Brazos Bend State Park
Fall in Houston is really more like a mild summer. When the true summer heat finally let up in October last year, Dan and I drove 30 minutes south to finally explore Brazos Bend State Park. We've been in Houston for five years and yet had not heard much about the park. Then a friend attended a barbecue there and returned raving about how beautiful it was.
The park is a tribute to the Southeast climate including 37 miles of beautiful Spanish moss covered trails and many lakes where over 200 alligators and various other wildlife live. It is a great place for hiking (read: walking), biking, horseback riding, fishing and picnicking with family and friends.
We arrived around golden hour and paid the $7 per person fee to enter. Then we parked by Elm Lake where there were many picnic tables and families enjoying the beautiful weather. We walked around Elm Lake towards the observation tower at 40 Acre Lake where you can easily spot the alligators. (See the trail map here)
We didn't have to walk far before we spotted our first alligator. I was actually taking a picture of something else and the alligator casually swam into the frame disguised by the algae covered water. I was totally surprised!
Apparently the alligators can be found on the trail, so you're advised to stay at least 30 feet away and of course no swimming in the lakes where they live! You can bring your dogs but they recommend keeping them on a leash.
In our case, all of the alligators we saw were thankfully at peace in the water. As the sun began to set, we headed back to complete the loop around Elm Lake and get back in the car. I wouldn't want to hang out there after dark with wildlife (including some ginormous spiders) on the loose, but camping is an option for anyone who's up for it!
There is also an observatory on the property that you can visit on Saturdays from 3pm-10pm. We went on a Sunday, so we'll just have to go back to check out this awesome feature! I definitely miss being able to see the stars after living in cities for so many years.