Review: The crown jewel of North Texas hiking, Cedar Ridge Preserve is the place to go for the most elevation changes in the area, for longer distance hikes, and great views. The trails here vary from a gentle walk in the woods, to more strenuous hiking up and down hills and creek beds. Several observation towers allow you to take in the expansive area. North Texas is generally rather flat, but not here!
Distance: About 9 miles of trails, per official site
Area of Town: Southwest of Downtown Dallas, near Joe Pool Lake south of I-20
Facilities: Restrooms, water foutains, picnic tables
Suitable for: Hiking / Trail Running (no biking allowed)
Type of Trail: Dirt Trails
Shade: Most of the trails here are in wooded areas, but some areas are exposed to the sun.
Where to Park: Cedar RIdge Preserve’s trailhead has a large gravel parking lot. Weekends are busy here, you may find yourself parking off the drive into the park to the side of the road, or even outside the park on particularly busy days
Official Site: Official Site
If you are looking for the best hiking this area has to offer, look no further than Cedar Ridge Preserve. Located just southeast of downtown Dallas, this gem is tucked away in Duncanville next to a residential area. The park has 600 acres of land, with about 9 miles of trails available for your enjoyment. The trails vary from simple to more difficult, so be aware before you head down a trail for what you are in store for!
Once you arrive at Cedar Ridge Preserve and park, you have a few options to start your adventure. I generally do the Bluebonnet and Mulberry trails to start with, they are a good warm-up, and they are disconnected from the main trails. Neither one are that challenging or long, but they do connect in a way that means you either do Mulberry and part of Bluebonnet or do all of Bluebonnet and none of Mulberry. Take note when Mulberry hits Bluebonnet, if you turn to the left you return with a shorter hike, vs going to the right you’ll take a longer route, with views of the lake and local residential areas along one section. Bluebonnet also has a viewing tower you can climb for a better view of the area.
At this upper section of the park, you can also explore the Prarie trail which connects to Mulberry, take the ‘Park in the Woods’ trail which takes you towards the Park in the Woods rec center, and you an return via the Backstage Trail, which is new, and takes you by a newly constructed ‘amphitheater’.
At that point, you are ready to explore the main trails of the Preserve. You have two options on how to proceed. If you want to stroll down to the pond, the Escarpment trail heads directly down to the pond, where you have some nice views of the surrounding hills. From there you’ll need to make your way back up via the Fossil Valley Trail, or the Cattail Pond Trail. You can also head back up the Escarpment trail if you are ready to end your hike, it’s a mile back uphill to the parking lot.
Alternatively , you could start your walk down the Cattail Pond trail, or if you want to add some more distance, take the Possumhaw trail (which is a bit of a side trail, and reconnects with the Cattail Pond close to the trailhead. Neither trail is that difficult. There will be a turn off for the Cedar Brake Trail as you hike in, which is more difficult with some rather steep sections in a few spots as you go up and down the ridge and cross the creek bed a few times. This is a very pretty trail, and about 2 miles long. Highly recommended if you can handle the elevation changes. You will also go past a pretty Cedar grove, hence the name. This trail will intersect with the Cattail Pond trail once you complete.
Whether you take the Cedar Break trail or not, as you keep going down the Cattail Pond trail, you will intersect with the Fossil Valley trail. The Fossil Valley trail takes you on another longer route to the Pond, but it has some nice views of Joe Pool Lake and is one of the more difficult trails as well. You will also find the Trout Lilly trail here, which is a rather steep ascent to a ridge, which affords a nice view of Joe Pool Lake. Fossil Valley trail will also take you to the same spot, up a rockier incline. An easier route would be to continue on the Cattail Pond trail, along the ridge which commands nice views of the surrounding areas, and has an observation tower you can climb for even better views. See below, it’s not a huge tower. You can also see this tower from the pond if you look closely! From here you will take a series of switchbacks which take you down to the pond.
The pond at the base of the trails has a small wooden structure where you can stop for a rest. No matter which area you come down, your path back will be uphill.
Cedar Ridge Preserve can be hot, and once you are on the trails going towards the pond, there are no facilities. Make sure you have enough water, especially on a hot day. This is a popular place for the dogs too, many people come and hike with their canine friends, so don’t forget water for them. You also get exposed to the sun in many parts of this trail system, so make sure to apply that sunscreen.
This trail system is the most used for a reason. These trails are used by hikers, people training for backpacking trips, and by trail runners sprinting up the hills and down the ravines. This park is managed by the Audobon Society, and they do ask for a $3 donation when you visit. Please consider supporting them, as they do a fantastic job maintaining this fantastic spot!
Where to go for a beer: Not sure I have a recommendation for Cedar Ridge Preserve. There are places nearby within driving distance you can Yelp, but the preserve itself is in a residential area with a lot of chain restaurants nearby. If you have any recommendations, please make below!