Trails and parks to hit during your run to Houston

Don’t settle for a hotel fitness room or a run along a freeway feeder road. Houston has scenic parks and trails that offer peaceful respites from long days of networking.

Here are a few suggestions, organized geographically:

Downtown

Directly west of the central business district is a pretty five-mile loop known as Allen Parkway, which runs along both sides of Buffalo Bayou. Parts are under renovation, but it’s still navigable. The trail isn’t lighted, but several water fountains dot the route. It’s a little hilly, too. At the farthest point from downtown on the loop is the Shepherd Street bridge. An underpass leads to a sidewalk that will get you to Memorial Park, the heart of Houston’s running community, about 1.5 miles west of the bridge.

Galleria area

Memorial Park is even closer to this area. Runners and walkers can be found on the soft, shaded 2.9-mile loop at all hours (the trail is lighted at night); water is available every half-mile or so. The park suffered greatly during Houston’s record-breaking 2011 drought, but new trees are being planted. If trail running is your thing, ask a local about how to get to Ho Chi Minh Trail, also in Memorial Park.

Texas Medical Center

Hermann Park, just north of the hospital district, has a two-mile trail with plenty of water fountains. Cross Main Street on the west side of the park to access a nearly three-mile loop that encircles Rice University. Both trails have water and are deeply shaded.

West Houston

Terry Hershey Park Hike and Bike Trail is known for its shade, scenery and gentle hills. It runs eight miles from West Beltway 8 to Texas 6, south of Interstate 10. Water is available, and the miles are marked.

Southwest Houston

A nine-mile asphalt path runs along Braeswood Avenue, following Braes Bayou, between Gessner and the Texas Medical Center. It’s not shaded, but water is available every few miles.