In recent months, many North Texas residents and families have rediscovered the benefits of walking — whether in their neighborhoods, on urban trails or at nearby parks. Hiking and walking are great low-impact, low-cost forms of exercise that virtually anyone can enjoy regardless of age or fitness level. After all, hiking can burn 400-700 calories per hour and is easier on your joints than running.
North Texas is home to a number of excellent outdoor walking and running trails that are suited to urban fitness enthusiasts or those who enjoy a quiet walk surrounded by trees and nature. If you want to head outdoors for a light walk or want to explore beyond your neighborhood, we’ve compiled a list of North Texas walking and running trails that are free or low-cost and easily accessible.
The Trinity Trail
The Trinity Trail spans over 100 miles and feature 21 different parks, so no matter if you’re in Collin county or Tarrant, there’s a piece of the trails for you to enjoy.
If you’re looking for an easy to intermediate walk near Plano that features the best of everything Lake Lavon has to offer, try the 5.5 mile stretch between Brockdale Park to Collin Park. This family friendly trail boasts woodlands and meadows, in addition to views of the lake from many spots on the trail.
If you’re bringing the family on a light walk with plans to picnic after, the first mile to the picnic table is considered the easiest, since it is the flattest terrain you’ll find on the walk.
The 5.6 mile Highland Park Trailhead to Sycamore Loop section of the trail is considered intermediate to difficult, with mostly views of the woodlands and meadows. But if you stick it out, you can reward yourself with the opportunity to see the second largest Sycamore tree in Texas.
In Tarrant county, if you rather explore by water, there are canoe, paddle board and kayak rentals available throughout the area, with six launch locations.
The northern part of Trinity Park also features a small duck pond for the kiddos and adults alike to enjoy the wildlife, and while you’re there, you can even rent a bike to explore the rest of the park.
If you want a one-stop shop for family fun, Marine Creek Park, located right next to Tarrant County College’s Northwest campus, features a six-mile loop trail around the lake. The “no-wake” lake is also great for fishing, swimming, kayaking and sailing, with two boat ramps and various docks.
The Rowlett Creek Trail
Located at the Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve in Plano, if you’re looking for a short and shady walk, the Rowlett Creek Trail might just fit the ticket. At 1.4 miles, this easy to intermediate trail features great bird watching opportunities as well as views of the creek, wildflowers and wildlife. Although the trail is well-marked, make sure you do not accidentally take the Rowlett Creek Trail Connection, as this will take you to another part of the park.
Dogwood Canyon and Trinity River Audubon Trails
This group of trails has something for everyone, with several easy trails ranging from almost a mile long to less than a quarter of a mile. It’s surrounded by all kinds of protected wildlife (including snakes), so dress accordingly.
Cedar Ridge Preserve
Located just 20 minutes from Downtown Dallas, Cedar Ridge Preserve features nine miles of trails through 600 acres of natural habitat. Many of the trails range from easy to intermediate, with the longest trail (Cedar Brake Trail) earning a grade of intermediate to difficult. But if you want a great starter trail with a delightful view of the wildflowers, the aptly named Bluebonnet Trail promises a gentle terrain with a lookout point midway that overlooks the valley.
The Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge
The Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge covers 3,621 acres and includes over 20 miles of hiking trails, making the park one of the largest city-owned nature centers in the United States. The area consists of forests, prairies and wetlands, allowing you to step back in time and experience what the Fort Worth/Dallas Metroplex was like in the early 20th century.
Eagle Mountain Park
Located on Eagle Mountain Lake in Northwest Tarrant County, the 400-acre park features almost six miles of easy to intermediate trails, all on land that has remained virtually untouched and in its natural state.
River Legacy Trail
This 7.3 mile trail in Arlington may seem daunting at first but the paved walkways and easy terrain make this one of the most travelled trails in North Texas. Starting in River Legacy Park, you can see 400 species of wildlife, 193 species of birds and 28 species of trees along the trail.
Crystal Canyon Natural Area
If you’re looking for a mix of dedicated trail and choose-your-own adventure in your hike, Crystal Canyon Natural Area in Arlington offers both a half mile of soft surface hiking trail and almost 40 acres of very diverse terrain, making it a geology lover’s paradise.
Arbor Hills Nature Preserve
This area in Plano has something for both the hikers and walkers alike, with a three-mile recreational trail and about three miles of unpaved natural trail. Most of the trails are graded as “easy” and the mile-long, aptly-named Tower Trail will lead you to a beautiful observation tower overlooking the entire natural area.
If you have been inactive for some time you may need to check with your primary care physician to make sure that you are safe to initiate an exercise regimen. If you are considering hiking and walking as a first step to reaching a fitness goal, you should start slowly and work up to more difficult trails and longer distances.
Also take care to make sure you are wearing the proper footwear. Comfortable shoes that will provide you with the appropriate padding and support for walking are certainly important to avoid injury. Supportive shoes, primarily around the ankle, are most important when considering safety for hiking. Boots may even be required depending on the trails you may be negotiating.
This preparation can extend to what you bring with you, too. In addition to having the right footwear, make sure your skin is protected with sunscreen and a good insect repellent, and consider layering your clothing. Research the trail you think you want to hit to make sure you don’t need to dress appropriately for things like snake encounters, high grasses, and other things that might require long pants and socks.
Reaping the Benefits
While the physical benefits of hiking are clear, it can also help the mind. A recent study revealed that the exercise you get from walking can help with memory, and reduce stress and anxiety. Another study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that “nature experience may improve mental well-being.”
So whether you’re a novice or an expert, hit the trails this month. It’s a low-cost, heart-healthy activity, and there are many benefits to walking.