Lots Of Hike/Bike Trails
By Lone_Star on 2/17/2013
Distance: 19.80 Miles Duration: 6 hours
George Bush Park is a large park in West Houston that encompasses Barker Reservoir and many amenities including hike/bike trails, equestrian fields, sports fields, play areas, picnic areas, a rifle range, fishing spots, a dog park, a model airplane field for radio controlled aircraft enthusiasts, and more.
This is my second visit to George Bush Park. My first visit was unplanned as I unknowingly walked into the park when I was exploring Terry Hershey Park on my first visit about a week ago. You can read that log entry here. Terry Hershey is just to the east of and adjoins with George Bush Park.
My goal on this trip was to hike inside the reservoir and to explore the other hike/bike trails I did not walk during my previous visit.
Before I start my log, let me state the obvious. This is a low lying flood reservoir and it has wetland areas as well as Buffalo Bayou running through it. I would not recommend doing this hike after it has rained or during a particularly rainy season unless you are prepared to get muddy. Ideally, do this hike several days after the last rainfall so the ground has a chance to dry up.
I parked in a small lot off Highway 6 near Briar Forest Drive. I walked up over Barker Dam and took the Noble Road Trail down into the reservoir heading west. The trail is paved for a couple of hundred yards, but then turns into a wide grassy dirt trail. There is a large unnamed scenic pond on your left with benches on the shoreline to relax on and later there is another smaller unnamed pond on your right that is also scenic.
The Noble Trail goes west a couple of miles and then turns south in the center of the reservoir. Along the way, there are a few unimproved trails and cleared areas you can trek if you want, but be advised that there may be marshy and swampy areas further down the trail that are impassable. Googlemaps will show these lesser unnamed trails, but if you view the satellite imagery you'll see some areas the trails runs across Buffalo Bayou and continues on the other side. Problem is there are no bridges so you can't cross unless you want to get wet. I wouldn't recommend it for the average day hiker.
After the Noble Road Trail turns south, it goes for another mile or so before it heads west and ends at the George Bush Hike/Bike Trail that runs north/south (from Barker-Clodine Road). The hike/bike trail is a long straightaway at this section, so cyclists let out all the stops and travel at high speeds. I recommend you walk on the dirt a few feet off the paved bike trail so you don't have to dodge cyclists. You will pass some equestrian fields until you reach a fork. If you go left, you will take S. Barker Cypress Road towards Westheimer Parkway. If you go right (like I did), you will continue along the hike/bike trail in a westernly direction for several miles. You will cross a nice, long wooden bridge that spans Buffalo Bayou and continues west until you reach another fork. If you go left (south), you will cross a short bridge (T-103 bridge) and head towards the Fun Fair Positive Soccer Complex. If you go right (like I did), you will continue along the hike/bike trail as it turns north/northeast towards the back of a nice, expensive subdivision. There the hike/bike trail turns northwest and goes all the way out to Fry Road where it ends.
At this point, most people turn around, but I hate to backtrack so I left the park and walked south on Fry Road until I reached flood control channel T-103 just north of Westheimer Parkway. There I headed east back into the park until I reached the T-103 bridge and the trail heading towards the Fun Fair Positive Soccer Complex. I then walked east along Westheimer Parkway for several miles until I reached the Dick Scobee Model Airplane Fields. I took a short detour there to watch people fly their radio controlled airplanes and helicopters. I then got back on Westheimer Parkway and continued east until I reached S. Barker Cypress Road, turned right (south) and walked past Pavilion #3 and the scenic pond adjacent to it until I reached the Barker Dam. I then turned left and hiked along the long gravel service road on top of the dam for several miles all the way back to where I started my hike.
In summary, George Bush Park has something for just about everybody. It is popular amongst cyclists, joggers, and hikers. There are parts where there is some solitude and other areas where there is none. Good spot for birdwatchers. I saw a few white herons and several egrets. Printed trail maps are not available and signage is poor. Display maps are positioned at various points within the park, but are only found along the paved asphalt trails at key intersection points. If you are going to hike into the reservoir, it would be wise to either take a GPS (if you have one) or to spend some time prior to your hike planning your route using Googlemaps using satellite imagery. It's a HUGE park, so do not attempt the longer remote trails if you are elderly or not in good medical condition.