The Montgomery County Nature Preserve is an out of the way urban greenbelt park located near the confluence of Panther and Spring Creeks at the Montgomery County/Harris County line. It receives light use since the trailhead is fairly hidden. To access, take the Rayford/Sawdust exit on I-45 and travel west on Sawdust to Budde Road. Turn south on Budde and follow until Budde becomes Pruitt Road past the stop sign. After bend in Pruitt, look for pullout on left. Trailhead is adjacent to sports fields with parking near gated-off dirt access road, if you see the county recycle center you have passed it. The trailhead is marked and has a map of trails on the preserve. The Big Oak loop crosses the access road and winds through a typical forest of loblolly, water oak, and sweetgum with yaupon understory. Trail is well maintained but may be muddy with ankle deep standing water after heavy rains. After rejoining the access road, take the signed Panther Paw Pass trail for access to Panther Creek. There are white sandy beaches at low water, the creek is also very interesting to watch when in flood. Sycamore, willow and river birch become the common trees near the drainage of Panther and Spring Creeks. After rejoining the access road, you will see a clearing across the road and MoCo pond, a trail loops around the pond which a good place to spot birds. After walking the pond loop, follow the access road back toward the trailhead, but look for the marked Greenway trail on the right. This trail can be a bit overgrown with grass, but is otherwise easy to follow and lead to views of Spring Creek to the south, and a series of oxbow lakes and old gravel pits returning to wetlands to the north. There is a mix of meadows, wetlands and regenerating forest here that is great for spotting hawks, egrets, herons and a variety of songbirds. As you travel east traffic noise from I-45 increases. Return to complete the loop when ready, you will likely have the place to yourself. If you choose to cut out the Greenway Trail, the Big Oak Loop with the spurs listed above is just over a mile and can be walked in as little as 30 minutes.

mountain biking
11 months ago