Fort Worth and the surrounding area is home to several wonderful green spaces, from small public parks to spacious swaths of land and hike-and-bike trails. Of course, it’s not a visit to Cowtown without stopping by the Water Gardens, a surreal architectural marvel of fountains and pools, or the state's oldest botanic gardens. Here are the best parks to explore when you’re in Fort Worth, whether you want to swim, fish, hike along hilly terrain, take the kids to a playground, or simply relax and enjoy the sunshine.
Fort Worth Water Gardens
The Fort Worth Water Gardens are unlike any other urban park in the state, much less the city. Opened in downtown Fort Worth in 1974, Philip Johnson (of the Amon Carter Museum) designed this stark, stunning modernist landscape of pools, fountains, and terraced steps. The asymmetrical, four-acre space occupies multiple levels. There’s a tranquil meditation pool surrounded by cypress trees and waterfalls, plus an aerating pool that features a spray fountain. The centerpiece of the park is undoubtedly the Active Pool, with water gushing down 40 feet of steps and platforms to a small, vortex-like pool below. Visitors can reach it by descending down an elevated walkway of free-standing steps. Entrance is free and there’s plenty of metered parking available nearby.
Hikers, runners, and nature lovers will be in awe of Eagle Mountain Park, with its 400 acres of pristine, untouched land and diverse flora and fauna. Made up of six short, interconnected trails, there are over five miles of hiking trails here. The highlight is the Overlook Trail, which boasts expansive views of Eagle Mountain Lake. Bikers are prohibited, so joggers and hikers have the lay of the land. The park is free, and it’s open seven days a week from dawn until sunset.
Known for its natural beauty and ample amenities, Trinity Park sits along the western side of the Trinity River and has everything you could ever want in an urban park: fishing, hiking, biking, playgrounds, and a miniature train that has been running since 1959.
The Fort Worth Botanic Garden is also located here; sitting on a sprawling 110 acres, this lush oasis is the oldest botanic garden in Texas and has 22 specialized gardens to explore. Don’t miss the world-renowned Japanese Garden, with its dramatic waterfalls, koi-filled ponds, and acres of colorful cherry trees, Japanese maples, and magnolias. Admission to the Botanic Garden is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, and $6 for children. Kids five and under get in free.
The kiddos will have a field day at Dream Park, a spacious public playground that’s designed to accommodate children of all abilities. Located squarely in Trinity Park, Dream Park features an array of inclusive play equipment, including a roller slide that won’t short-out kids’ hearing devices, a zip line with a molded bucket seat and lock-in-place harness, rubber surfacing for wheelchairs, and interactive musical elements. The park follows Trinity Park’s regular hours of operation.
If you’re up for an out-of-town adventure, it takes just two hours to get to Possum Kingdom State Park. Scenically situated in the rugged canyon country of the Brazos River Valley and the Palo Pinto Mountains, this 1,500-acre state park can be found on the west side of Possum Kingdom Lake, and caters to those who love the water. Visitors can scuba dive, swim, snorkel, and go boating or fishing—but there are plenty of hiking trails to take advantage of, too. The rolling hills surrounding the lake are home to the popular Lakeview Trail, the Longhorn Trail, and the Chaparral Ridge Trail, all of which offer magnificent views of the park.
This pleasant three-acre stretch of green space is an important natural oasis amidst the sea of downtown buildings and dense development in Fort Worth. Designed by renowned landscape architect Peter Walker, Burnett Park is shaded by groves of beautiful oak, magnolia, and crape myrtle trees. It sometimes serves as a special event space and public art venue, but it’s mostly just a wonderful little pocket of nature in the heart of the city.
One of Texas' most popular parks, Caddo Lake State Park is located roughly two and a half hours from Fort Worth, but the drive is well worth it. With its thick, bald cypress trees dripping with Spanish moss and maze of sloughs and pools, Caddo Lake has a gothic beauty that’s unlike any other natural scenery in Texas. The largest naturally formed lake in the state, Caddo Lake can be explored by canoe or kayak via more than 50 miles of paddling trails. Visitors can also experience the Pineywoods on more than 13 miles of trails.
Just 10 miles from the metroplex, directly southeast of Fort Worth, Cedar Hill State Park offers a peaceful respite from the chaotic hustle and bustle of the city. The park has 350 campsites, hundreds of picnic tables and barbecue grills, miles of hike-and-bike trails, the Joe Pool Marina, and preserved natural habitats that support a wide range of local flora and fauna. Visitors can also tour the Penn Farm Agricultural History Center, which offers a glimpse into what Texan farm life was like a century ago. For a unique treat, plan to visit after dark, when state park interpreters lead a one-hour nature program.
Elm Street Park
At just over one-quarter acre, this park may be small, but it serves as a nice little slice of green space for locals. The park includes both a grassy area and pavilion, and it’s open daily.
Gateway Park is currently undergoing a large-scale renovation that involves ecosystem restoration and installing floor storage and first-class recreational amenities. Once it’s completed, the new and improved Gateway will stretch out over 1,000 acres and include baseball and soccer fields, a dog park, scenic river overlooks, a disc golf course, mountain biking trails, a kayak/boat launch, and more. Stay tuned.