There are plenty of places in Houston to get outdoors with kids, from urban city parks to more wild, natural spaces inside the loop. If you’ve already conquered most of these and want an entirely new challenge for your family, Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center is a good step up from the city parks but still a reasonable drive from Houston. Before you go, make sure you pack water, snacks, and bug spray!
Located by Houston Intercontinental Airport about 30 mins from downtown, the park is nestled in a neighborhood but evokes more of a state park feel once you get in the gates. There are lots of trails and parking lots, so with kids in tow it’s helpful to have the inside scoop on which area is best. Here is the map, which we could only find on site:
When you enter the park, resist the temptation to park in the first lot. Instead, follow the road almost to the exit of the park. In the photo above, it’s the orange dot. That trail was definitely the most accessible and fun for kids. Other trails seem to be more for bikers near the park entrance, but bikers (and pets – take note!) are not allowed on the trails in the area we’ll talk about here.
Right in the parking lot is the entrance to the Palmetto Trail, which you’ll take to get to the blue circled area on the map above. It links up with the coolest trail in the park: the Cypress Boardwalk Trail. This is a meandering, elevated boardwalk through a swamp full of old, beautiful cypress trees. It’s completely shaded here, so even in the heat it’s not too bad. When we went there was no water in the swamp, but it was still really beautiful and interesting.
If you have really little kids, like 1-3 years old, the Cypress Boardwalk Trail is an easy walk and may be plenty. There are plenty of interesting pathways to explore and some built-in benches on the boardwalks to rest and have a snack. There are so many neat things to see, including birds, squirrels, and insects. We even found a bay leaf tree and got to smell and taste a leaf, thanks to the signage!
If you have kids that are a little older, like 3.5 and up, you may want to kick it up a notch and try your hand at finding Spring Creek. There is a place called Spring Creek Beach that is just north of the Cypress Boardwalk Trail area. It’s not far, it just a little more rustic, going through less-traveled trails. But the payoff is great, especially for kids that like to dig in the sand!
From the parking lot, here’s how you get there (weird directions, but it works):
- Follow the Palmetto Trail to Cypress Boardwalk Trail just like above
- Watch for the White Oak Trail sign, and follow that trail
- Watch for the Spring Creek Beach sign and follow it
- Go across the bridge, play in the sand and have fun for a few minutes, and consult your Google Maps satellite view – you’re so close!
- There are several trails off this sandy area that take you to the very nearby river and sandy beach area (less than 1/4 mile) – just keep an eye on Google Maps and you’ll find your way.
You will probably be really hungry after this hike – at least we were! The nearby city of Humble has a ton of food options, but most of them on 1960, the closest large road in the area, are fast food. If you want something more unique, try Humble City Cafe or Tin Roof BBQ.
We hope you have fun at Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center – we’ll certainly be back to try the other trails, because there’s plenty to explore. We weren’t able to visit the Nature Center at the front of the park due to COVID, but that’s on our list too. If you visit, please leave your thoughts in the comments below!