Exploring Lake Houston Wilderness Park: 10 Things To Do with Kids
If you love the outdoors, you’ve probably checked out some of the state parks near Houston, like Lake Livingston or Huntsville. However there is a hidden gem within Houston itself that offers a similar experience. You won’t believe the great features of Lake Houston Wilderness Park for families:
- Free for kids aged 12 and under and only $3 for adults.
- Close by – located in the City of Houston boundary near New Caney.
- Nearly 5,000 acres of forest, 2 lakes, and a creek.
- Overnight camping in tents, shelters, or cabins.
So grab your backpack and enjoy the great outdoors for the day or the weekend. We provide ten great ideas for family activities in Lake Houston Wilderness Park, as well as details of what to know before you go, nearby attractions, and restaurant ideas.
If this article inspires you to travel further afield, you can check out some of the United States national parks. And to learn more about places to explore in the Houston area, try these 11 Amazing Kid-Friendly Hiking Trails.
1. Hike and bike the trails
Lake Houston Wilderness Park has over 20 miles of trails and is a perfect destination for families with younger children, as there are some short, flat routes. The Peach Creek Loops (north and south) are around a mile long and pass by the creek they are named after. Longer trails include Loggers Loop and Ameritrail, both nearly 4 miles long. Kids will enjoy navigating using the trail map.
When little legs get tired, use our hiking games to keep on trekking!
The park includes an archery range. Photo courtesy of Houston Parks HPARD, Facebook
2. Try archery
Lake Houston Wilderness Park is a great place to learn or practice this sport if your kids are ages 8 and up, as it has a fabulous new archery range. Instructor-led classes run weekly at only $3, or you can make a reservation and bring your own equipment.
3. Learn about local wildlife with the park’s free events
You’ll spot some critters when you are hiking the trails, but why not team up with an expert? Lake Houston Wilderness Park holds frequent events that can engage your kids in the natural environment. Best of all, they are free! Some of the activities the park runs are:
- Snakes – Learn how to identify local snakes by characteristics and if they are venomous or not.
- Frogs – Find out more about the distinctive sounds of different frog species.
- Spiders - Discover interesting facts about spiders and their role in the ecosystem.
- Turtles – Learn how to identify different species of turtles and their lives in the park.
4. Spot some birds
There are a huge variety of birds in Texas that change with the seasons. Before you head to Lake Houston Wilderness Park, pick up a guidebook or download Texas Parks & Wildlife’s Common Birds guide. The park also offers free guided bird walks as part of its events program.
Visit all sorts of wildlife in the Joe Turner Nature Center. Photo courtesy of the Lake Houston Wilderness Park Facebook page
5. Visit the Joe Turner Nature Center
Open Wednesday through Sunday, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.
The Joe Turner Nature Center is located within the park and is the ideal spot to visit before or after an adventure out on the trails. The displays in the Wetlands Ecosystem Room include live fish and turtles. The Interesting Inverts Room features spiders and mounted insects of all types. Your kids will love the Reptile and Amphibians Room, containing live specimens of venomous and non-venomous snakes and several lizards and amphibians.
6. Relax and go fishing
Bring your fishing gear and cast your line into Lake Dabney. Don’t have any fishing gear? Join one of the nature center’s basic fishing programs for kids aged 8 and older. Your kids will learn about tackle, tying knots, casting, the importance of fishing regulations, and how to identify fish species. And, of course, they will go fishing! Regularly caught fish include Sunfish, Bluegill, White and Black Crappie, Largemouth Bass, Channel Catfish, and Gar.
Lake Houston Wilderness Park playground. Photo courtesy of the author
7. Play in the playground
Lake Houston Wilderness Park has a playground where kids can enjoy the company of other kids and have fun on the play equipment. Ideally situated near the car park, bathrooms, and picnic benches, you can hang out and relax for a while.
8. Have a gathering in one of the four day-use facilities
Lake Houston Wilderness Park is the ideal spot for a celebration or family reunion. Options range from Pine Grove Hall, a large day-use facility for up to 100 people with a full kitchen, to the Peach Creek Overlook picnicking site, which has 5 picnic tables and grills.
Lake Houston Wilderness Park has cabins for overnight camping. Photo courtesy of Houston Parks HPARD, Facebook
9. Camp overnight
There are several camping options in Lake Houston Wilderness Park for all budgets and group sizes. There are 24 individual campsites allowing up to 8 people per site, with a fire ring with grill, picnic table, and lantern pole. At only $7 a night, this is an affordable escape to nature! There are also 10 screened shelters, some of the lakeside, for $25–35 per night. If you prefer a cabin, there are 7 cabins and a Forest Lodge that can sleep a group of 20.
10. Launch a canoe
You can launch from the creek and paddle the waterway if you have your own canoe or kayak. If you’ve got strong arms, it’s about a 5-mile trip down to Lake Houston, and this is the only way to access the big lake from the wilderness park.
Peach Creek photo courtesy of the author
More Tips for Lake Houston Wilderness Park – Know Before You Go
Where is Lake Houston Wilderness Park?
25840 Farm-To-Market Rd 1485, New Caney, TX 77357
Only 30 miles and approximately 40 minutes northeast of downtown Houston, the park is just to the north of Lake Houston, near New Caney.
Be aware that despite the name of Lake Houston Wilderness Park the only way to access Lake Houston itself is via canoe!
How much does it cost to visit Lake Houston Wilderness Park?
The entrance fee is $3 per person, per day, but kids 12 years and under are free.
What attractions are near Lake Houston Wilderness Park?
Lake Houston – although the wilderness park has 2 small lakes, if you want a larger body of water, you are right next to Lake Houston – over 11,000 acres of boating and fishing.
Old MacDonald’s Farm – straight down the I69 toward Houston, this 15-acre outdoor park area features a range of animals, pony rides, and train rides, and has been entertaining Houston families for over 30 years.
Mercer Botanic Gardens – southwest of Lake Houston Wilderness Park and free to visit, the gardens have well-manicured planting and paths. Children 5 and under will enjoy the occasional story and music events.
Where can families eat near Lake Houston Wilderness Park?
When everyone’s hungry, try one of these family-owned local restaurants.
Lake Houston Brewery – 10614 FM 1960, Huffman, 77336
This brewery has a kid-friendly menu and space to run around with a huge outdoor patio right on Lake Houston.
New York Grand Pizza – 16430 W Lake Houston Pkwy STE 800, 77044
Family-operated restaurant offering a range of New York-style pizza and pasta dishes.
Buster’s BREW – 20126 Loop 494, New Caney
This coffee and sandwich shop offers friendly service in a country atmosphere.
Want more information?
Check out the Lake Houston Wilderness Park website.