Review: Arbor Hills is a very popular trail system with lots to offer, with a lot of natural beauty. There are paved trails, natural hiking paths, and a mountain bike trail located in the same park. While each type of trail is limited to about three miles each, you can easily loop around on dirt and paved trails to get longer mileage.
Distance: About three miles of paved trails, three miles of dirt trails (hiking only), and three miles bike trails (biking only)
Area of Town: West Plano
Facilities: Restrooms, water foutains, pavillions for eating / parties, playground equipment
Suitable for: Walking / Jogging / Biking
Type of Trail: Paved trails are concrete, natural trails are dirt
Shade: Very wooded area, many areas are completely under the forest canopy. Other areas are exposed to the sun
Where to Park: The trailhead off Parker road west of Tollway is where you’ll want to park. There are a few areas in the neighborhood you could also park if the main lot is full.
Official Site: Arbor Hills
Arbor Hills is rather unique in the metroplex, in having a paved trail system (for biking and foot traffic), dirt trails (for hiking only) and a DORBA maintained bike trail loop (for biking only). There is a lot here for everyone. Even though the distance on each of the above is limited to about 3 miles apiece, if you are on foot, you can easily extend that distance by integrating parts of both paved and dirt trail sections.
The trail is split amongst three distinct types of terrain: Riparian Forest (alongside the creek), Blackland Prairie (for the soil), and Upland Forest (forested areas not by the creeks). Through this, the trails wind and meander through the area. As you can see from the above map, the concrete trail meanders through the park in a non-linear fashion. The dirt trails next to the parking area are a warren of short paths that interconnect in a spider-web. Once you get further out, towards the Riparian Loop and the Outer Loop trails, the trails are better established without so many connections.
One of the key features at Arbor Hills is the observation tower, which can be found in the middle of the park, and is accessible via the paved path. The upper level gives a nice view of the surrounding area, although there is no access to it from the lower level of the tower. To get to the landing, you’ll need to take the paved path away from the tower as it winds up so you can access the bridge that takes you to the tower.
The trails at Arbor Hills are suitable for all skill levels. If you are looking to have more of a workout, you can easily create a route that can give you 6+ miles, longer if you don’t mind redoing sections as you loop through the park. For those looking for a slower more leisurely excursion, the circular nature of the trails means you can find your way back to your car once you’ve had your fill. There are lots of places to jump off the path to explore the creek or forested areas, and many trails criss-cross the prairie areas. For those who enjoy geocaching, there are lots of geocaches located here as well.
When I’ve come to the trail, i do a route that gives me about six miles of distance depending on how i do it. After parking, rather than entering the park by the main entrance, i take the concrete path that veers to the right. As you are walking that path, you’ll see quite a few intersections you can take into the woods. It doesn’t matter which one you take. As you go into the woods, you’ll find these trails are extremely short, and are extremely intertwined. I wander through here, probably never taking the same path twice, but make my way northwards. I’m aiming to get to the Riparian Loop. As i loop around the Riparian Loop, i will make sure i exit that via the Outer Loop Trail, which borders the northern part of the park. I then go all the way around to the southern edge of the park via the Outer Loop Trail. When it intersects with the Trestle Loop I’ll take that section, which then exits back to the Outer Loop, which I then finish. After I’m back on the concrete trail, I’ll make a left onto the concrete trail and follow it around, past the tower, and then once it leaves the prairie, it will go back into the woods. There will be a way to get back to the Outer Loop trail, so once back on that, I’ll walk east until I get to the Coyote Ridge Trail. Once I finish that I’ll follow the concrete path to the Pond Trail, and then the Open Field Trail back up towards Outer Loop. Once Outer Loop hits the Riparian Trail, I’ll finish whatever section of that loop I may have missed and head back to the parking lot.
This is just one example of how you can mix and match the trails at Arbor Hills to get as long or as short a hike as you would like.
Arbor Hills isn’t the largest or wildest part of the metroplex, but it’s got a lot to offer if you are willing to explore it. The more I go, the more i discover.
Grabbing a Beer After: This area of town has a lot of restaurants to choose from, but the one that i would recommend the most would be Katy Trail IceHouse Outpost. It’s located on Park, just east of Preston on the south side. This is very similar to the Katy Trail Icehouse found on the actual Katy Trail. They have a huge inside space at this location, but you can also sit on the enclosed patio, which if you didn’t know any better, wouldn’t know you were in the middle of Plano.
Another option would be going to Legacy Food Hall, which is located at Legacy and Tollway, on the west side. In there you’ll find a ton of different places to grab food, and then there is also a brewery located there as well. Calling it a food court would do a disservice to the location, but here you would order your food at the various locations, and then find seating inside the hall. It can be crowded.