Even in the summer, the Valley’s hike and bike trails offer fun adventures close to home. The best bet is an early morning walk or a bike ride before sunset, to take advantage of cooling breezes.
Brownsville claims the title of RGV Bicycling Capital, rightfully so with a nearly 10-mile-long, paved trail that runs from the Federal Courthouse and Linear Park to the southern end of Palo Alto National Battlefield Park. Hikers, bikers and dog walkers on the former railroad corridor, now known as the Historic Battlefield Trail, can hop on the trail as it passes through neighborhoods and behind shops and businesses. Maps, shaded benches and water fountains for people and pets make the trek enjoyable. Interpretive signs note this same route was used by wagons in the 1800s.
The trail starts near the Mr. Charro statue and Zagster rental bikes, where an El Paso visitor named Dan was checking the trail map. “I’m glad the trail is here and that it is so level.” Although the trail crosses several busy roads, Dan said pushing the crosswalk button gets you across safely.
Just past the sculptures at the Brownsville Fine Arts Museum, the trail passes the Visitors Center (open 10-3 Mon.-Sat.) which has information on trail sites. The trail’s railway roots are visible in its straight arrow path north, first paralleling I-2 frontage road and then paralleling Paredes Line Road. To extend your walk or ride, you can follow two loops: one takes a seven-mile circle of the Paseo de la Resaca development; the other takes you to Resaca de la Palma Battlefield Site. The city also provides the 6.2-mile-long Monte Bella Park Trail, a dirt, single track loop designed for mountain bikers. The paved, mile-long Belden Trail occupies a former rail corridor.
Head Out of Town
If you prefer to walk on the wild side—or to bike there, you are in luck. Our three state parks and two wildlife refuges offer trails galore. Here are your best chances to spot screech owls, chachalacas, bobcats and green jays.
Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, recently ranked among the top 10 hiking locations by Texas Monthly, has about 60 miles of walking trails. The Bayside Loop to Redhead Ridge is open to bicyclists, although construction is ongoing. Come early and you could spot white-tailed deer, nilgai or alligators. The Visitors Center (open Thurs.-Mon.) provides maps, viewing blinds and tips on where you might see aplomado falcons. Other days check in at the self-pay station.
Santa Ana National Wildife Refuge, off Military Highway south of Alamo, has 14 miles of trails (including the paved 7-mile tram loop) thread through 2,000 acres along the Rio Grande. Stop to climb the tower to the canopy bridge which puts you at eye level with perched and flying birds. It’s easy to see Altamira orioles, screech owls and a historic ranch cemetery on your walk. No pets or bikes allowed.
At Resaca de la Palma State Park, near Olmito, Brownsville and Matamoros bike clubs often circle the three-mile long paved tram loop. Hikers trek on six miles of primitive but shaded trails, complete with restrooms. The park’s visitors center is open 8-5. After hours, hikers and bikers use the self-pay station to access trails while it’s cooler.
Estero Llano Grande State Park offers five miles of walking trails that weave around Alligator Lake, past Ibis Pond and through Tamaulipan thorn forest. That means plenty of shade and possible glimpses of an armadillo, possum or bat. Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park’s 4.4-mile-long main trail is open for hikes, bikes and leashed dogs. Its other trails are for walkers only.
Urban biking is available across the Valley. Harlingen’s hilly 3.7 mile Arroyo Colorado trail runs along the waterway from the Expressway to McKelvey Park, going under a picturesque railway bridge. A second hike and bike trail stretches from Hugh Ramsey Nature Park to TSTC, at times along an irrigation canal.
McAllen has seven park trails with the longest being the hike and bike trails that run from Business 83 to Nolana (2.3 miles) on Bicentennial and Second. Trails where you can rack up a measured mile are West Side Park, Retama Village Park, Schupp Park and Las Palmas Park.
Walking trails with friends and family, you realize how much better you feel—physically and emotionally—while exercising. Biking, solo or with a group, lets you cover ground a little faster, but the benefits are the same: fun, a good workout, and the time to appreciate the natural resources of the Valley.