Review: If you are looking for distance, the LBJ Grasslands are the place to go! There is a lot to explore here, and I’ve barely scratched the surface. You can make this a single day adventure, or backpack for multiple days. Be aware of hunting season, as hunting is allowed in the grasslands. Make sure to bring water, a map, and a phone to track your GPS, as you may not encounter anyone out here!
Distance: 70+ miles of trails
Where is it? : North of the Metroplex, near Decatur, TX
Facilities: Toilets at TADRA site, not much else. Nearby Black Creek Lake Recreation Area may have addditional facilities
Suitable for: Hiking / Equestrian Use / Bike Riding (Some trails are very sandy)
Type of Trail: Dirt Trails, some very sandy
Shade: Variable. Many areas exposed to the sun, there is some shade in the forested areas
Where to Park: The TADRA trailhead is the best place to access the trails
Official Site: LBJ Grasslands
The one thing to know about the LBJ Grasslands is, they are vast! Growing up in the Dallas area, I had never heard of them, and only discovered them as I was looking for new places to explore. Located west of Denton, just outside Decatur, the grasslands are far outside the city. More than 70 miles of multi-use trails exist here. The name might make you think it’s one vast prarie, but the landscape boasts a varied terrain. Here you will find flat praries covered in grass, but you will also find forested areas, creeks, ravines, and small lakes. There is a lot to explore here, and it is far more than grass!
When visiting the area, a good spot to park is at the TADRA area. There is a parking fee, so make sure you bring cash, and leave at the site to prevent getting a ticket. Also both times we visited, we found GPS didn’t have a great lock for the place. We drove in circles a few times, noticed we passed the same building a few times, and then paid closer attention to the road. We saw a sign and the windmill, and knew we’d arrived. Here you can make a final stop using their restroom, before heading out.
I’ve been here twice. The first time we came, we tried the red trail since it had the shortest mileage (9.2 miles). While it was a shorter distance than the other trails, it was very sandy, which made the going difficult. The trail took us through prarie, up and down a ravine or two, and through a pretty spruce forest. We encountered two people on horseback, and that was it. Cell phone service was spotty, so I’d recommend more than usual, make sure someone knows your plans. Not that we ever felt unsafe, but better to be cautious. If you run into trouble, you may not encounter others to help you out. The sandy nature of the trail made it a work-out, so if you opt for the red trail, be aware the mileage is short but it’s not easy going.
After that first visit, we decided to give it another try, this time taking the orange trail, trying to find the ‘Haunted Woods’. We were pleased to find that the trail here was not sandy at all. We did encounter a person or two on horseback, and one hiker, but again felt like we had the entire area to ourselves. This trail again had varied terrain, as we walked across flat prarie, but also through several wooded areas. THis second time at the trail was much more enjoyable, since the trail was less sandy and easier to make progress.
Trails are marked with colored blazes on trees, or ribbons tied to branches or fences. As you can see from the map above, the trails can join for a section before seperating again. It isn’t hard to follow the trails for the most part, but we did find some areas confusing. When we tried to find the Haunted Woods, we wound up far out on the Orange trail at the western boundary of the park, so had to backtrack. I would highly recommend using your smart phone or another device to track your route, and make sure to have a map with you. Either print one out, or have one on your phone. This is a large area, you could easily get lost. Having GPS helped us figure out a faster way back to the TADRA point, by using our phones.
Keep in mind you will go through several gates as you walk LBJ Grassland trails. These gates often cross country roads, that bisect the trails. Make sure to close the gates behind you as you pass, as this area is frequented by people on horseback.
The grasslands are used for hunting, so i might check with the LBJ Grasslands management to understand what is in season, and consider wearing safety orange or other bright colors if hiking during the hunting season.