Review: The Fort Worth Nature Center is a sprawling area off the banks of Lake Worth, in NorthWest Fort Worth. This nature center has many types of terrains, from flat prarie to hilly walks along a rocky canyon. You can wander through an ancient forest, cross through a marsh, or launch a kayak and explore the waters. They even have a prarie dog village and a herd of buffalo! It’s strength is also it’s weakness, as the sprawling nature of the center means you often are doubling back on a trail, to get back to your vehicle. It’s a fantastic and beautiful place to hike, but plan your trip accordingly! I strongly recommend you plan your route beforehand.
Distance: 20 miles of trails, spread over 3,000 acres
Area of Town: Alongside Lake Worth, in Northwest Fort Worth
Facilities: There are several bathrooms and picnic tables spread across the park, as well as the main center
Suitable for: Hiking, Trail Running, kayaking, canoeing
Type of Trail: Natural Trails
Shade: Variable depending on the trail you select. The prarie trails have less shade, but down by the lake you’’ll be underneath the trees with alot of shade.
Where to Park: There are a lot of places to park here, depending on which trail you want to take. Check out the trail map to figure out the best place to park. Again, i recommend planning your routes ahead of time. There is a charge to enter the park, when i went it was $5. See their website for official pricing, they offer children and retired military rates as well.
Official Site: Fort Worth Nature Center
Fort Worth Nature Center can be found on the northwest edge of Fort Worth, on the shores of Lake Worth. It’s a massive area, with a lot of trails, that offer a lot of variety. You can wander through forest, move along a canyon wall, ramble through a prarie, walk across a boardwalk through a marsh, you can even explore a small island. You may see people launching kayaks or canoes to explore the waters around the park. If you get tired of exploring the trails, you can also visit a herd of buffalo, or a prarie dog village. This is a big park, with a lot to do.
If you are first venturing out to do this trail system, please note the map above. The trails here are not set out like Cedar Ridge Preserve (trivia, Cedar Ridge used to be Dallas Nature Center), where all the trails converge or return to the same parking area. The trails at the Fort Worth Center don’t have a central hub. So if you are hiking along the Canyon Ridge trail, you’ll be retracing your steps to get back to your car. You could also walk alongside the road, but i’m not sure i’d recommend that, given it’s not the widest road, and not everyone is driving slowly or paying attention. So plan your route!
I’ve been here a few times over the years, but will focus this review on my most recent trip. As I return, i’ll add more details on the trails I didn’t explore.
I think this is my favorite trail at the facility. It’s not particularly difficult, it’s not that long, but it’s a beautiful peaceful forest walk. Unlike many of the trails in the DFW area, this forest is more spaced out, where the trees aren’t crowded together. You’ll start at the trailhead (see map for parking), and cross over the water via a bridge, which takes you across the channel. You’ll take a long walk beside the trees and the water, with a view of the forest on the other side. Eventually the trail will turn in to the left, and you’ll make a big loop through this section of forest. The pictures below were taken in March, before the leaves have grown in, which really adds to the beaty. Back here it’s quiet, you can’t hear anything except for an occasional airplane or helicopter, and it’s very peaceful. Again, this is not a difficult trail, but it is a pretty one. It’s a 3.37 mile from start to finish.
Pictures from March:
Pictures from July
This is the most difficult trail in the park. You can pick up this trail at a few points, but it’s going to roughly follow the road. In fact, you’ll often see glimpses of the road as you follow it towards Greer Island (which you can easily partner with this trail). Along this trail, you’ll find quite a lot of elevation shifts as you meander up and down the hills, climbing to the top of the ridge. Some sections can be quite steep, there was one part where the ledge you walk on is quite narrow, and as the ground falls away beneath you, you’ll want to watch your step. There are staircases built into the trail in certain areas, and you’ll definitely burn some calorie on this one. The good news is, you are in store for some great views. The top of the trail also has a few CCC structures to look at and explore, but beware of broken glass, and also of some rather sharp plants growing around the trail. The bad news is, once you do it, you’ve got to turn back to get to your vehicle. Whether you start at the Greer Island trail side (at the end of the park), or from the beginning of the trail, it’s not a loop. So while the trail is 3.25 miles, plan for 6.50 miles.
