Buffalo Bayou To Skid Row

Trail Sign
This is what the Buffalo Bayou Trail signs look like.
User: Lone_Star - 10/15/2013

Location: Buffalo Bayou Trail

Rating: 1star
Difficulty: 1star  Solitude: halfstar
Miles Hiked: 16.30 Miles  Elapsed Time: 5 hours, 43 minutes


I've been looking for longer urban walks, so walking the various bayous in Houston fit the bill.  For this hike, I decided to walk Buffalo Bayou, the main bayou in Houston.  I started my hike at Spotts Park and walked east towards downtown.  The city of Houston has invested a lot of time, money and effort into making this a nice, scenic park and I was impressed... until I got to downtown.  Unfortunately, the downtown area and the section to the east of downtown is not very nice and is populated with homeless hobos, drug addicts, alcoholics and many other undesirable vagrants.  The smell of trash, piss and excrement is strong enough to make you gag.  You also pass the jail, police station, rehab centers and bail bond businesses, so you get the idea of what it's like.

I should mention that the Buffalo Bayou trail connects to many other park and hike & bike trails.  Some of these trails take you through some shady areas near the city center.  I am an ex-military paratrooper and pretty hard core, but frankly there were sections I did not feel safe and became slightly paranoid and hyper-vigilant since I was hiking by myself.  I felt this way during the broad daylight, so this is definitely not something I would do in the early morning or evening, especially if you are female.  I would also not suggest hiking alone, but hiking with others because there is safety in numbers.  In the areas that run under the major freeway overpasses, the noise is so loud that if you were assaulted no one would hear your screams for help.  Also, some parts of the trail take you through remote areas where there are some "blind spots" where you don't have good visibility to see if anyone is waiting to jump you and the shrubbery would conceal anyone from seeing/helping you if they did.  Fortunately, it seems that the HPD (Houston Police Department) is aware of these dangers as I did see a number of car, bike and horse patrols.  That gave me a little more psychological comfort.

The west part of the Buffalo Bayou trail is nice, well-lit, and safe.  The signage is very good, too, which is helpful since there are many trails branching off in various directions.  This is the section that runs from Shepherd Dr. to the Sabine Promenade.  It gets worse near the area where the Heights Hike & Bike Trail picks up and takes you east.  Frankly, the Buffalo Bayou trail dead ends near downtown and you have to get your bearings and walk through the downtown streets for several blocks to pick up the Heights Hike & Bike Trail.  When the Heights Hike & Bike Trail ends, you can pick up the trail along Buffalo Bayou again where it resumes on the northwest side of downtown, but this area is run down and not very nice.  I wanted to cross over the bayou and finish hiking to Tony Marron Park on the other side, but the old, out of service train bridge that leads you across is in terrible shape.  Some metal grating has been placed over the old tracks and a chain link fence to protect you from falling into the bayou, but about 2/3rds of the way across the grating stops and the fence is badly damaged and mostly missing.  I suspect these materials were taken by homeless people to help build shanty shelters.  This left me in a precarious predicament where I thought about trying to balance and walk on the wooden support planks that run perpendicular under the tracks, but these have all been badly burned and could have easily given way under my weight.  This could have caused me serious injury or to fall 20+ feet into the dirty bayou below.  Even though I only had another 50 feet or so to go to get to the other side, I deemed it impassable and was forced to turn around.  I'll have to hike the rest of the trail from Tony Marron Park to this burned out train bridge another day, but I'm not looking forward to it since it will be another dangerous trek.

On my way back, I hiked through Autry Park, the Sabine Promenade, the Lee and Joe Jamail Skate Park, and Cleveland Park.  These are all parks that are on the way or nearby.  You can find some additional details of my hike through those parks on my logs of those locations.

Log Photos
Trail Sign
View Of The Trail
Connector Bridges
Another View Of The Trail
Buffalo Bayou @ Downtown
One Of The Less Safe Parts Of The Trail
Bridge To Nowhere
Close-Up Of The Destroyed Bridge
Another Not-So-Safe Spot
Concrete Jungle
End Of The Trail
Work In Progress