Scenic Running Paths in Dallas for a Jog or a Stroll
People-watch on the Katy Trail or bird-watch deep in the Cedar Ridge Preserve.
We’re in that sweet window of wonderful weather right now, in between the freezing temps of winter and the scorching sunshine of summer. So if you’re looking to hit the trails for a leisurely walk or marathon-worthy run, now’s the ideal time to break in some new training shoes. Explore some of the well-known parks and trails in North Texas, as well as some hidden gems that may be off the beaten path. Some might be right around the corner from where you live. Others are a short drive to amazing al fresco adventures. Lace up and read on for 13 of the most scenic walking and running paths in Dallas-Fort Worth.
Dinosaur Valley State Park
Follow in the footsteps of dinosaurs across 20 miles of trails that were once way beneath the waves of an ancient ocean. Today, there’s usually just a trickle of water in the river that runs through the park, but depending on the last rain you could enjoy some kayaking, swimming, and fishing, too. Because it’s 90 minutes by car from most parts of the DFW metroplex, consider making a weekend of it by booking campsites and guided tours for enhancements of your own explorations of the area. A visit to nearby Fossil Rim and its many giraffes and other exotic wildlife will truly round out the experience.
Prairie Creek Park
No matter how small they may be compared to, oh, Hawaii’s, our handful of waterfalls in DFW will always inspire us to get outdoors for a few moments of tranquility. The Prairie Creek Waterfall within Prairie Creek Park. Venture across wooden bridges and well-maintained gravel trails for one of the most easily accessible waterfalls in the region. The park—and especially the waterfall—can get busy on weekends, so early weekday mornings will be your best bet to get in a run and maybe a few moments to yourself by the cascading waters.
A dam dating back to 1874 can be accessed via trails at the multi-acre Allen Station Park. Many historic features can be found along the routes, including water towers once used by the railroads in the late 19th century. Overlooks can be accessed along the crushed granite walkways at this Texas State Archaeological Landmark, which can also be found on the National Register of Historic Places. So if you break your own time running or walking this trail, you’ll be making a bit of history yourself for a full-circle moment.
Everything’s bigger in Texas, the saying goes, and the 100-plus miles of trails within the Tarrant Regional Water District certainly make that argument compelling. Among the highlights of the numerous trails, Airfield Falls Trailhead and Conservation Park easily ranks at the top of the list with the region’s largest natural waterfall (lower your expectations for this particular superlative), a migration stop for Monarch butterflies, and paved pathways to make things easier on the ol’ knees. Marine Creek Lake & Trails, Trinity Park, and various other pathways that run parallel to the Trinity River round out some of the best in the greater Trinity Trails system.
River Legacy Parks
River Legacy Parks consist of two different areas, River Legacy Park and River Legacy Park East. Combined they’re a 1,300-acre urban retreat on the shores of the Trinity River as it meanders through Arlington between Dallas and Fort Worth. Featuring wetlands, a bottomland forest, and wide-open prairies, it’s home to countless wild species eager to cheer you on as you try to beat your own best time. Run up to eight miles on paved hiking trails, then take a break in one of the river-view pavilions and picnic areas. Plus, you’ll find restrooms onsite so you can stay nice and hydrated without wondering which tree provides the most privacy.
Trinity Skyline Trail
Though the Katy Trail is known for its exercising hotties—and that’s certainly very Dallas—we think a more quintessential Big D experience can be found on the Trinity Skyline Trail. That’s because, for much of the trail’s 4.6-mile expanse, you’ll be rewarded with both physical longevity via the cardiovascular activity and spectacular views of the downtown Dallas skyline, including the majestic Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. And with all the rain we had earlier in the year, the Trinity River promises a little more river-like qualites than normal.. Start your jogging journey at Trammell Crow Park, Continental Avenue Bridge, or the Trinity Overlook, each equipped with 12 to 75 parking spaces.
