When you need an escape to nature’s embrace, look no further than The Woodlands. Located among lush pine forests just 30 miles north of Houston, this thriving destination is a bona fide outdoor playground. Whether you’re running on endless trails, conquering obstacles hanging high above ground or playing a round of golf on a picturesque course, you’ll find the kind of adventure that moves you here. Read on to get the full picture on some of the top things you can do outdoors in The Woodlands, then see everything else the town has to offer. 

Kayaking Family on The Woodlands Waterway

PADDLE BEAUTIFUL LAKE WOODLANDS

Adventure is never far away in The Woodlands, and nothing summarizes that better than Lake Woodlands. Sprawling over 200 acres just a few miles away from The Woodlands Mall, the lake is a paddler’s dream. Rent a kayak or a paddle board from Riva Row Boat House and your time on the water begins with a trip down the western portion of The Woodlands Waterway, a trek that takes you past Town Green Park and the occasional great blue heron perched on the bank. To start right on the lake, get your watercraft of choice from Lakes Edge Boat House in Hughes Landing. No matter where you start, you’ll have plenty of lake to explore. Paddle past restaurants on the northern end, then find your way through tranquil coves on your way down to the southern tip, home to an art installation that looks like the Loch Ness Monster. 

If you’re looking for a way to get outdoors with your younger kids, Riva Row Boat House has the solution. Climb aboard your very own swan pedal boat and navigate your way down The Woodlands Waterway, passing The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, Waterway Square and art benches along the way. Each swan boat seats up to four, affording an easygoing afternoon outdoors with your family. 

Texas TreeVentures Climbing

PLAY AMONG THE TREETOPS

With one hand in front of the other, you swing from one rung to the next on a set of monkey bars. Try not to look down, as you’re about 40 feet above solid ground. Welcome to Texas TreeVentures, an aerial challenge course unlike any other in the Houston area. Climb high in the canopy of a verdant pine forest on a journey that will test your physical and mental strength. You’ll crush more than 70 obstacles throughout your three-hour ascent, from hanging balance beams and platforms to cargo nets and a floating rock wall. Your reward for making it to the top, besides tired forearms and sore fingers, is a fantastic view of the scenic George Mitchell Nature Preserve. 

Climbers as young as six can take on the course, making it the perfect day out for when you’re traveling with kids. Learn more about Texas TreeVentures here.

Golf in The Woodlands

TEE OFF ON WORLD-CLASS GOLF COURSES

Rolling fairways flanked by towering pines, lakeside greens and ever-present sand traps that challenge your accuracy. This is what a typical round looks like in The Woodlands, where golf is anything but ordinary. Home to two 18-hole courses, The Woodlands Resort is a great place to start. Grand oaks frame inviting fairways on The Oaks course, which culminates with an 18th hole that borders picturesque Lake Harrison. Panther Trail, on the other hand, incorporates stunning water features and more than 20 acres of Texas wildflowers to create a playing experience that is as breathtaking as it is challenging. 

Insider tip: To book a tee time on either course, you need to either be a resort guest or you need to make your reservation one week in advance.

For a quick round, play through the nine-hole course at Spring Valley Golf & Disc Golf, which is where you’ll also find a 28-hole disc golf course that partially follows the traditional course’s route. If that’s not enough for you, there are an additional 45 holes at Bear Branch and Terramont Park disc golf courses. Regardless of what kind of golf you prefer, you’ll find The Woodlands has the kinds of courses that’ll keep you coming back for more. 

Runners Along The Woodlands Waterway

EXPERIENCE ONE OF TEXAS' BEST RUNNING DESTINATIONS

Winding trails shrouded by oaks and pines merge with long straightaways that provide all the distance you would ever need for a morning run, whether you’re training for a 5K or a marathon. With more than 220 miles of interconnected paths largely separated from traffic, The Woodlands is a safe and scenic place to get in your mileage. See some of The Woodlands’ highlights while you get a workout by running along The Woodlands Waterway, a more than 2.5-mile loop that takes you past The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, The Koi Garden and several eye-catching art installations. 

Not far away, Northshore Park provides a great starting point for a longer run. Follow the trail west and it will eventually take you around to the south side of Lake Woodlands, where you’ll wave at kayakers and spy wading shorebirds as you pass over a long bridge. You can pick up another trail in Hughes Landing that takes you along Research Forest Drive for as far as your legs can take you. Just make sure to leave enough in your tank to make your way back. 

While all these trails are ideal for running, they work just as well for a sunny afternoon stroll. Yet if you’re into hiking, you’ll find that here too. Hit shaded pathways of the George Mitchell Nature Preserve, a sprawling forest that is part of the larger Spring Creek Greenway. Immerse yourself in The Woodlands’ native flora and fauna as you explore five miles of trails. Located within the Central and Mississippi flyways, the preserve is a birdwatching hotspot where you can see blue jays, cardinals, gold finches and more. Make sure to bring your binoculars so you don’t miss out while you’re here.  

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SAVOR GREAT FOOD & ABUNDANT SUNSHINE

There’s nothing better than a great meal shared with friends. Unless you’re enjoying fresh air and eye-catching scenery, of course. That’s exactly what you’ll get in The Woodlands, where seemingly every restaurant has its own outdoor patio. Dig into wood-fired pizzas and pub favorites at The Goose’s Acre or Sorriso’s timeless Italian comfort dishes while taking in a view of The Woodlands Waterway. For vibrant sunsets and lake views, head to Hughes Landing. Here you’ll find sophisticated eateries like Del Frisco’s Grille and The Blue Fish that serve a tantalizing array of cuisine with extensive selections of wine and craft beer.  

Prefer to be your own chef? Pack a lunch and head out to one of these first-rate picnicking spots in town. Whether you’re with your friends, family, or looking for a date night, add a bit of fresh air to your dining in The Woodlands. 

When you feel the need to escape to the great outdoors, The Woodlands is the place to be. Not only does it offer a wide range of experiences, its location just 30 miles north of Houston means it’s easy to reach. Learn more about The Woodlands and plan your visit here.