Cycling around town

Houston's top 5 biking trails: Memorial, White Oak among the best

Memorial Park is one of the better biking areas in the city of Houston. Houston.CultureMap.Com

Houston offers an array of biking trails — more than 128 miles of trails that loop through parks and along beautiful bayous. When it comes down to figuring out which trail is the best for you, this list of the top five trails can help. Each trail is constructed of either asphalt, concrete, granite, or a mixture of these. Choose your ride below and enjoy.

5. Brays Bayou Greenway Trail (33.8 miles)

9601 Braes Bayou Dr.

If you are looking for a good long ride, Brays Bayou Greenway is the way to go. There are different sections along this ride. Precinct one is 8.4 miles; from the north to the south bank segments, it is 17.9 miles; and in total it is 33.8 miles across the entire trail. The trail end points are along Hockley and Medina Streets and on the opposite end is Braeburn Glen Boulevard (Braeburn Park). The trail is a mix of asphalt and concrete.

The concrete path (by the area of Hermann Park) is great for roller blading. Once you get near the Medical District, there is some construction, so you need to be careful. Some parts of the path are unfinished in this area, but there have been a lot of recent improvements.

Other than the construction, it is a very nice path where you will see bluebonnets, flowers, plants, and wildlife along the eastern part of the trail from Mason Park to UH. The smell of honeysuckle actually fills the air as you pass by. Pay attention to your surroundings, because this area doesn't feel extremely safe if you are by yourself.

Parking can be found in the parks along the trail's route, from east to west: Mason Park (541 75th St.), MacGregor Park (5225 Calhoun Rd.), Hermann Park (6001 Fannin St.), and Braeburn Glen Park (9510 Gessner Rd.).

4. White Oak Bayou Greenway - Heights Trail (15 miles)

West 11th Street and Antoine Drive

If you’re looking for a solid path not intersected by many streets, White Oak Bayou is your trail. There aren’t many bike paths that have long uninterrupted stretches  other than Terry Hershey and this one. It is a 15-mile unique path with interesting wildlife along the way. This trail will run across a few parks: Watonga Parkway Park, T.C. Jester Park, Stude Park, White Oak Park, and Hogg Park.

This trail is not only a great bike trail, but it is also great for roller blading, with some parts of the path being concrete and other parts asphalt. If you stop to take in the scenery, you may see turtles, toads, blue herons, catfish, and bats along the Bayou. In the evening, there aren’t lights for long sections of the path, so having lights on your bike is helpful as it gets dark. 

The website includes an interactive map. This path begins northwest of FM 1960, parallel to Highway 290 toward downtown, joining Buffalo Bayou.

3. Memorial Park Hike and Bike Trails  

6501 Memorial Dr. and 4501 Woodway Dr. 

Memorial Park is one of the largest urban parks in Texas. This park has a variety of trails, making up more than 30 miles. One lap around the main loop is three miles. If bikers would like to extend their ride after Memorial, they can always head east on Memorial Drive towards Allen Parkway/Buffalo Bayou Park. There are plenty of other trails you can find for getting that extra mileage. A road bike is fine for some, but a mountain bike is preferred for others. 

The green trail, for hiking and biking, is the longest single track trail at Memorial Park. The purple trail is a dirt path that forms a loop for 2.1 miles throughout the mountain bike trail area. This trail is mostly flat, except for near Buffalo Bayou, where there is a crossing of a drainage. If you are looking for a more casual ride for all skill levels, the red trail is a good one, stretching 1.2 miles. There’s not much elevation change to it, but the fast, flowy turns make up for it.

For fun and fast turns with a flowy trail, try the yellow and orange trails. If you are planning to take the blue trail, be careful with the exposed roots on the route; these could create dips in your pathway. The triangle brown trail is often missed, but an adventurous ride. It also typically has less traffic than the others on the west side of the park. The triangle is an intermediate ride with all of the rolling terrain and fast turns. 

On the weekends, most of these trails get pretty busy, so ride as early as possible. As it starts to get dark, there is some lighting along the main part of the trail, along with some security for your safety.

2. Heights Hike and Bike Trail (5.5 miles)

2799 Moy St.

Heights Hike and Bike Trail was rated Houston’s best bike trail by the Houston Press in 2016. The Hike and Bike trail starts at the end of Moy Street at White Oak Bayou. This trail has a great view of the downtown skyline as it rides you through the historic Heights neighborhood and into downtown. It is always clean and well maintained.

