Local Mountain BikeTrails
Didn't Benjamin Franklin once famously quip that "mountain bikes are proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy"? I may have that wrong, but if he didn't say it he should have. There's almost nothing in life more enjoyable than the sensation of knobby tires purring over a sweet singletrack trail, and even though Houston is short on mountains we've still got our share of really fun mountain bike trails to explore. We've been compiling a list of some of our favorite local and not so local trails that we like to share to with our friends and customers, and give you a little description and a map to each. This list is in no way complete, but it's all of the places that you're most likely to find us out ripping on a Monday morning. Hopefully you'll get a chance to ride each of these places soon, and maybe even find one that you love so much that you'll join the local trail building crew and spend some time helping to build and maintain it.
Memorial Park is home to what is probably Houston's oldest developed mountain bike trail system. The Ho Chi Mihn and Laos Trails are a loose collection of short routes that wind back and forth through the second growth pine forest on the South side of Memorial Drive in what was once historic Camp Logan. As an aside, if you're unfamiliar with the story of Camp Logan you should Google search it ASAP- it's an integral piece of local history that every Houstonian should be familiar with. Anyway, the trails in Memorial Park have become extremely popular with trail runners and dog walkers in recent years, and though you may find some quiet times out there during off peak hours, the trails are often crowded. You should be aware when riding here that the trails are not directional and visibility is very limited due to dense foliage, so constant communication to warn other trail users of your approach is vital to a fun and safe experience for everyone. There are officially 12.6 miles of trail in Memorial Park, though you can string the various pieces of trail together in an endless variety of combinations to create as many miles of riding as you'd like.
Well, this is a bittersweet one. The Anthills are a local favorite, and we're in the process of losing them even as I type this. The Anthills trail feaures a 4.7 mile out and back packed with super fun small technical features that everyone from raw beginners to the most advanced shredders can enjoy, as well as large dirt jumping trail on the East side of Wilcrest that has both beginner and pro lines for those brave souls that feel the heavens calling to them. While riding the out and back from Eldridge to Wilcrest and back, keep your eyes peeled for several hidden lines, a couple of rhthym sections, and more opportunities to jump your bike than we can count, but get out there and do it soon because the trail is slated to be torn out and turned into flood retention ponds even as we speak.
Known locally as #CCMTB, the Cypress Creek trail started not too long ago as a bandit trail called Improper but has quickly gained a huge and dedicated following due to the efforts of a core group of trail builders and stewards that have legitimized and grown the trail system into a local jewel. There are officially 9.4 miles of directional singletrack that follow Spring Creek at this Northwest Houston trail system, though new features and additional mileage seem to be added almost weekly. Expect to find sections of fast flowy singletrack interspersed with sections of sand, short technical climbs, well-constructed wooden berms and jump features. The only thing better than riding at Cypress Creek might just be joining in on one of their huge and well organized trail building parties, where the local community comes out and puts in sweat equity building something amazing while hanging out with other mountain bikers doing mountain bike things.
Jack Brooks Park
Jack Brooks is one of those places that everybody talks about but hardly anybody ever goes there, which is a shame because it's a really fun trail that has some pretty unique features. It takes about 45 minutes down I-45 South to get there from downtown, but I promise you that it's worth the drive. Small steep hillocks give way to fast rooty singletrack on this 5.7 mile loop, and there's quite a few wooden features along the way like log rides, teeter-totters, and ladder bridges to test your skills on while you make your way around. Pro tip: Try not to be the first person on the trail in the morning. Whoever rides the trail first usually ends up covered in spiderwebs that were spun overnight, but once the webs are down you won't see them again for the rest of the day. Also, give this trail at least a week to dry out after a hard rain and make sure that you take some strong mosquito repellent with you.
Double Lake State Park
This is the place that we'd like to see all of our beginner mountain bike riders go first. There's not much that's more disappointing than selling someone an awesome new mountain bike and then hearing that they went right out to The Anthills and crashed once and never rode it again. Double Lake is a great place to get your mountain biking feet wet while developing basic trail skills and falling in love with offroad cycling. The Big Loop is a 15 mile gently rolling singletrack trail through the beautiful East Texas Piney Woods, and though it offers little in the way of technical challenges it more than makes up for it in long unbroken mileage and beautiful natural forests. If you're planning on camping, make sure that you book your reservations in advance.
Huntsville State Park
Huntsville State Park is another great place for beginner and intermediate level riders. Home to roughly 14 miles of trail, Huntsville State Park offers a similar riding experience to Double Lake, though there are spots where the trail is wider and the park tends to be more populated than Double Lake. Expect a little more climbing and descent here than Double Lake, and maybe some more sandy spots on the trail, but overall if you enjoy one of these trails you'll enjoy the other. Pro tip: one big bonus for day trips to state parks to ride mountain bikes is that they have free showers available for use, so there's no need to sit on that old wet chamois for the long drive home. Don't forget to bring a towel and a change of clothes. Also, some deodorant might be nice.
Bluff Creek Ranch
Bluff Creek Ranch, also known locally simply as Warda, is one of our favorite daytrips. This real working cattle ranch is privately owned, and after you stop in at the ranchhouse and pay your entry fee you have access to a really sweet singletrack trail that has two distinct personalities. The first half of this eight mile trail winds over and around a typical dry, rocky central Texas hillside through the cedars, and then the second half drops you down into a lush green valley and then back up the other side. There's a really fast and fun descent called Gas Pass that will surely make you grin, and a couple of steep climbs that will leave you wondering what happened to your oxygen, but most of the trail is fast and flowy and just plain fun. Pro tip: Park your vehicle at the ranchhouse with an accessible cooler full of drinks in it- you'll pass the house twice on every loop and you'll never be far from a refill. Showers and lodging are available, and don't forget to buy some of the homegrown longhorn beef from the staff before you leave.
Rocky Hill Ranch
Rocky Hill is another great day trip, and a host to some of the best races in Texas. Another working cattle ranch, Rocky Hill has an honor paybox near the entrance with maps printed out for you to use. Make sure that you grab one if it's your first time out here- there's a web of awesome trails available for you to ride, and it's easy to get turned around and end up doing more miles than you'd bargained on. The trails here a little more physically demanding than the trail at Warda, though the terrain is similar and they're not too far from each other. The first climb up Fat Chuck's demise to get into the trail system is grueling for most riders, so take it easy and make it to the top before you start crushing your riding partner's soul. There's also a pretty advanced private freeride line that you have to pay a membership to ride, but if you like to launch yourself off of things it'll be money well spent. Primitive camping is available, and Smithville isn't far away when it's time to get lunch, though we do recommend that you take plenty of water with you- you're going to need it.
“The bicycle has done more for the emancipation of women than anything else in the world.” — Susan B. Anthony, US women's rights activist