The 10 Most Beautiful Running and Walking Trails in Dallas
Lace up for North Texas’ top over-the-river-and-through-the-woods adventures.
If we as a society had one big takeaway from the height of pandemic lockdowns, it was the value of getting off our sofas, untethering from our devices, and venturing into the great outdoors for a little fresh air and exercise. But it shouldn’t take a global health threat to urge us to enjoy all the beautiful running, walking, and jogging trails we have at our tip-toes here in Dallas-Fort Worth. And while we might not have mountains or oceans to speak of, we have plenty of trees (even forests), lots of lakes, and equal amounts of fashionable-while-sweaty people sporting their best athleisure, if that better fits your definition of natural beauty.
Lace up your favorite running shoes and hit up one of these 10 great trails—or make it a to-do list and visit them all while the weather’s the most ideal it will be in Texas until the fall. And remember, the more trails you run, the more of Dallas’ best brunches you can enjoy with less guilt.
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 tops 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 Park is 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 riverview 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 the 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’ve had lately, the Trinity River promises to be a spectacular in its own right. 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
Some describe White Rock Lake as an oasis in the middle of Dallas. 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 afterwards (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.
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 have access to 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 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.
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 in length 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, hit it up 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 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, 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), dogs are more than welcome. 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 backdrop is nothing short of incredible, 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 the 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.