The Seymour Lieberman Exercise Trail isn't the only bit of off-roading you can do when you want to save your workouts from the evil clutches of pavement. Deep in the heart of Houston are the most challenging mountain bike trails you'll find within the loop. Lovingly referred to by enthusiasts as "ditch riding," these two-way, rooty trails of various color-codings (in no way affiliated with their difficulty level) are acutely affected by the weather — they're closed when it rains, and they're forever evolving in form. To off-roaders, this constantly changing landscape makes it worth revisiting — and worth earmarking as a biker's preferred stompin' grounds. The Ho Chi Minh trails (as they were called, back in the day) wind their way around the southwest side of the park, completely surrounded by dense thickets of where-did-this-come-from forest. Which makes getting completely lost right in the middle of the city par for the course.
Wandering along the shores of the Buffalo Bayou never hurt so good. The Anthills, as they are colloquially known (due to the sweet dirt bike mounds that punctuate the trail on the easternmost end), could be considered the out-and-back version of Memorial Park. Twist, turn, and climb your way along the bayou from just past Wilcrest to Addicks Dam and back on 16 miles of nothing but glorious trail. You'll find tricky roots, short and steep climbs, no-brainer gravel, trees to dodge, and hard-packed red soil to give all biking levels something to raise the heart rate over. The Anthills are often overlooked by inner loop riders within spitting distance of Memorial Park, but they're a mountain biking experience that you'll definitely want to remember.
The trails at Cypresswood Park aren't terribly technical, but what they lack in roots or rocks, they make up for with hairpin turns and speed. The singletrack trails begins with a few dips and drops, but even out into very manageable terrain overall. That's not to say you won't encounter an errant large root...or five. In fact, paying attention is highly recommended, because handling is key to keep you from careening into trees when you hit switchback after switchback on this short course. Cypresswood Park itself gets incredibly crowded with families on the weekends, so parking tends to be a hassle during peak gathering hours. But if you're looking for a highly aerobic workout on well-maintained off-road trails, you're probably hearing Cypresswood calling your name.
It might be a little out of your way (unless you live, in, um, Galveston), but Jack Brooks Park is a Houston-area mountain biker's dream come true. Well-loved, well-kept singletrack with serious climbs and descents don't even begin to describe the hilly, rooty heaven that is Jack Brooks. While beginners may find some parts unrideable, there are flatter sections in between the challenges that allow a rider to regain speed and confidence. If you feel a bit off-kilter throughout your ride, then the course designers have done their cambering well. Jack Brooks is a mind game, conquerable by only those riders that dare swallow their inhibitions. It provides one of the most Hill Country-like courses (minus the rocks) in the area, and your only complaint will be that it isn't longer.
We don't fault the Justin P. Brindley mountain bike trail for being only two miles long, because let's face it — good things come in small packages. This singletrack trail was a labor of love for the Sugar Land community, bearing the namesake of a resident who died in a rafting accident. A $55,000 donation from his family later, and you have an amazing wooded trail curving and whipping through lush vegetation before releasing you back into civilization ... with a turnaround suggesting you do it all over again. While technical it is not, a flat, gravel path cowers in the shadow of the Brindley trail. You can't beat the speed — and the air — you can accumulate on this trail, featuring just enough up and down to keep the adventurous mountain biker smiling for two miles straight.
The Woodlands excels at emphasizing a harmony between man and nature, and the Flintridge Trail is no exception. Often sprinkled with pine needles, sand, and other discarded foliage, this fast, relatively flat 3.4-mile loop is the answer to a mountain biker's wish to have more practice for his or her handling skills. Vertigo sufferers need not apply — the twists and turns here are so plentiful and sharp, you may lose your sense of straight and narrow. But the faster you go, the more daring this trail becomes, making riding this loop over and over again a no-brainer.