Directions: Memorial Park is one of three largest municipal
parks in the downtown Houston, inner-loop area (the other two -- MacGregor and Hermann --
do not have off-road trails). Memorial is a 7-10 minute drive directly west of downtown
Houston along Memorial Parkway. As you drive through the park on Memorial you will see
several trailheads leading off into the woods, especially towards the southern side of the
park. Any of these will lead you to the main artery of trails that meander through the
Trail Information: Memorial Park is a roughly square section of land that is about 1600 acres in size. If you look on a detailed map of Houston, you will see it to the northwest of the downtown area. It is bordered to the north by the I-10 Interstate, to the west by the I-610 Loop, and to the south by Buffalo Bayou. Thinking of the park as a square divided into four quadrants (NE, NW, SE, and SW), look to do most of your trail running in the SE, SW, and NW sections. All the wooded areas in these parts of the park are criss-crossed by trails. In fact, there is such a myriad of trails that there is no one route to follow. Runners should just be prepared to strike out and explore. The section of trails located at the park's southern border along Buffalo Bayou -- collectively known around Houston as the Ho Chi Minh Trail -- is heavily traversed by mountain bikers, as well as runners. So be prepared when in this area to stay on the lookout and be prepared to quickly move aside!
.. The woods and trails in the parks SW and NW quadrants are less biked. All the trails vary in size from narrow footpaths to wide, unused fire roads. The terrain varies from extremely undulating (with "camel hump" sequences rising and falling sharply anywhere from 5 to 40 feet) to perfectly flat. Besides the Bayou itself, there are creeks, ponds, a few open fields, a railroad, and a couple of swamps to run through, beside, or around. The woods are dense, and populated particularly with tall pines. The trails take you adjacent to an equestrian center, as well as the Houton Nature Center and Arboretum. There are also tunnels underneath the two major thoroughfares traversing the park (Memorial and Woodway). These tunnels connect the various trails and allow runners to avoid negotiating directly across traffic, which can be both thick and speedy at times. Runners keeping a steady pace of 8-9 minutes/mile can easily run these trails for as much as 2 hours with little or no backtracking. Be prepared to bring water -- Houston weather is notoriously scalding and humid (even during the "winter" months) and, as of yet, there are no water stops directly on the trails -- though the park itself has many.
Miscellaneous Information: In addition to the off-road running trails, Memorial Park also has a three-mile-loop running path that is paved with crushed granite. It is lighted for night-time running and is used heavily pretty much 24 hours a day. Along the path, runners can find both restrooms and water fountains.
Dr. Charlie Scott