We all start the New Year with the best of intentions. But, if your resolutions involve exercise, facing the inside of the gym can be less than inspiring. So, get outside! The beauty and diversity of the Brazos River basin will help you achieve your fitness goals while forgetting why you needed a resolution to get started.

Walking is one of the easiest physical activities to begin and enjoying the scenic outdoor beauty of the trails at Possum Kingdom Lake is the place to start.

The PK Hike and Bike Trail systems is paradise for both hikers and mountain bikers, offering scenic beauty combined with varying degrees of difficulty. Twelve trailheads stretch across the central peninsula at PK allowing one the opportunity to strike out for a scenic two-mile walk or a full out 16-mile workout.

The trails at PK are five-feet wide and wind through wooded areas that are easily accessible and for a variety of different fitness levels. Most of the trails feature a 5 to 12-degree slope, which is considered to be easy to moderate for hiking. One portion that rises high above Possum Kingdom Lake to Johnson Peak is more challenging, with a 20-degree slope. Johnson Peak provides a fantastic view of the reservoir and nearby hills, including the famous Hell’s Gate rock formation that provides an entry way to a cove in the southern part of the lake.

The trails also offer easy and convenient access to public use areas, with restrooms, playgrounds, and campsites. If the weather is nice, you can take advantage of free camping opportunities. The trails also provide maps, rest areas with cedar benches, and markers providing information about the area’s history, plant and animal life. Dogs are welcome on the trails, but they must be on a leash.

While the trails and public use areas at Possum Kingdom are open to visitors year-round, be aware that heavy rains could make areas of the trails inaccessible.

Other prime hiking spots

In the Central part of the basin, Cameron Park in Waco is often considered to be a hidden gem offering some of the most challenging trails in the state.

Originally part of a family estate, Cameron Park offers 15 miles of trails with outstanding views, including impressive vistas of the Brazos River. Though more than 100 years old, the historic Waco park that surrounds the trails is well maintained, featuring a disc golf course, restrooms and water fountains conveniently located for visitors. Just down the road, a concrete Riverwalk along the Brazos offers another opportunity for great views and hiking or biking, with a playground for the kids. The trails are dog-friendly, but dogs must be kept on a leash.

Heading toward the Gulf Coast, Brazos Bend State Park offers a plethora of opportunities for outdoor exercise and adventure. Natural beauty and a chance to hike, bike or ride horses are available at the park, located in Needville, a community in Fort Bend County about 45 miles southwest of Houston.

The Creekfield Nature Trail was designed to be accessible for those with disabilities as well. It is fully paved and offers a half-mile loop through a wetland area. While dogs are welcome at the park, their leashes must be no longer than 6 feet. There is also an observation deck for wildlife viewing.

Hike and bike trails at the park are located at 40-Acre, Elm and Hale Lakes. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department advises those who want to enjoy alligator viewing to do so either from the 40-Acre or Elm Lake Trails. There are also trails that lead into a hardwood forest area. Alligator etiquette information (how to be safe around the animals, which are the largest reptiles in North America) is posted on park maps and also on signs throughout the park.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will also help out with your New Year’s resolutions with their “First Day” Hike series at state parks across Texas.

TPWDs First Day Hikes vary from short, leisurely nature walks through forested trails and along boardwalks to climbs into the mountains. According to the TPWD website, state park staff and volunteers guide most hikes and will talk about native plants, animals or park history along the way.

Many walks average one to two miles long, with shorter or longer treks available. A few parks will even offer runs or paddles. To see a listing of all TPWDs First Day Hikes, go here.

These are just a few of the outdoor recreation sites located throughout the Brazos basin. For more opportunities near you or in other parts of the state, visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Hikes and Nature Walks page here, a Texas Trails website here or Texas Outside here.