Cedar Hill State Park covers several thousand acres on the east shore of Joe Pool Lake on the southern edge of the DFW metroplex. There are ~20 miles of mixed use trails sponsored by the Dallas Offroad Bike Association (DOBRA), as well as 350 camp sites, fishing activities and a “living history” farm.
What Makes It Great
Cedar Hill State Park can be a great base camp to explore the south side of the metroplex over a weekend. The Cedar Ridge Preserve is just a few miles away, and the Audubon Society’s Dogwood Canyon Visitor Center is just next door. Other parks may offer greater solitude, but the tradeoff is less time spent driving and more time spent outdoors.
The main trail system at Cedar Hill consists of 3 concentric rings of 12, 8 and 3 miles that all share the same trailhead. The trails traverse oak woodlands with occasional prairie breaks and a glimpse of near by Joe Pool Lake. The trail system is mixed use, with the Dallas Offroad Bike Association (DOBRA) sponsoring and maintaining the trails. For hikers, it’s a good idea to keep to the edges of trails and to approach blind corners cautiously. That said, there is plenty of room for all. The trail surfaces are packed earth for the most part, and are closed by any more than a trace of precipitation.
Due to the heavy forest, these trails can be especially welcome shade on hot summer days. If you’re hiking the longest path (12 miles), be sure to bring plenty of water, despite the shade. Unlike many other area trails, this one does not cross roads or offer “emergency exit” options. The dense undergrowth in much of the hiking area prevents cross-country short cuts. Perhaps more significantly, it also prevents long-distance views aside from the places where the trail breaks into grassy areas. Finally, the park is sandwiched between a four-lane highway and a lake with significant boat traffic. True quiet is in short supply, although it often fades to a background hum behind bird song and wind in the tree branches.
Although not technically part of the State Park, the Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center is just next door to the park. The visitor center has a small interpretive exhibit, a glassed-in bird viewing platform with feeders, and an additional 6 miles of trails. The center is free to visit, and the trails are free to use. Unfortunately, no trails link the park and the center, so you’ll need to drive between the two. A few miles north of the park, along FM 1382, is a view point for Joe Pool Lake Dam. The dam is earthen, but a paved road offers foot and bike access for several miles. There is zero shade along this stretch, but the views are excellent.
Who is Going to Love It
The trails at Cedar Hill State Park are perfect for a half day escape from Dallas, or as part of a weekend-long expedition. The trail length, at 12 miles, is longer than many local options, and is a relatively level and pleasant woodland hike.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
15 miles south of downtown Dallas, 45 miles southeast of downtown Fort Worth. The park is located at 1570 West FM 1382 in Cedar Hill.