Backpacking 101

It's almost every outdoor lover's dream.

Big starry nights, woods or open desert. It’s so quiet you can hear the locals, and the locals don’t have 2 feet. Backpacking is getting away. Away from traffic, lines, malls, crowds and technology (with usually a couple of exceptions). I get chill bumps thinking about being “away from it all”.

My favorite trails are wooded ones near moving rivers. I like the quiet of the forest, broken only by the sound of the running river. I have friends who long for the desert; they love the barren landscape and the amazing sunsets. That is one thing that makes backpacking so amazing, the vistas and trails are there to be had. It truly is the road less traveled.

Even though Houston is not known as a backpacker’s mecca, we have trails to practice carrying our packs and parks to practice overnighting. I have always found that no matter what it is I am plotting to do for a trip, I can find a way to practice and get my skill set up, without ever leaving our city or the not-too-far surrounding areas.

Ever been walking on the Buffalo Bayou Trail and have seen someone, pack full, hiking down the hill leading to the bayou and back up to Allen Parkway? That is someone who is going to be ready for hisor her trip to the backcountry.

If you are not sure if backpacking is for you, check out the movie: Mile, Mile and a half at the Muir Project. It’s a great introduction to a lifelong love.

Ever been walking on the Buffalo Bayou Trail and have seen someone, pack full, hiking down the hill leading to the bayou and back up to Allen Parkway?

Where you can go to practice:

Close to Houston
A little further away
Texas Trails
Trails to Dream About

Tips for the trail

Safety Tips
Resources

Photo by: Angelo Cuyugan; Havasu Falls, AZ - 2016


Close to Houston

Allen Parkway / Buffalo Bayou Trail

Along the north side of Buffalo Bayou on the east end (near downtown) you will find a few hills that you can use for up and down hiking with your back.

Memorial Park

5-mile network of trails crisscross the 155-acre center. The trails wind through a lush second growth forest of tall pines. Trailhead off the Purple trail near Soccer fields or park at the bike trails.


Texas Trails

LONE STAR HIKING TRAIL (LSHT)

Approximately 129-mile National Recreation Trail meanders the breadth of the Sam Houston National Forest. It’s just north of Houston and can be completed in a series of weekends or a long week if you have the time off. There are many easy-to-find trailheads & tons of written guides. What an amazing opportunity to have a trail system like this, just north of Houston!

ENCHANTED ROCK

About 17 miles north of Fredericksburg is the granite dome known as Enchanted Rock. The park consists of 1643.5 acres for hiking, rock-climbing & backpacking. It is a great place for a short weekend pack to shake out any final details before heading out. There is also some serious hiking up the dome for practice. Just a couple of primitive sites about 2.5 miles in so reserve early, this park fills up. 

LOST MAPLES STATE PARK

Where fall colors come to Texas. The park covers 2174.2 acres in Bandera and Real Counties, north of Vanderpool on the Sabinal River.  8 primitive campsites in the park. The park fills up early, especially during the fall colors so make your reservations in advance. There is elevation gain and some of the campsites are up to a 4+ mile hike in and then out.


SAFETY TIPS

Always remember (no matter where you are hiking/backpacking) to bring water and when appropriate, sunscreen. The weather can change abruptly in winter/early-spring, so make sure you bring layers as well.

Don't go Backpacking without letting someone know where you are going! For safety's sake, make sure that someone knows your route and your timeline in case of an emergency or sudden weather change.

Please follow the Leave No Trace rules. You can find them here.


A Little Outside of Houston

HUNTSVILLE STATE PARK


About an 1.5 hurs north of Houston. Huntsville State Park is a moderately easy day hike through the woods surrounding Lake Raven. Recently, there was an additional 7 mile hike/bike trail added. Bringing the total trails up to 21 miles of forest, some sand and lots of tree roots.

BRAZOS BEND


Brazos Bend State Park is approximately 28 miles southwest of Houston, and covers roughly 5000 acres. Brazos is best known for all of the gators, they are everywhere! There are about 20 miles of trails, and it’s a great place to practice your wildlife etiquette!

LAKE HOUSTON


Only 1 hour northeast of Houston & over 18 miles of trails, some brand new. There is some primitive camping at this park. Two things to remember before you go: 1. Check hunting season dates 2. Bring cash for the entrance fee. There is frequently no ranger manning the gate.

DOUBLE LAKE


Barely 30 minutes north of Houston, this city of Houston park is relatively wild and untamed. You will find some out-and-back trails, some longer loop trails & primitive camping to pack into.

TRAINING IN HOUSTON


Of course, in nature there are no perfect steps, but when you live in a flat town, you make the most of what you have!

One thing we have plenty of in Houston are stairs! Parking garages, townhomes and office buildings have stairwells that offer an opportunity to use those quads and carry your pack.

Finally, Allen Parkway/Buffalo Bayou Trail – along the north side of Buffalo Bayou on the east end (near downtown) you will find a few hills that you can use for up and down hiking with your back.


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