Brazos Bend State Park, Houston

Directions: Brazos Bend State Park is located about 35 minutes SW of Houston alongside the Brazos River, one of Texas' longer and more scenic rivers. From downtown Houston, there are two ways to get to the park -- both take about the same amount of time. (1) Head south on Highway 59 until you reach the FM 762 exit. Head south (turn left) onto 762 and the park is about 15 miles away on the left. (2) Head south out of downtown Houston on Highway 288. Take the FM 1462 exit and head west (turn right). 1462 intersects with FM 762 (which actually dead-ends into 1462); at the intersection turn right and go North on 762. The park entrance is a couple of miles away on the right. Regardless of which route you take, there are plenty of signs pointing the way to the park.

Trail Information:  The trails in Brazos Bend State park are numerous and very well tended. Some are plain dirt footpaths, some are crushed granite walking/biking lanes, some are unused fire roads wide enough to hold an auto. The park is structured around a series of small lakes and the accompanying delta adjacent to a wide, south-turning bend in the Brazos River. Upon arriving at the park entrance (there is a $3 per person fee), you are given a detailed map of the area that clearly shows all the paths for traversing. The first parking area -- to your left as you drive into the park -- is for 40 Acre Lake and is a good place to start out. From there, it is a 1.2 mile trek to the loop trail around Elm Lake (a 1.7 miles circuit) and from the Elm Lake area you can head off into the maze of criss-crossing trails in the parks back, Northeastern corner (away from the lakes and delta and towards the river). These back-corner trails are where you can do the most isolated, deep-woods running. The terrain is flat flat and more flat. There are a couple of rises and gullies, but these are rare. Think level ground.

Miscellaneous Information: There are plenty of parking areas available and all amenities (rest rooms, water stations, picnic areas, etc.). There is a wonderful, high observation deck for looking out over the delta on the trail connecting 40 Acre and Elm Lakes. The park is also a popular locale for Houston area astronomy buffs -- on the premises is the George Observatory (open to everyone -- even sweaty runners -- and managed jointly by the Park Service and the Houston Museum of Natural Science) and on weekend evenings there are usually at least 10-20 large telescopes set up in a field adjacent to the Observatory parking lot by various amatuer star gazers, who tend to welcome the chance to share their knowledge and wares. In addition to star-gazers there are also alligators in the park. They are harmless to walkers, runners, and bikers, etc. Especially as long as they are just looked at and otherwise left alone. Deer are also plentiful. Finally, the park is very heavily used, especially on the weekends. Lots of walkers, photographers, bikers, etc. Be prepared to share your space on the trails. 

Charlie Scott