Cedar Hill's Parks Offer a Great Place to Play
Just miles from the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex and a world away from the steel-and-concrete high-rises, snarling traffic and hectic city streets is one of the best-kept secrets of Dallas County. With rugged, wooded terrain reminiscent of the Texas hill country, Cedar Hill State Park encompasses 1,826 acres of land untouched by the developments surrounding it, a welcome escape for Texans who long to get back to nature and one of the Best Southwest Dallas region's most appealing features.
“You feel like you're in the middle of nowhere, but you're minutes from downtown,” says Mercy McBrayer, the park's special events and volunteer coordinator. “It's great for families who are looking for things to do without going too far or spending too much.”
From the southeastern border of 7,500-acre Joe Pool Lake, visitors can catch reflections of the Dallas skyline, including the new Cowboys Stadium, glimmering in the water at night.
With 355 campsites, Cedar Hill State Park is the most visited park in the state – not just because of its scenery but also its diversity, says park manager Mike Spradling.
“Most everything in North Texas is flat, but we have hills, canyons, juniper and oak trees, tall-grass prairies, wildlife and all types of bird species that migrate through here,” he says.
From fishing, swimming, canoeing and kayaking to mountain biking, hiking, picnicking and bird-watching, “there are so many activities for so many different types of people,” he adds.
The park offers paved trails for leisurely walks and challenging hikes for backpackers, along with a 14-mile mountain bike trail with loops for beginning, intermediate and advanced bikers. A partner with the Texas Outdoor Families program and the office of Urban Outreach, it also hosts fishing, canoeing, geocaching and camping workshops. Visitors can harvest pumpkins from the park during the fall Harvest Heritage Festival and experience what life was like before the region became urbanized with year-round tours of the historic Penn farm. The Audubon Society is developing a sanctuary and education center at the 270-acre Dogwood Canyon, where dogwoods blossom along the limestone walls and endangered songbirds nest.
In addition to the state park, Cedar Hill, named a Tree City USA community by the Arbor Day Foundation for its forestry focus, boasts an abundance of greenbelts, nature preserves and parks, including Valley Ridge Park, which hosts state and regional baseball, softball and soccer tournaments.