White Rock Lake
Many people describe White Rock Lake as an oasis in the middle of Dallas and we don’t disagree. The park boasts a stretch of over 1,015 acres and more than nine miles of trails around the lake. Breathtaking views of Downtown Dallas from across the sparkling water abound, and if you’re lucky enough to catch the sunset, it’s astonishing. Most runners start their journey at the Big Thicket cabin, where you can follow the yellow line all the way around the lake on an asphalt trail. No matter where you walk or run, keep an eye out for cyclists, they take no prisoners. If you get thirsty (which you will), there are water fountains throughout the route—you can always recover with a cold beer afterward (or schedule a mid-run stop at White Rock Alehouse, stashed just off the trail).
What was once an old abandoned railroad line is now one of the most iconic trails and destinations in Dallas. The trail extends 3.5 miles from SMU at its north end to American Airlines Center in the south, featuring a 12-foot-wide concrete trail (a better home for cyclists) and an 8-foot-wide soft-surface running path that's best suited to running or walking—not to mention the ideal place for taking in the beautiful scenery. And by “beautiful scenery,” we mean the attractive and fit people that flock to the trail every day. Make sure to pop by Katy Trail Ice House and grab a seat at the trail’s edge, where it’s even easier to people-watch. Plus, now through November, you can now enjoy a pair of sculptures on loan from the Nasher Sculpture Center near the Thomsen Overlook.
Arbor Hills Nature Preserve is a hidden gem in the middle of suburban west Plano, 20 miles north of Downtown Dallas. The 200-acre wooded nature preserve spans paved pathways that loop through the wilderness flanked by amazing views. If you so desire, you can veer off the beaten path, as you can access unpaved hiking and mountain biking trails, too. Just take proper precaution—you're sharing the preserve with snakes (yes, snakes) and other unruly characters. If snakebites aren't enough to get you excited, the park also offers three trails with distances from 0.4 miles to 1.3 miles, so there’s something for everyone. Weekends are the busiest, so get there early (as in 5 am early). And if you’re a midnight runner, just like Dexy was, you’ll have to start a little earlier, as the park closes at 11 pm.
Bachman Lake Trail
This 8-foot-wide trail is tailor-made for runners, so you don’t have to worry so much about a head-on collision with a Cannondale. The trail is 3.5 miles long and offers a scenic run around the perimeter of Bachman Lake, plus a chicken’s-eye-view of all the Southwest Airlines jets landing and taking off from Love Field just beyond the edge of the lake. The trail is at its peak on weekends, so if you’re more concerned about fitness than people-watching, visit during the week. Best of all, some of the city’s top taquerias and Mexican restaurants can be found just outside the park’s entrances along Northwest Highway.
Cedar Ridge Preserve
Perched just about 20 minutes southwest of Downtown, this little slice of Hill Country offers a unique terrain with 8 miles of trails. Plus, it’s not too far from here to Joe Pool Lake if you want to do a cardio double-header. A total of 13 trails offer everything from short sprints to the longest trail at 1.9 miles, each stocked with a variety of inclines and descents. Whatever you do, don’t forget to stop and look around at the wildflowers, birds, and the North Texas Blackland Prairie ecosystem in all its glory (alongside a few river otters if you’re really lucky). Feel free to invite your four-legged friend, too—as long as they're on a leash (and hopefully well-behaved). Visit the website for closures after it rains, as many of the trails are subject to flooding.
Marion Sansom Park
This intermediate trail stakes its claim near Lake Worth in Northwest Fort Worth, loaded with an array of loops including occasional tough footing and elevation gains. The views from atop the limestone bluff can be amazing at sunrise and sunset,, and there’s even a small waterfall for your viewing (and listening) pleasure. Be aware that the trail can be hard to navigate at times thanks to a lack of markers, so bring a printed map or use an app like AllTrails to assist—or just bring your dog to keep you company should you get lost. Bring your own water and protein snacks, too, because you won’t find any facilities out in these sticks.
North Shore Trail at Grapevine Lake
The 9.5-mile-long North Shore Trail on the north side of Grapevine Lake is ideal for those who prefer off-road running. The path takes adventurers over moderate, difficult, rolling, and ungroomed terrain from Rockledge to Twin Coves Park. The landscape from the shores and bluffs high above Grapevine Lake is worth stopping to enjoy, so definitely don’t miss it. Access the trail all year, but know that it may occasionally close due to heavy rain and mud, like many trails around North Texas. Just be prepared to roll up your socks and get dirty and you won’t have any regrets.