Greer Island Trail
This is a short little trail tucked away at the very end of the Canyon Ridge Trail. Its a short 1.5 mile loop trail, that takes you over from the main shore, to a small island. There isn’t a lot to see here, there are some nice views of the lake to be had though from this spot. You’ll also find a memorial kiosk that explains who Margaret Greer was, how she understand and saved green spaces for the enjoyment of all, and why the island is named for her. There is also a pavillion here that is named for her, but it’s seen better days. This is an easy trail, no challenges, but does afford a few views worth looking at.
While here make sure to check out the buffalo! The Fort Worth Nature Center has two areas where you can watch them! If you come in via the main entrance, you’ll drive past their pen. When i arrived they were busy eating, but still in the area when i was on my way out. Make sure not to feed them. One of them was curious and at the fence looking at me, i wasn’t sure if he was curious or wanted a scratch, better to err on the side of caution!
You’ll also find Buffalo along the prairie trail as well (see below for more on that).
The Prairie Trail is a 1.13 mile loop that you can pick up from the Hardwick Visitors Center. As the name implies, this is a walk through a Prairie, with trees in the distance. The trail takes you to the Prairie Dog Village, but to be honest I’ve been out there a few times and never seen any activity at the Village. Once you near the Prariie Dog Village area, the trail follows along a fence line and it’s more wooded and covered here. The trail follows this fence around, if you head towards the Deer Mouse trail intersection, you’ll also get views of more Buffalo, as quite a few of them live within this large fenced in area.
The trail intersects with several other paths at the Fort Worth Nature Center, including the Deer Mouse trail (which will take you down to the Riverbottom trail), the Oak Motte trail (description below), and the Wild Plum trail which eventually intersects with the Riverbottom trail as well (but on the other side).
A 2.16 mile loop that alternates from open grassland to clusters of red and live oaks (aka mottes). The trail meanders between shady and exposed trail areas, and is quite beautiful through here. This is one of the few trails where it felt more ‘remote’, as many of the trails you can see or hear cars driving by. I saw a deer bolt through the trail last time I visited the Nature Center. However as I was coming back towards the enclosure at Wild Plum South, powerlines and civilization broke that spell of isolation.
A short walk across a boardwalk, to view the wetlands. The path is about .016 miles, and takes you across the water to a viewing platform to take in the sites. This is a very peaceful and beautiful spot, worth soaking in. The same spot also serves as the trailhead for the Riverbottom trail. If you want to start here on Riverbottom, you can hike all the way to Greer Island (this would be a long hike, to go there and back).
The Riverbottom trail is one of the longer trails in the park, and hikers can pick it up at a few different spots. The trail is broken into two segments. The first starts at the Marsh Boardwalk and extends to the Hardwick Center, via the Caprock Trail. That distance is 1.23 miles. The other end of the trail is at the Greer Island Trailhead, which from the Caprock Trail is a 2.7 mile hike. In total, the trail is close to 4 miles long, and is one way, so doing the full journey would be around 8 miles in total.
This is a gorgeous trail, as it follows along the banks of the Lake and the West Fork of the Trinity River, but also goes through River bottomland forestland near the marsh area. It’s often flooded after a period of rain, so if it’s been wet I’d ask at the main entrance on any closed trails.
All in all, there is a lot to do and explore here at the Fort Worth Nature Center. You can walk through the forest, walk along a canyon wall, explore old CCC era structures, hang out with buffalo, or even take off on a water adventure if you have a kayak or canoe handy. Just keep in mind, many of these trails are out and back, so don’t overextend yourself, and make sure to bring plenty of water, since there aren’t water fountains available in the Forth Worth Nature Center aside from the Hardwick Visitor Center.