The trail also passes through a number of parks, one being Donavon Park, which has the safest on-street bike lanes in Houston. Fun fact about this trail: It actually used to be a railroad track. This trail also runs into White Oak Greenway Trail, at the beginning off Moy St.

1. Terry Hershey Park and Bike Trail (11.6 miles)

TX-8 Beltway

Terry Hershey is a great trail stretching 11.6 miles and is fit for a casual cyclist. For riders with road bikes, be careful with some of the asphalt paved paths that are uplifted or cracked due to the rain. Even though Terry Hershey isn’t a super challenging trail, it is unique with its alternate pathways under road bridges and small creek bridges. Terry Hershey is one of the few parks to have long mileage coverage that is not intersected by streets and lights.

The trail has some signage/maps, but this could be improved, especially on the west end, where Terry Hershey connects to the George Bush Trail. If you do happen to jump on the George Bush Trail, you can extend your ride by 11 miles. However, when I came across this trail, it was flooded. If you are planning to ride this trail, make sure it has not rained recently. Since Terry Hershey Park Trail is an enormous park, here are some helpful locations for parking:

  • Highway 6 (west end of the trail)
  • Beltway 8 (east end of the trail; access off southbound tollway service road)
  • Dairy Ashford Road (mid-trail on the south side of the bayou)

Honorable mention

Here are two trails for leisurely fun rides or if biking with children.

Buffalo Bayou Park (Allen Parkway) (5-mile Loop)

1800 Allen Pkwy. and Memorial Drive

Buffalo Bayou Trail has one of the best scenic views among all the trails. This trail, also known as Allen Parkway trail, is a windy, 124-acre green space with a killer view of the Houston skyline. Bikers can enjoy the scenery of the art, bats, Eleanor Tinsley Park, and more. There are also quite a few sets of stairs for any bikers that would like to do some cardio on the during or after their ride.

This trail is neat and adventurous for a casual day. It is very well kept, and security bikes through occasionally. There is not much shade on the ride, so wear some sunscreen and a hat.

Hermann Park (1.2 miles)

6001 Fannin St.

The trail around Hermann Park Conservatory is only 1.2 miles long, but it also connects to the golf course, which has a pathway around it as well. Hermann Park has a number of interesting features, including a Japanese garden, a natural science museum, and a kiddie train. It also backs up to the Houston Zoo. Located nearby is a Houston BCycle stop, perfect if you're at the park and would like to go for a quick ride. 

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Let's make a deal. Photo by Getty Images. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

The NFL trade deadline is less than a week away, and the Houston Texans have a significant decision to make regarding their franchise star, J.J. Watt. The Texans are 1-6 through the first seven games of the season, and the next few years of the franchise seem a bit bleak.

No player or staff member has encapsulated Houston's frustration quite like Watt. Excluding the Texans' victory over the Jaguars, the future Hall of Famer has looked miserable in every post-game press conference. Each week, it's the constant look of despair. And in hindsight, closing the chapter on Watt's career in Houston seems to be best for both parties.

At 31-years-old, the All-Pro defensive tackle should be spending the twilight of his career competing for Super Bowls — not playing for a team who is clearly about to hit the reset button at the conclusion of this season.

By departing from Watt, it would allow the Texans to get a jumpstart on their rebuilding project — one that has the potential to bring back quality draft picks, a young prospect, and clear close to $20 million in cap space.

If they decide not to move on from Watt, the Texans risk putting themselves in a situation where they may miss out on obtaining higher draft picks and strapped for cash heading into the 2021 free agency market. And with one year left on his contract following 2020, the Texans also risk losing leverage in a potential deal if forced into trading Watt come next season.

At this stage of his career, the Texans may not receive a haul for Watt's services but could maximize his trade value by dealing him to a championship-contending team. A move that would give Watt the best chances of adding a championship title to his luxurious resume in return.

With the future of the franchise in mind, here are three potential trade ideas that would be best if the Texans are truly considering moving on from Watt.

Watt returns home to Wisconsin and joins the Packers

Texans receive: 2021 first-round pick and LB Kamal Martin

Packer receive: J.J. Watt

The Green Bay Packers are one of a handful of teams who has a realistic chance to stamp their ticket to Super Bowl LV. Following a win over the Texans on Sunday, the Packers stand first in the NFC North with a 5-1 record and possess one of the NFL's best offensive teams.

