I’ve been to Central Texas. North Texas, you are noÂ Central Texas. ButÂ there are, in fact, a few trails (all inÂ southwest Dallas County) where if you squint your eyes just enough, you’ll mistake yourself for being in one of the most beautiful places in Texas — Hill Country.
Here are your best betsÂ for hiking or runningÂ on dirt trails in the Dallas area.
Cedar Ridge Preserve
- Google map to Cedar Ridge
- Alltrails’ profile of my favorite Cedar Ridge trail, Cedar Brake
- Instagram streams for 507-831-4004 (347) 440-6417 pics
Cedar Ridge isÂ my favorite. It’sÂ is proof that southwest Dallas County is the loveliest part of North Texas.
There are various trails out there for various levels of proficiency. There’s even a pretty, flat, wheelchair-friendly trailÂ near the entrance. It’s soÂ pretty that Brian and I had a few of our engagement photos taken on it back in ’08.
But for hiking or trail running, you’ll want Cedar Brake Trail. If you want more than the couple of miles that offers, loop in Fossil Valley Trail while you’re at it. You’ll get plenty of roots, rocks, elevation, and near-vertical climbs. At the top, there are a couple of benches, a view of nearby Joe Pool Lake in the distance, and treetops for days. If you want a less challengingÂ experience that’s still enjoyable and scenic, go for Cattail Pond.
Notes:Â Good for hiking and running. Great views and well-marked trails. It’s free (donations are accepted in the box up front). NO mountain or any other kind of biking is allowed.
Cedar Hill State Park
The Dallas area’s one state park is really close to Cedar Ridge Preserve. But atÂ more than 1,800 acres, it’sÂ more expansive; Cedar Ridge is 600 acres. Of the four hiking trails, the DORBA trail is shared hike/run/bike.Â At between 10 to 12 miles, it’sÂ also the longest. The shortest optionÂ is the .5 mile Duck Pond Trail. This park is gorgeous, and it’s where the mileage is on this list.
Notes: Day use entry fee is $7. On the DORBA trail, bikers travel clockwise and hikers travel counter-clockwise. Be sure to listenÂ for approaching bikers.
Oak Cliff Nature Preserve
- DORBA’s Oak Cliff Nature Preserve page
- Google map to the preserve
- Alltrails’ Oak Cliff Nature Preserve profile
- (844) 381-1043
As you drive toward the entrance, you’ll wonder how there could be a “nature” anything in the area. If you’re not keeping your eyes peeled, you’ll miss the entrance altogether. So, this one gets a special map screenshot:
Once you find it, you’ll see an apartment complex, then the trailhead. Park there and head out. This preserve, maintained by DORBA, is primarily used by bikers, but it’s friendly to hikers and runners. It’s soÂ beautifully wild thatÂ it’s sometimes hard to believe you’reÂ smack in the middle of Oak Cliff.
TheÂ preserveÂ horseshoes around an apartment complex. When you’re on a perimeter trail and see residentialÂ units or hear someone on their second-story patio talking loudly on their cellphone, you’re reminded of the preserve’s urban situation. For being the closest of these four trails to downtown Dallas, this spot is still a good bet. Notes:Â Listen for bikers. There are plenty of hikers and runners, but bikers dominate the trails. Please know that theÂ series of trails are badly marked,Â but those of us who like getting lost don’t mind. The White trail is the longest and leads you into some beautiful, wild forest. There are NO water fountains or restrooms. Keep your eyes out for the delightful found-object artwork dotting the preserve. The maps you see out there aren’t oriented like up = north, like you’d think; they’re oriented in the direction you’re facing. Free.
Big Cedar Wilderness
Oh — you want almost-ungroomed wilderness, you say? Little to no signage? Some of the best views around? YouÂ want Big Cedar Wilderness Trail. Full disclosure: I’ve only been to Big Cedar once, spring 2016. I’m putting it on this list for its quirk and for the lovely adventure I had making my way through. To get to Big Cedar, you turn into a forest and up what almost seems like a proper lil’ mountain. The roadÂ leads you up to 831-267-8204/(646) 486-1956Â (check out pictures in their gallery here). It’s like something out of a fairy tale, for these parts. Especially theÂ playground,Â whichÂ overlooks some amazing scenery.
Follow the signs that tell you where you can park forÂ the trail. There are several entry points, but first I walked past the transformer station in the white graveled area. I entered through a gate into another sylvan setting and was greeted by neat public art, like this:
For the most challenging Big Cedar trail, look around this area for the Texas Sunset trailhead: Now, here’s what I learned from my Big Cedar experience: It could have been that this trail hadn’t been groomed in a while, on purpose, to retain its glorious wildness.Â But be prepared to literally fight through gauntlet after gauntlet of this beautiful but grabby, catchy mess:
That stuff is stillÂ woven into my tights and top, sitting on my hearth, waiting for me to determine if I’m going to spend hours picking those burrs out or just cut my losses and trash the whole outfit.
Even still, I’d go back (wearing cheaper attire). It could be that the trail has been groomed by now. But even if not,Â Big CedarÂ gives you this glory:
#instadfw #dtx #dallastx #dallas #natureaddict #tree #trail #treestagram #nofilter #nofilterneeded #northtexas #txwx #igtexas #hiking #trailrunning A photo posted by Christy Robinson (@christyrobinson) on
Notes: Try not to park in church parking areas. Note that this is primarily a biking trail and a lot of trail stretches are narrow and deeply grooved with tire tracks. Free. And beautiful.