Review: Dinosaur Valley State Park is worth the hour and a half drive from Dallas! With a river, many miles of trails, beautiful views from the hills, and dinosaur tracks, what else is there to say! Go and check it out!!
Distance: This state park has over 20 miles of trails, including some with elevation. There is also an equestrian trail.
Area of Town: Southwest of the metroplex near Glen Rose, TX
Facilities: There are camping grounds, primitive camping in the hills, restrooms, and a gift shop
Suitable for: Hiking, Biking, Swimming, Horseback Riding
Type of Trail: Natural trails
Shade: Many of the trails are in the woods, but you’ll find alot of sun here as well. Make sure to bring sunscreen and water!
Where to Park: There are multiple places to park at trail-heads throughout the park.
Official Website: Dinosaur Valley Official Site
Nearby Trails: Cleburne State Park, Solvacca Ranch
If you haven’t visited Dinosaur Valley State Park yet, what are you waiting for? This is one of the most impressive state parks for outdoor activities that you can reach from the metroplex in under two hours. Located in Glen Rose, TX, Dinosaur Valley State Park lies in a bend of the Paluxy River, surrounded by hills of limestone. Here you can explore the riverbeds for dinosaur tracks, swim in the cool waters of the river, or do some exploration in the surrounding hills. The mileage here is extensive for a North Texas park, and you can get a real sense of isolation when you get further back into the park away from the sounds of kids playing in the river.
The Paluxy River is where you’ll find the dinosaur tracks, and the map above lays out where most of the tracks can be found. They may be underwater depending on how high the water levels are. When I last visited, I didn’t get many good shots of the tracks. Below is a picture of some tracks I took myself, but there are clearer tracks in the park (and you can see other people’s photos of them here)
This is a rather large park. In the past when I’ve visited it I’ve often started at the western side to explore the Paluxy a bit, before heading up into the hills to hike around the park to the other side. That’s not a bad way to explore the park, but once you come out the other end, you have to hike back to your vehicle which isn’t a short distance, and your tired feet may not appreciate that. On my last visit to the park I tried something a bit different, which made things easier. I’ll lay out that approach below.
I do recommend when you initially get to the park, you say hi to the dinosaurs that greet you at the entrance:
Then head to the western side of the park at the banks of the Paluxy. Here you can easily get across the river using stones to jump across, and you can explore the river beds for the famous dinosaur tracks. You can also follow the river trail furhter downstream for more tracks. It truly is amazing to see these tracks from animals that lived thousands of years ago, still preserved for us to see after all that time. Make sure to take time to explore and find them, it’s one of the most amazing parts of this park!
Across the river you’ll find access to the trail system. Once you climb up from the river, you’ll have to make a choice: you can go left to explore the Cedar Ridge Outer Loop trail (7.5 miles) or head right to start the Limestone Ledge trail (1 mile). I’d recommend Limestone Ledge, just for the views of the river, and interesting rock formations. You also don’t want to miss the Overlook, which will be harder to get to if you take the Outer Loop.
If you follow the Limestone Ledge, make sure to watch your step. There are some spots along the edge where you will want to watch your footing, and it is a long way down should you slip! As you wind around the ledge, you will hit the intersection to go up to the Overlook Trail. Please do, this grants you some amazing views of the park and river.
From here I went around the Black-Capped Vireo Trail, going the long way (i.e. not joining the Outer Loop). This was a walk through a cedar filled scrubby forest. There is a bend in the trail early on, which takes you to the Wildcat Hollow waterfall. I’ve never been there when it was a waterfall, it’s always been dry when I’ve visited, but it’s still worth a look. On my last trip there the sign was missing, and the official trail map no longer marks it for some reason. Nevertheless, it’s there if you want to go take a look.
In the past once we finished the Black – Capped Vireo Trail, we would continue on to the Denio Creek trail, and keep heading through the park. Don’t do that, you’ll have missed some of the best parts of the Limestone Ledge Trail. I would recommend you head back along the Limestone Ledge Trail to explore some of the rocky formations you’ll find along that trail. There are also some nice vantage points to see the river from here.
Once you’ve seen all of Limestone Ledge, I’d recommend that you go back to your vehicle. Head all the way back down Limestone Ledge, cross back over the Paluxy, and then drive across the park to the eastern side. You now have saved your legs from that return walk from the far side!
As you had from the East parking lot to the Paluxy river, you’ll notice that this side is a bit harder to cross. Expect to have wet socks and shoes once you cross. While there are rocks you can use to get over, depending on the height of the river, they may be submerged. Use caution, as some are loose.
Once you cross the river, you can now acces the trails again on the far side. From this side, I like to start with the Denio Creek Trail. This is a cool trail that follows (and at some points is in) a creek. It’s a nice change of scenery walking in the creekbed (although i’d imagine after a hard rain it’ll be slippery and less rocky).
As you reach the top of the park, the intersections on trails aren’t as clean as the map suggests (at least I found them a bit more confusing), as I had planned on coming back down the Rocky Ridge Trail, but wound up on the Buckeye Trail. Also, this part of the park is typically where I encounter mountain bikers the most. Keep an eye out for them!
As i came down the Buckeye trail I did cross back over to the Rocky Ridge Trail via the Oak Springs Trail. After stopping at the scenic vista for one more look at the valley from above, I came back down the trail to the Paluxy, crossed it, and then returned to my car.
The one thing I want to do when i come back is to explore the Buckeye Creek. Based on the trail map it advised hikers to explore the creek bed for ‘cascading pools’ and ‘unique rock formations’, but the day was getting hotter and my feet were tired, so I wasn’t able to check that out. This trip at least, I’ll leave that for the next time I visit, since this is definitely worth return trips!
Overall, Dinosaur Valley State Park may be a bit of a drive from the Metroplex, but it’s well worth the time! Seeing dinosaur tracks, being able to go for longer distance hikes, and the varied geography of the land with elevation, it doesn’t get much better than this in North Texas!!