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Hit the Pavement, then the Pie: Turkey Trotting

Meg Scott
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turkey trot

Embrace Turkey Day with inspired attire - be it socks, a feathered hat or a full inflatable costume. 

The 2020 BakerRipley Turkey Trot, a longtime tradition for many Houston families, has gone virtual this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Whether you are participating officially as a registered trotter or just want to hit the pavement the morning of the big feast, we’ve gathered some routes where you can get outdoors as a family. 

Houston has plenty to offer for walks and runs of all lengths – the kid-friendliest 1K, a comfortable 5K or more ambitious 10K. Turkey-wear is (obviously) still encouraged, but we can’t promise there will be beer or fresh fruit at the end of the trail.

Houston Arboretum’s Meadow Pond

In the colder months, turtles warm themselves in the sun on a log at the Houston Arboretum’s Meadow Pond. 

1K Routes
For a walk of this length, just two-thirds of a mile, you could just step out your front door and explore the neighborhood. However, if you’re seeking a new adventure this Thanksgiving, look no farther than these beautiful and gentle walking routes around town.

  • Houston Arboretum’s Inner Loop – The Inner Loop trail wanders from the Nature Center building through the woods, interrupted halfway by the scenic Meadow Pond overlook. The trail is a semi-decked, semi-dirt path with frequent rest benches and an educational shelter called the Prairie Field Station. Throughout your walk, watch for wildlife: It’s not uncommon to spot rabbits, armadillos, snakes, and a wide variety of birdlife. 
  • West 11th Street Park – Tucked away in the Heights is a 20-acre stretch of native Texas forestland just off the bustling beaten path of T.C. Jester near 11th Street. Here you will find a loop trail offering an easy wander through the woods. The park’s website even offers activities for kids, such as these printable coloring pages with animals and plants to seek, including drawings of the pileated woodpecker, great horned owl, winecup flower and milkweed (a-choo!). 
  • Farther afield: If you don’t mind a bit of a car ride to get deeper into the coastal wilderness, head an hour south of downtown Houston to Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge. Here, the Big Slough Trail, an easy 1.2-mile loop, winds through prairie and woodlands with a boardwalk over the marshes of the Big Slough waterway. Bring your binoculars for bird-watching at this haven for feathered friends. 

5K Routes
There are countless routes around Houston that clock in at 5K or approximately three miles. To many, this is the perfect length to get your blood flowing before settling in for food and football. Hit the trail for an hour or two on one of these paths. 

  • Seymour Lieberman Exercise Trail at Memorial Park - The Memorial Park area, at Memorial Drive and Picnic Lane, is home to many trails for all purposes. The most popular walk-jog trail, the Seymour Lieberman Exercise Trail, is a 2.9-mile loop on crushed granite, offering a level and wide path for a comfortable family outing.
  • Bayou Wilds Trails at Memorial Park – South of Memorial Drive, the Bayou Wilds trail system is a hike-and-bike set of trails in the forested area between the road and Buffalo Bayou. The Bayou Wilds Green Trail is a 2-mile intermediate level path that can be combined with other offshoots in the Bayou Wilds area for a longer journey. This more narrow trail is often used for off-road biking, but the path is shared with walkers and runners. 
  • Rice University – In the West University area, the path around Rice University is tree-lined with live oaks for nearly all of its 2.9 miles of dirt track. You can enjoy the sight of the campus buildings, which will be quiet for the holiday break.
  • Farther afield:  While the Gulf side of Galveston Island State Park is still under renovation through 2022, the bay side features a string of loop and out-and-back trails through the coastal prairie and marshlands. Make your reservation in advance, then hop in the car and head south to the island (about a 90-minute drive from downtown) to breathe the fresh salt air. Keep your eyes peeled for a glimpse of an alligator poking his nose out of the water, and be sure to stay on the trail at all times.
Brazos Bend State Park

At Brazos Bend State Park, you will be communing with alligators in their natural habitat. Needless to say, stay on the trail and give any animals their space. 

10K Routes
For those who enjoy the full potential of the Turkey Trot, a 10K walk or run will raise the heartrate and kick off the day with a sweat. In lieu of the Galleria-area path normally followed in the official Turkey Trot, travel one of these paths for a similar distance.

  • Quail Trail - This out-and-back trail runs along the Buffalo Bayou beginning at Beltway 8, totaling up to 12 miles if you loop all the way to Highway 6 and back. Replicate the length of your Turkey Trot 10K by turning back around Kirkwood. This is an exercise trail for hikers and bikers, so keep an eye out for those on wheels. 
  • Rice University and Hermann Park Loop – An extension of the Rice University trail (mentioned above as a 5K route), the adjoining Hermann Park Trail loop can turn a 2.9-mile walk or run into a lengthier 6 miles. In addition to the journey around Rice University, the path through Hermann Park takes you past the Houston Zoo, Houston Museum of Natural Science and the outskirts of the medical district. 
  • Farther afield: In the lowlands surrounding the Brazos River sits Brazos Bend State Park. The park is an hour southwest of downtown Houston and is the best place in Houston to see alligators in their natural habitat. Take a 5.2-mile walk by traveling the 40-acre Lake Loop and the adjoining Elm Lake Loop. You could even bring your Thanksgiving feast with you and enjoy a picnic at one of several picnic stations on the grounds after you stretch your legs. 

Editor's note: Read our past stories on the annual Turkey Trot by Karen Vine Fuller for Turkey Trot tips or Annie McQueen's Buzz Baby column on trotting with little ones.

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