Green Bay's offense can compete in a shootout with just about any team in the league, but their defense may be the reason why they fall short of representing the NFC in Tampa Bay come February. They have only accumulated a total of 10 quarterback hits and are currently 30th in the league in pass rush through the first six games. The Packers' lack of ability to get to the opposing team's quarterback could be an immense problem during a playoff game that could feature Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Russell Wilson.

So what do the Packers have to lose by acquiring their Wisconsin native?

The addition of Watt would allow the Packers to add one of the best pass rushers of all-time. Although Watt is nowhere near the player that finished second behind Aaron Rogers for league MVP honors in 2015, he has illustrated that he is still a disruptive defensive lineman five years later.

Through the first seven games, Watt has accounted for 11 pressures, six quarterback hits and three sacks — which would make him Green Bay's second most reliable pass rusher trailing only Za'Darius Smith.

For the Texans, receiving a first-round pick for Watt is self-explanatory and would be the most suitable return for the aging star. However, for a team that is building for the future, the Texans should consider obtaining a young and raw prospect to evaluate.

Kamal Martin, a fifth-round draft selection in 2020, made his NFL debut against the Texans on Sunday and left an exceptional first impression. He recorded six tackles and one tackle for loss in 29 snaps inside NRG Stadium, and could be a building block should the Texans begin to make modifications to their linebacking corps.

Seattle sends multiple draft picks for Watt

Texans receive: 2021 second-round pick and fourth-round pick

Seahawks receive: J.J. Watt

If the Packers do not take advantage of improving their pass rush with Watt — perhaps the Seattle Seahawks will. Both NFC teams mirror each other with a high-powered offense, but a feeble defense may hinder one another from advancing to the Super Bowl. In a deal for Watt to the Seahawks, the Texans would miss out on the chance to acquire a first-rounder, but obtaining multiple picks would be just as prominent.

Seattle's general manager John Schneider is no stranger to taking a significant risk, and appears willing to make any moves that will put his organization closer to their long-overdue second title with Russell Wilson. Perhaps, Watt would be that missing key.

The Seahawks are pretty solid at stopping the run but need a tremendous upgrade in their pass defense. Seattle has given up the second-most passing yards on the season (2,212), and the reason seems to be their inability to get to the quarterback. Seattle has only implemented pressure to the opposing team's quarterback on 20.1% of their dropbacks, while only recording a total of nine sacks.

The Seahawks pass defense may not become elite, but the disruption of Watt on their defensive line could be enough to limit the devastation they have experienced through the first seven weeks of the season.

Watt to the Big Easy for Brees' last dance

Texans receive: 2021 second-round pick and Marcus Davenport

Saints receive: J.J. Watt

Seven weeks into the season, the New Orleans Saints are not sitting near the top of the NFC nor their division when compared to recent years. A bevy of injuries have been attributed to their minor decline this season — mainly to their All-Pro receiver Michael Thomas.

However, the Saints have prevailed through the injury bug to march their way to a 4-2 record. If New Orleans can get healthy during the second half of the season, they will be in the running to represent the NFC in Tampa Bay for Super Bowl LV. But unlike the Packers and Seahawks, this could be the Saints last chance to recapture the Vince Lombardi Trophy in what is likely Drew Brees' last dance.

The addition of Watt to the Saints would give general manager Mickey Loomis a chance to create the most disruptive defensive line in the league. Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen would be able to shift the five-time Pro-Bowler to the interior — allowing the Saints to trot out a d-line of Watt, Cameron Jordan and Trey Hendrickson.

This trade would give Watt arguably the most help he has ever had on the defensive line — which would allow New Orleans to maximize what is left of his career.

This trade would have the Texans missing out on obtaining a first-rounder, but a sound-round pick would be just as valuable for Watt. However, Houston should consider adding a young prospect in a potential swap, and Marcus Davenport would be their best return.

Drafted in 2018, Davenport is a former first-round talent who can help transition the Texans into the post-Watt era. He has showed promise of a bright future through his first two seasons, but injuries have prevented the 24-year-old prodigy of San Antonio from establishing himself as one of the league's top young talents.

This season, elbow and toe injuries have limited Davenport to just a pair of games in 2020. Although there is an immense concern regarding Davenport's health, the Texans cannot pass on adding a player who has already registered 11.5 sacks and 31 quarterback hits through his first 28 career games.

Coty M. Davis is a reporter for ESPN 97.5 Houston/SportsMap covering the Houston Texans. He is also the co-host of Locked On Texans, a part of the Locked On Podcast Network. Follow Coty on Twitter @CotyDavis_24.

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