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"Biking" may not be the first word you think of when you picture Texas, but the Lone Star State has some surprising recreational gems. And cities like Houston and Brownsville are leading the charge with efforts to connect and expand massive regional trail systems—the former with the Bayou Greenways 2020 project and the latter with the Lower Rio Grande Valley's Active Plan.
The San Antonio River Walk Hike & Bike Path offers 30 paved miles of trail along both sides of the river, connecting parks, attractions, shops and restaurants. The trail runs from Brackenridge Park (which houses the San Antonio Zoo) on the north end of town to San Antonio Missions National Historical Park on the city's southern end. This unique destination provides the opportunity to learn about several Spanish frontier missions, including Mission Espada, the oldest mission in Texas dating back to 1690.
The Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail, named for a former Austin mayor and his wife, is a natural gem in the heart of the Texas capital. The scenic trail forms a loop around Lady Bird Lake, a reservoir on the Colorado River. The trail is bookended by two major recreational areas: Zilker Park on its western end and Guerrero Park on its eastern tip. The lush, tree-lined pathway also provides access to Lamar and Waller Beaches. A unique highlight of the trail is its passage under the Congress Avenue Bridge, home to thousands of bats that canvas the sky at sundown during the summer months.
The scenic Campion Trail offers an eclectic mixture of natural and urban views as it travels through the western Dallas suburb of Irving. Currently, the trail is comprised of separate north and south sections that together total more than 13 miles of wide, flat and paved pathway. The northern section begins at Sam Houston Trail Park and, from there, follows the Elm Fork of the Trinity River southwards. The trail's southern section follows the West Fork of the Trinity River, beginning at Trinity View Park and winding through Twin Wells Park and Mountain Creek Preserve.
The Cotton Belt Trail offers 11 miles of paved pathway through the northern suburbs of Dallas and Fort Worth. The pleasant route is often tree-lined, skirting small ponds and crossing creeks. Mid-trail, the marsh behind Lockett Park provides the opportunity to observe herons and other wildlife.
Northwest of Dallas, the nearly 9-mile Denton Branch Rail Trail spins out from downtown Denton towards Lewisville Lake. Parts of the paved pathway have a rural flavor, while other sections have a suburban feel. Rail fans will enjoy the close proximity to a commuter rail line, the Denton County A-Train, which parallels the trail.
Get your fill of American history at the Historic Battlefield Trail in Brownsville on the southern tip of Texas. Beginning downtown, this paved, 8.5-mile rail-trail heads north to the Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park. The prairie of Palo Alto, preserved by the National Park Service, was the site of the first battle of the Mexican-American War in 1846. Along your trail journey, enjoy views of the city's historical buildings and connections to museums, the zoo and other attractions. Birdwatchers take note that the path also marks the beginning of the Texas Coastal Birding Trail.
The Brays Bayou Greenway Trail, which spans more than 30 miles, winds along its namesake waterway in southwestern Houston. A jewel along the paved pathway is picturesque Hermann Park, offering a smorgasbord of attractions over more than 400 acres, including the Houston Zoo, an outdoor theater, public gardens, a lake, a golf course and even a miniature train. As if that weren’t enough, the park is bordered by the Museum District, which is sprinkled with nearly a dozen museums, art galleries and other cultural institutions.
Spanning 20 miles in north-central Texas, the Lake Mineral Wells State Trailway offers a ride through quiet, unspoiled terrain, where you're likely to spot deer, snakes, rabbits and other wildlife. The pathway, primarily surfaced with crushed stone, begins in downtown Mineral Wells and heads east, soon passing near a state park where camping and picnicking are available. Dotting the route are 16 bridges, including a 500-foot crossing adorned with 104 Lone Stars.
Plano's Chisholm Trail is a Texas star with a relaxing ride through the wooded valley of Spring Creek. A handful of parks along the way offer plentiful amenities and welcome rest stops on the paved, 9-mile route.
Running through a well-canopied corridor across western Houston, the Terry Hershey Park Hike & Bike Trail offers one of the city's best rides. You'll have a nice mix of terrain and views as you pedal alongside the Buffalo Bayou, over small creeks and under road bridges.
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