The Houston Arboretum is a lovely 155 acre escape from the hustle and bustle of Houston. This route will allow you to cover most of it in one go. If you drown out the continuous drone of I-610 you might forget you are inside America's fourth most populous city.
You are not supposed to run on the trails in the Arboretum. Biking is not allowed. The Arboretum is free of charge.
Most people will drive to get to the Arboretum with is located on the south side of Woodway Drive just east of I-610 in the southwest corner of greater Memorial Park. Parking is limited and often fills up. There is an overflow lot about a quarter of a mile east on Woodway Drive/Memorial Drive. You could take the eastbound 20 bus to the stop at the entrance and Woodway as well. The Arboretum occupies 155 acres between I-610, Woodway Drive, some freight railroad tracks, and Buffalo Bayou, and consequently isn't very accessible from nearby neighborhoods.
This description starts at the parking area/visitor center and heads clockwise around the Outer Loop
and then counter clockwise around the Inner Loop
, but there are a myriad of small trails and connectors that allow a wind range of routes possible. Thus, begin at the far eastern end of the parking lot and pick up the pink Willow Oak Trail
. This short trail is wide gravel fill with a few boardwalks, and only a tenth of a mile long. It ends at the red Outer Loop
which you should head south on. The entire Outer Loop
is also wide gravel filled doubletrack so it should be very accessible for strollers if you have one.
In a short distance, you should see the small Willow Oak Pond to your right (west) which has a secluded bench off a super-short spur. After a third of a mile, you'll come to the open meadow full of wild flowers, a large pond, and the aptly-named North Meadow Trail
. This can dramatically shorten the route if you want. Otherwise continue south past the also aptly named South Meadow Trail
and the Muscadine Tail. After 2/3 of a mile, you'll read the southernmost point on the Outer Loop
and the short Couch Birding Trail which continues south. Follow the Outer Loop
as it curves to the northwest.
At just about exactly a mile, you'll see a small spur trail to the north that will take you to the Inner Loop
and back to the visitor center if you need to cut the outing short. Otherwise the Outer Loop
heads southwest from here and then north along I-610. The expressway can be quite loud along this stretch, unfortunately. You'll pass the Arrowwood Trail at 1.5 miles shortly before the Outer Loop
turns east away from the expressway. At about 1.6 miles, the Outer Loop
hits the Arboretum's entrance road, so turn south onto the yellow Alice Brown Loop
. Alice Brown Loop
is singletrack but wide enough to push a stroller on (it just won't be nearly as easy going).
Alice Brown Loop
will take you to the visitor center and a mess of small trails and family friendly amenities that are just south of the visitor center. Follow the boardwalks as you loop for the green Inner Loop
trail to the south. The whole Inner Loop
is either boardwalk or very wide singletrack made of wood chips so strollers can still be pushed. Follow the green-blazed trail to the south past the R.A. Vines Trail. At the southwest corner, you'll see the small connector to the Outer Loop
that you passed back at mile one. Stay on the Inner Loop
and turn east to the Muscadine Trail and South Meadow Trail
. Just after the South Meadow Trail
, you'll see a small spur that leads to the large pond in the meadow. This is a great short route to get some lovely views of the pound. Take the North Meadow Trail
back to the Inner Loop
, and head north back to the visitor center. There is water here and usually a bowl for dogs too.
The Arboretum was originally a WWI training facility that was deeded to the city to become a memorial to fallen soldiers, hence the name of the whole area: Memorial Park.