FKT: Tyler Lazar - Sam Houston North Wilderness Loop (TX) - 2021-03-06

Route variation
Standard loop
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
53m 54s

Total elapsed time: 53:54

Unsupported, ran clockwise

Since living in Houston, Sam Houston National Forest has served as one of my favorite places to go hiking and trail running with its diversity of trees and large fungi population popping up after rains.  When I saw that there was a submitted route for the North Wildnerness loop, I thought I'd take a shot at it and set a standard for other Houston trail runners to hopefully go after.  Plus, it gave me a route to try out the new short distance trail runners I got on clearance.  This short ~7.5 mile loop takes you through the Little Wildnerness along with a few portions of the Lonestar Trail.  It's definitely a more technical trail with definitely something like 6-10 creek crossings, at least 10 large fallen logs blocking the trail, roots popping up everywhere, and nearly all single track with tons of thorny bushes clawing into you, also resulting in limited visibility.  If you can make it through without a scratch, props to you: my legs are all cut up, I tripped (but did not fall) twice, and ran into a tree with a bruise on my shoulder to prove it.  Coming from the much more nicely maintained Bay Area trails, this is the first time I've ever been challenged by a technical trail rather than the pure elevation of the run, as this trail's "climbs", if you could even call them that, are barely even noticeable.  Highly recommend if you're training for a trail run that is technical, or if you want to explore Sam Houston NF, the Little Wildnerness is probably my favorite place in the forest.  If you're trying to go for a faster time, here are my recommendations:

1.  Hike the route beforehand: navigation is pretty important and it's pretty easy to get off trail considering how small the trail is.  I've hiked and ran portions of it several times, which definitely helped.  Even with GPS, it's still hard to really stay on the route.

2.  Run the loop counter-clockwise: I did it clockwise because that's the way I'm more comfortable navigationally, but doing the loop this way leaves the most technical portions until the end when you are more tired.  I would probably prefer to get those out of the way beforehand.

3.  Go during a dry season: it didn't even rain that much this week, but the Little Wildnerness was real muddy and the creeks were pretty full.  My legs and shoes had mud caked all over after the run.

4.  Get to the trailhead early: it's a pretty busy trailhead, as people use it as a starting/finishing point for section hiking the Lonestar trail.

5.  Push the more open flats: the trail opens up a little bit at a few places, if you have the fitness to do it, just let it rip.  It'd probably be the biggest time saver.

That's pretty much it.  I'm pretty happy with the time considering how technical the trail was and the fact I really wasn't pushing it, I was just hoping to finish it within an hour.  Hope some others try this route going forward, will likely take a shot at this again sometime in the next few years before leaving Houston.