Ray Roberts Greenbelt Trail

Ray Robert’s Greenbelt Trail

Review: The Ray Robert’s Greenbelt extends from the Lake Ray Robert’s State Park south as it follows the Elm Fork of the Trinity River. This trail is a great spot if you want to get out and get some miles on your bike or your legs. If you do bike, this is definitely one for gravel or mountain bikes! The trail is a mix of tree canopy and complete exposure to the sun, so use caution during the heat of the summer and bring plenty of water and sunscreen. There are a few things to see along the trail, including an old historic bridge or two.

Distance: Approx 20 miles (10 for bikes, 12 for equestrian), one way. Not all usable at present.

Area of Town: North of Denton, just south of Lake Ray Roberts

Facilities: The three parking areas have facilities including restrooms and water. Benches are scattered between the trailheads.

Suitable for: Hiking, Biking, Horse Riding, Paddling

Type of Trail: Mainly gravel, with some concrete next to parking. I believe the equestrian trails may be dirt. Not suitable for road bikes,

Shade: Variable. The northernmost part of the trail is under tree canopy, but as it goes south, it becomes fully exposed to the sun

Where to Park: There are three trailheads to park at (FM455 at the dam, FM428 midway through the trail, and FM380). FM380 is currently closed due to the flood damage between FM380 and FM248. 

Official Website: Official Site

Nearby Trails: Lake Ray Roberts State Park, Clear Creek Natural Heritage Center

Ray Roberts Greenbelt Overview

The Ray Roberts Greenbelt trail is part of a series of State Park properties in and around Lake Ray Roberts. The Greenbelt follows the West Elm fork of the Trinity River, extending from within the Isle du Bois unit of the state park, for several miles south. The Greenbelt trails are a mix of multi-use (I.e. hiking, biking) and equestrian. You’ll notice on the map that there are trails on both sides of the river in places, this is where one side has the multi-use portion (which I did) while the other side was mainly for equestrian users (which I did not explore). While there are several ‘sub’ trails listed on the map, at least from the multi-use side i did, it felt like one big long trail going north and south.

For years I’ve been wanting to check out the Greenbelt, but it’s been closed due to flooding issues, related to logjams in the river causing major damage to the trails making them impassible. At this point in time in 2024, the southern side of the Greenbelt trail is still closed due to flood damage.

The Greenbelt trail is accessible at 3 different locations, well 4 if you include from within the state park. Lake Ray Roberts is made up of a few units, so the Isle du Bois unit is on the southern side of the lake. You can pick up the trail from within the park, and then follow it south, exiting the park and down along the Elm Fork. Another option just outside the dam, is a trailhead location at State Highway 455. Here you will find plenty of parking, plus restrooms, picnic tables, and water There is a similar trailhead located off of State Highway 428, which is at the midpoint of the trail. There is also a trailhead at State Highway 380, which I assume has similar facilities (the map indicates parking and bathrooms at least), but since the southern side of the trail is closed, I didn’t actually go there.

The Greenbelt trail is linear and flat. You won’t get much elevation changes here, nor will you get any tight corners, nor will you wonder what is around the upcoming corner. There are no corners! What you will find is a long gravel road, with some paved sections close to the facilities. You’ll also find benches sporadically through the trail, but you will only find water and restrooms at the trailheads.

I started at the midpoint off 428 and went northwards toward the lake. For much of the trail, I rode through an open area with plenty of sun. There were quite a few people out, even though it was an afternoon in the middle of the week. One one side lay the river, obscured by trees and vegetation, and off to the other side was often fences, sometimes with livestock. At a certain point the trail went into a wooded area, still going straight, but it did give a break in the sun offering some shade.

McKinney Bridge and Spillway

While there wasn’t a lot of visual interest on the trail, there were a few points of interest.

First, the Old McKinney bridge was about midway between 428 and 455. You’ll see a bench and a break in the trees on the side by the Elm Fork. If you follow that break, you’ll find the remains of an old bridge that connected the cities of Green Valley and Belew. According to the sign, one of those cities no longer exists (TBH, i’m not sure which one still does!), and you can approach the remains of the supports and iron trusses. It’s a cool thing to check out!

Second, the spillway is accessible from the trail. Once the gravel trail turns to concrete, you can continue towards the facilities and parking (East side) or take a trail to the West which follows the river. If you follow that far enough, you’ll come to the spillway itself. When I was there the dam wasn’t flowing, but I’ve been to the spillway at LLELA, just south of Lake Lewisville, and it is impressive to watch the power of that water spilling out of the dam!

Spillway at Lake Ray Roberts
Spillway at Lake

If you want to continue into the state park, you can if you keep following the trail north. I chose to turn back around and head back to my vehicle, as it was getting late. While the trail south of 428 is closed due to damage, you can go some ways south on the trail. I didn’t go very far south, so not sure how far you could go before you hit the closed segment.

On my way out, i noticed a strange little area with a ramp in the parking lot at the 428 trailhead, so i drove over along the northern edge of the parking lot to the east. This is where you can access the equestrian trails, which are on the eastern side of the Elm Fork. At this point i needed to get home, so I didn’t explore the equestrian side. I imagine the views are much the same as what I saw on the multi-use trail, it did appear to be more dirt trail than gravel, but I’ve not seen much information online to confirm that hunch.

Equestrian Trail Entrance @ Ray Roberts Greenbelt

Conclusions and Advice

This Ray Roberts Greenbelt is fairly far north of the metroplex, located north of Denton. I would think if you are looking to get out for a hike, this may not be the most exciting spot to hike. The trail is linear and long, so no real surprises or room for exploration. I saw a few joggers out, but mainly people on bike. This is a great spot to bike, be aware this is NOT a good trail for a road bike. Gravel and Mountain bikes ONLY. You may also want to check our Clear Creek Natural Heritage Center while you are this far north, or alternatively just go there instead if you are looking for a hiking experience.

Also, please note that this trail is going to be HOT in the summer. There is water available at the trailheads, but make sure you bring your own. You’ll get a lot of sun exposure, so make sure to pack some sun screen too!

Greenbelt Trail at Ray Roberts
Don’t Forget Water

I’ve also seen a few mentions of the Ray Roberts Greenbelt being a great spot to get out on the water in a kayak or canoe. You can access the river from the 455 and 428 locations, and then explore the river up close. I plan to return to do this in the future. I would definitely check with the state park to see if they are releasing water, you’d want to be careful and ensure that the water is safe and not running fast.

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