Cedar Ridge Preserve may be the best-loved trail system in the Dallas Metroplex. The trails traverse approximately nine miles of cedar scrub, post-oak forest and meadow, spread over a small mountain rising above Joe Pool Lake.
What Makes It Great
There are a number of parks with hiking trails along the southern periphery of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. They share gently rolling hills, a low forest of mixed cedars and broadleaf trees, and occasional open meadows. Cedar Ridge Preserve is the closest of these, and as such sees disproportionate use. The parking lot is usually packed by 10 am on weekends, although weekdays can offer a delightful dose of solitude in the further reaches of the park. A four-lane highway at the base of the hill, however, means that true quiet is rare.
From the gravel parking lot, you proceed to the small but informative visitor center. The park’s network of looping trails all converge here. They add up to ~9 miles in total. The longest loop, without returning to the visitor center, can be made by stringing together (counter-clockwise) the Escarpment Trail, turning right onto a brief stretch of the Cattail Trail, then returning towards the Visitor Center on the Fossil Valley Trail, and a detour to the Cedar Brake Trail (see trail map). All together, this loop will net you about 7 miles of hiking through hillsides, creek valleys and habitat for the endangered black-capped vireo.
The trails at Cedar Ridge Preserve see a lot of use, and it shows - they are wide, deeply worn and well marked. They remain in good condition due to the care and love of a dedicated cadre of volunteers, but be aware that the surface varies between loosely attached limestone cobbles and grease-slick clay.
As popular as these trails are, there are few other areas near Dallas that offer dense forest, abundant wildflowers and rare bird habitat. If you have only half a day for a hike on unpaved trails, this is your best bet.
Who is Going to Love It
Hikers looking for a quick dose of nature on moderately challenging trails, wild flower enthusiasts, birders, and trail runners will all find something to love here. Be sure to bring sturdy shoes with good traction, and an ample supply of water.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
20 miles from downtown Dallas, 25 miles from downtown Fort Worth
The park is located at 7171 Mountain Creek Parkway in Dallas.
If you visit on a weekend, plan to arrive as early as possible to beat the crowds. You may be able to find additional parking at the Rec Center in the Woods, just up Mountain Creek Parkway, and hike in to the preserve on a small spur trail.