North Texas is home to an abundance of lakes, gently rolling hills, and thick, lush woodland—the region is teeming with excellent places to enjoy the great outdoors, whether you’re craving a camping adventure, a great hike, or both. If you’re in Dallas, you don’t have to travel far to experience natural scenery and mild to challenging day hikes. Or, if you don’t mind traveling an hour or two outside city limits, you could be in some of the most picturesque parks in the state, pitching a tent, roasting s’mores, and gazing at the stars. These are the best spots to camp and hike near Dallas.
Cedar Ridge Preserve
Cedar Ridge Preserve is the prime spot for dirt-path hiking in Dallas County, for those times when you want to sweat. It’s gorgeous, too. This natural habitat of 600 acres features open meadows, sloping hills, butterfly gardens, wild grasses, and native trees galore. Bird-watching is a popular activity here; the preserve is home to the rare black-capped Vireo and a wide variety of other wildlife. But it’s the hiking that sets Cedar Ridge apart from many other trail systems in Dallas. There are more than 9 miles of trails that wind through the lush, hilly terrain and afford great views of the area. If you’re looking for a heavy dose of nature, this is the place to go.
Oak Cliff Nature Preserve
Oak Cliff Nature Preserve is beloved by many locals for its natural beauty and well-maintained hike-and-bike paths. Tucked into a serene neighborhood in Oak Cliff, this 121-acre preserve offers miles and miles of nature-soaked trails—it’s perfect for those times when you’re aching for a little peace and quiet in the outdoors. Pick your trail based on your desired difficulty and mileage, and bask in the blissful solitude.
Dinosaur Valley State Park
Just west of the Dallas metroplex, Dinosaur Valley State Park is famous for one reason: the real-life dinosaur tracks along the banks of the park’s Paluxy River. Park visitors can follow the fossilized prints left over from these ancient reptiles; the prints are preserved in stone and are visible at five different locations along the river. Hikers will rejoice at the 20-mile network of interconnected, mixed-use trails in the park, the longest of which (the Cedar Brake Outer Loop) takes you on a looping tour of the terrain atop limestone ridges. Dino Valley has campground facilities with both electric and primitive sites.
Texas Buckeye Trail
The famed Texas Buckeye Trail is a short hike—1.6 miles—but it’s a lovely one. Located within the Great Trinity Forest in southeastern Dallas, the trail was originally built by a group of citizen volunteers and named for the grove of buckeye trees along the banks of the Trinity. In springtime, stark white blooms shoot out from the trees, and hummingbirds and bees flutter around the verdant landscape.
Eisenhower State Park
Located an hour north of Dallas, Eisenhower State Park sits high atop the spectacular bluffs that surround Lake Texoma. There are three separate hiking or nature trails within the park, which provide access to several designated vantage points that overlook the lake; Ike’s Hike and Bike Trail is semi-challenging but boasts the best views. Those who want to camp can choose from more than 150 campsites, 50 of which have full water, electric, and sewer hookups.
Cross Timbers Trail
If you’re itching for a strenuous, scenic hike, the Cross Timbers Trail has been dubbed the “toughest little trail in Texas.” An hour and a half drive from Dallas, this trail lies in the thick of the Cross Timbers Wilderness, and there are a plethora of diverse landscapes here, from rolling farmlands to beautiful Lake Texoma. The trail begins in Juniper Point recreation area and winds for 14 miles, along the southern shoreline of the lake. There are several changes of elevation and high vantage points that look out over the lake and surrounding area; all in all, it’s a fabulous hike. You can camp in the Cross Timbers—Juniper Point, Rock Creek Camp, and Cedar Bayou all have water and other conveniences not found at the other primitive sites (though if you’d like to rough it, you’re welcome to do so; Eagle’s Roost, Lost Loop, and Five-Mile Camp are all primitive).
Possum Kingdom State Park
Located roughly one hour northwest of the metroplex, Possum Kingdom State Park caters to those who love the water, though there are plenty of hiking trails to take advantage of, too. Nestled in the rugged canyon country of the Brazos River Valley and the Palo Pinto Mountains, this sprawling, 1,500-acre state park is on the west side of Possum Kingdom Lake; visitors can scuba dive, swim, snorkel, and go boating or fishing. But if it’s hiking you’re after, the rolling hills that surround the lake are home to several trails, including the popular Lakeview Trail, the Longhorn Trail, and the Chaparral Ridge Trail, all of which offer stunning views of the region.
Bonham State Park
Sitting on 261 acres of rolling prairies and woodlands, Bonham State Park is located just an hour northeast of the metroplex. It’s an easy, scenic drive to get there, and once you do, there’s plenty to keep you occupied for days on end. There are a few trails to choose from, with the Bois d’Arc Trail being the most challenging; the 2.7-mile trek has several elevation changes and rocky tread, but your efforts will be well worth it. Apart from hiking, the park’s 65-acre lake is a great place to swim and fish, and you can also rent kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily (weather permitting). The park has plenty of campsite options, including full hookup sites and group sites.
Tyler State Park
One of the prettiest parks near the DFW area, Tyler State Park is situated on heavily wooded hills that encircle a placid, 64-acre lake; autumn is a particularly good time to go, when the maples, sweetgums, and red oaks are awash in vibrant shades of red and yellow. There are more than 13 miles of hiking and mountain-biking trails strung along the lakeshore and winding through the trees; the hiking-only Lakeshore Trail circumnavigates the lake and offers serene water views. Stay overnight in campsites (ranging from water-only sites to full hookups), cabins, or screened-in shelters.
Caddo Lake State Park
If you’re up for a road trip (it’s a two and half hour drive from Dallas), Caddo Lake State Park makes for a wonderful weekend getaway. It’s one of the state’s most popular parksand for good reason: Caddo Lake has a gothic, spooky beauty all its own, with its thick bald cypress trees dripping with Spanish moss and labyrinth-like sloughs and pools. Caddo Lake itself is the largest naturally formed lake in Texas, and many people enjoy paddling on canoes or kayaks here (there are more than 50 miles of paddling trails). Visitors can explore the Pineywoods on more than 13 miles of trails; don’t miss the Whispering Pines Nature Trail, a historic trail built by the CCC in 1938 that passes through mixed hardwood-pine woodland.