Early views were limited to the 360-degree images captured by those funny-looking cars with roof-mounted cameras, but have you ever wondered how we're able to see more and more of these off-the-beaten-path images lately? Enter Google Trekker, which allows us to view areas previously accessible only by foot by loading a hiker up with a 40-pound backpack equipped with GPS technology and cameras.
The brave personnel at the nonprofit Houston Parks Board participated in the Trekker Loan Program in late 2014 and early 2015, covering about 150 miles of Houston parkland and what eventually will be the Bayou Greenways network, to bring us some very cool images from 31 different sites in our region. [Upon completion, Bayou Greenways 2020 (led by the board) will create a continuous park system along our major waterways, connecting parks and people while helping to reduce flooding.] To view a full list of Houston trails, parks and greenways available on Google maps, visit houstonparksboard.org/google-trekker.
It's easy to get lost in the maps and realize that several hours have gone by, so we asked the folks at the Houston Parks Board to pick some of the best scenes from their journeys. They did us a solid and provided the actual coordinates. Take a look at these images and, if you like them, click on the hyperlinked photo credits and start your own rabbit hole journey.
Brays Bayou Greenway Trails offer some amazing views of Gus Wortham Park Golf Course and Brays Bayou. Recently completed, the trails are located in the Idylwood neighborhood and offer a quick connection to Mason Park.
There are almost 10,000 trees in Hermann Park, some approaching 100 years old, and it's one of the prettiest features of the Rice University / Medical Center / Museum District area. In this particular screenshot, notice the shadow of the Trekker's camera. Situated along the Brays Bayou Greenway, the park is operated by Hermann Park Conservancy and features trails, gardens, wetlands, plazas, fountains, an eight-acre lake and – one of our favorite places for free and fun things to do – Miller Outdoor Theatre.
The Terry Hershey Park Hike & Bike Trail is a Harris County park that runs east-west along the banks of Buffalo Bayou in west Houston. The coordinates for this screen shot place this very close to Dairy Ashford, though it's hard to believe with all the dense foliage. Follow these trails for ten miles to find restrooms, exercise stations, picnic areas and a playground. It stretches from the Barker Reservoir at Highway 6 all the way to West Sam Houston Parkway North, near Lakeside Country Club.
East of the University of Houston and the Lawndale area, Mason Park boasts 104 acres along Brays Bayou. Operated by the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, recreational and leisure opportunities include fields for baseball, softball and soccer, plus a playground and lighted tennis courts. There's also a swimming pool, indoor gym, weight room, a hike-and-bike trail and a nine-hole disc golf course.