beautiful Riverside United Methodist Church steeple, which hadn't captured our attention while walking west.
Following our walk, since there were no coffee shops nearby, we drove from MacGregor Park, over the bridge and down the road (just a few blocks) to the main campus of the University of Houston. Since neither of us are that familiar with the campus, we proceeded to get lost while searching for coffee -we had fun none-the-less and the university students were very pleasant and willing to help us with directions to a coffee shop. It was beautiful weather on that day, which hi-lighted the University of Houston campus so I'm sure we will feature it on a future blog.
In future, we'll also be featuring, in sections, the rest of the entire Bray's Bayou trail. Be sure to check back if you are interested in walking or biking this trail.
Happy Houston Trails
* About 100 yards west of Ardmore Street (where we turned around) is where another trail, the ColumbiaTap Rail Trail, intersects with the Bray's Bayou Trail. This long trail goes straight through the Texas Southern University Campus and ends downtown at Walker and Dowling Streets, very near the new BBVA Compass Stadium. We will be writing about this trail in a later post.