Where to get outside in North Texas? Here are the 15 best hiking and biking trails
North Texas is known as a massive urban sprawl, including the large cities of Dallas, Fort Worth and Arlington that bubble over with well-established city life. However, this vast expanse of land is home to diverse natural regions that offer joy to those who love the outdoors.
From plains, grassland prairies and forests, each has its own merits worth exploring. The prairies are magical in spring with flowers, forests provide much needed shade in the summer and the bugs hide away more in the winters.
That soil is a subject of concern to trail users. After rains it turns trails into soupy, murky mess that if stepped upon will try to suck in your shoes. Many trails in the region are closed to bikes and hikers after rains.
Most of the trails are multi-use and visitors should check for direction of travel to avoid collisions. But, please note that some on this list are closed to bikes.
So, without further ado, here is a not-even-close-to-complete list of trails that you should experience in North Texas.
Rowlett Creek Preserve, Garland
With 16 multi-use miles consisting of 14 connected loops, there’s something for everyone in Rowlett Creek Preserve. Most of the trail is flat, twisting through trees and straightening out in open fields. There are a few loops that are hard, so be sure to check the maps before heading out. This is a multi-use trail.
Erwin Park, McKinney
Erwin Park has a wonderful skills area to test out jumps on multiple lines ranging from beginners to advances. The park also has 10 miles of multi-use trails that twist in the woods and smooth out over open fields with plenty of ups and downs. The park offers campsites and pavilions, while working hard at prairie land restoration. Open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
White Rock Creek / Lake, Dallas
White Rock Lake Trail is one of the busiest trails in North Texas. It is a 9.5-mile paved trail that encompasses the lake and passes nearby features such as the Bath House Cultural Center and the Dallas Arboretum. There are kayak rentals, picnic areas and even a dog park around the lake. The trail connects with the White Rock Creek Trail for an additional 7.6 miles for a whopping 17.1 miles of walking, biking bliss.
Goat Island Preserve, Hutchins
Named for one of the islands in the Trinity River, Goat Island Preserve is just over 500 acres with scenic overviews of the river, wildlife and forest. The preserve has about 10 miles of easy, mostly flat multi-use trails leading through the woods.
Katy Trail, Dallas
What was once an abandoned railroad line between Kansas and Texas is now known as the Katy Trail. The paved multi-use trail is 3.5 miles in the heart of the city. The trail leads from Houston Street to the North Central Expressway, but most of the trail is raised and bridged above streets so users can continue uninterrupted. There are several entry points to the trail with parking found near Knox Street and Reverchon Park. The trail is open 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Oak Cliff Nature Preserve, Dallas
Oak Cliff Nature Preserve is only 121 acres, but packed with natural beauty and adventure in the middle of Dallas. The area is protected to conserve the wildlife habitat and native plants. The multi-use trail consisting of six loops adds up to 8 miles. The preserve has some rolling hills that weave between forests and flower-filled meadows with a creek nearby.
Cedar Ridge Preserve, Dallas
There is one thing that everyone remembers about Cedar Ridge Preserve — that’s the stairs. The trails add up to 7.5 miles and have some of the best elevation gains in the area that loop around forest, prairies and a pond. The preserve’s main mission is to protect the land, native plants and wildlife. The preserve is closed on Mondays to give the area a rest from humans. It relies on volunteers and donations for maintenance, therefore $3 or more is encouraged. Bikes are not allowed.
Big Cedar Wilderness, Dallas
Situated near the highest elevation in the Dallas area, Big Cedar Wilderness is breathtaking for its beauty but more so for the descends. With 14 miles connected to a main multi-use trail, most of the trails are moderate. Some with names such as Man Bites Dog and String of Scorpions are difficult. The area is closed until 1 p.m. on Sunday and closed all day Monday.
Cedar Hill State Park, Cedar Hill
Situated on the shore of Joe Pool Reservoir, Cedar Hill State Park offers camping, swimming and picnic areas with views of the lake, prairies and a historical farmstead. There are 28 miles of trails ranging from easy to challenging, so there’s something for everyone. Entrance fees are $7 per adult and reservations are recommended because the park often reaches capacity on weekends and holidays. Open 6 a.m.-10 p.m. daily.
Northshore Trail, Flower Mound
Northshore Trail has several trailheads at Rockledge Park, Murrell Park, MADD Shelter, and Twin Coves Park for a total of 22 miles. The multi-use trail leads along the shoreline of Grapevine Lake, through forest with moderate to difficult loops. Rockledge Park has an entrance fee of $10 but there’s restroom, picnic areas and kayak rentals.
River Legacy Park, Arlington
River Legacy Park is over 1,000 acres of hardwood forest along the Trinity River. The park has a playground and picnic areas as well as the River Legacy Living Science Center. The park boasts more than 8 miles of paved multi-use trails as well as 10 miles of off-road bike trails. And if that’s not enough, there is a paddling trail on the river. The park is home to a velvety fungus named Devil’s Cigar that has only been reported in Texas and Japan.
Gateway Park, Fort Worth
Gateway Park Trail has two sections on either side of the Trinity River. The west side has almost 4 miles of mostly flat multi-use trail that is accessed from the main park. The east side has additional 4 miles of intermediate trails over rolling hills with overviews of the Fort Worth downtown skyline. The east side of the trail is accessed from East First Street.
Marion Sansom Park, Sansom Park
This park is a must. The trails at Marion Sansom Park are laid out on a hill winding through the forest and descend to the West Fork Trinity River. There are several scenic points that overlook Lake Worth and the dam. At the bottom, visitors are greeted by a waterfall and offshoot creeks with plenty of wildlife. There are more than 11 miles of multi-use trails ranging from intermediate to some with technical trail features to up-the-ante to challenging.
Fort Worth Nature Center, Fort Worth
Sitting along Lake Worth, the Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge has it all. There are more than 20 miles of hiking trails, a paddling trail and bison. The trails lead along the shoreline to view wetlands, forests and up into prairies. The staff members offer programs throughout the year for learning and discovery. And on top of all that, the center is home to a bison herd. There is a fee to enter: $6 for adults, $3 for seniors, $2 for children and $1 for dogs. Opening hours vary by season, but the park closes at 5 p.m. No bikes allowed.
Eagle Mountain Park, Fort Worth
Eagle Mountain Park is tagged as the area where the prairie meets the timbers. The park is 400 acres and a refuge from wildlife with frequent sightings of deer and armadillos. There is a picnic area and a historical farmhouse and farm equipment. The trail descends to the shore of Lake Worth and forms several loops for a total of 6 miles. A short trail leads to an overview with scenic views of the lake and the forested park. Bikes are not allowed. Also, dogs are not allowed. Open from dawn until 30 minutes after sunset.