The Bushwhacker's Guide to Exploring Dallas

Urban Explorers are ignoring history and unearthing real nature in Dallas. Now it's your turn to follow the trail they've blazed.

"You have to ask yourself why you actually go out into the wilderness or into nature," he says. "What is it you are trying to get there?

"If you want a very kind of clinical experience, yeah, just go to your everyday average state or national park. But I'm telling you, you're going to get more of a wilderness experience doing what I do than if you go to a lot of places like Yosemite.

"The main thing is that nobody even knows all the potential that's around in the city, because we don't think it's out there. Along with the Styrofoam and the Dixie cups and everything else, you're going to be just amazed."


See more of Schutze on Unfair Park: Get Off My Lawn

The locales described here are only a sampling of what's out there. We've also included a list of valuable websites where you'll find descriptions and directions to far more places, some of which may be closer to your own interests.

The words of caution here are serious. Some of these places are safe, in terms of the other people you might encounter. Others, not so much. We have assigned a very informal subjective weighted score to these sites, calculated as follows: points from zero to 10 for "civilized," meaning the presence of bathrooms and possible police patrols, plus points for "wild," meaning an opportunity to see plants, animals and scenery in a wild state. Points are subtracted for "skeezy," meaning the likelihood of wandering upon a drug deal or something similarly not to be wished for.

All of the sites include GPS coordinates. Even if you don't have GPS, you can type the coordinates into the "find" field in Google Maps and get a precise map or driving directions (web editor's note: we've hyperlinked them for you below). We also include our own driving directions, because sometimes Google's directions don't exactly match what you'll see out the windshield or beyond your handlebars.

Ultimately, this isn't just about parks and trails. It's a movement toward the rediscovery of nature in our urban midst, and it's redefining this city and our life in it. It's a reconnection with history. It's certainly not an abandonment or negation of Mayor Thornton's beloved progress. But it may have a lot to do with a desire to make something better of the present, since that's where we happen to live.

(all photos by Jay Barker)


River Legacy Park: The White Rock Of the Mid-Cities

Score: 12 (Civilized 10, Wild 2, Skeezy 0)

No lake here, but the park is nestled in a bend of the West Fork of the Trinity, and it sure looks like White Rock on a weekend, with bikers, hikers and picnickers galore. Paved bike trails, dirt nature trails, picnic space, portable toilets.

Coordinates: N32 46.966 W97 07.004 . Take Interstate 30 west from downtown 18 miles, Take Exit 27 toward Cooper Steet, turn right (north), go 1.6 miles, turn left on NW Green Oaks Boulevard. Entrance is 0.1 mile on your right at Rose Brown May Parkway.


Mountain Creek Preserve: Lost Paradise

Score: 15 (Civilized 8, Wild 7, Skeezy 0)

Dog frisbee and moderate bushwhacking. Large mowed fields, dirt and paved trails along the West Fork of the Trinity River.

Coordinates: N32 47.174 W96 56.040 . Take I-30 west from downtown Dallas approximately eight miles to MacArthur Boulevard. Take Mac-Arthur Boulevard north half mile, turn right (east) on Hunter Ferrell Road back toward downtown, go 1.5 miles to the intersection with South Nursery Road. Preserve will be at that corner. For trails, go to the far back parking and cross the bridge. You can walk for miles here and connect to other parks in the Irving Campion Trails system.

Dimension Tract: The Chapel

Score: 9 (Civilized 2, Wild 7, Skeezy 0)

A short, broad trail beneath a Gothic arch of branches, with contemplative benches and steps down to the Elm Fork of the Trinity River. Not a lot of space to explore, but a wonderfully surprising haven of nature surrounded by huge warehouses and quasi-industrial blah. If you ever wanted to see what it all must have looked like in the way-back back-before, come here. You will also find a mowed field right at the parking lot, a favorite with dog frisbeers (and the guys throwing the frisbees).

Coordinates: N32 56.907, W96 56.236. Take I-35E north toward Denton about 14 miles from downtown, get off at Exit 443B toward Belt Line Road, go left (west) 1.5 miles (under President George Bush Turnpike). Turn left on Westward Drive into a bunch of industrial buildings, go about 300 feet to Elm Park Drive, turn right to the dead-end. Trail head is marked.

A Little More Out There

Quanah Parker Park: Ghost of the Comanche

Score: 17 (Civilized 9, Wild 8, Skeezy 0)

Named for the last great Comanche war chief, this park is connected by improved trails to a series of parks on the Southern Campion Trails system. But it's also a good example of an even wilder experience you can find if you're willing to risk drowning or getting bitten by a poisonous snake. If that's your idea of a good time, bushwhack your way off the formal trails and find game tracks and other small trails along the banks of the Trinity River.

Coordinates: N32 46.226 W97 14.571. Take I-30 west from downtown 25 miles past Loop 820. Get off at Exit 18 for Bridge Street, make a sharp right onto Bridge, doubling back east about 0.6 mile on the north side of I-30. Turn north (left) on Woodhaven, go 0.7 mile. Woodhaven dead-ends into the entrance to the park, just across Randol Mill Road.

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As a photographer, I judge the natural features of an area heavily on their aesthetic value. As an amateur historian and geographer, I am curious why a town is at a certain spot, instead of 10 feet or 10 miles away. As an entrepreneur, I consider the measure of true appreciation for my work the willingness of others to purchase them. Texas in general and Dallas in particular do not rank very high on my list of impressive natural locations right now, as little I find here merits interest.


My main intentional photographic types are landscapes, nature and female nudes. I began hiking several years ago to help me find beautiful natural locations where I could photograph nude models. I also discovered that I greatly enjoy skinny-dipping and nude recreation. Unfortunately, Dallas is not a great place for any of these interests. No one wants to see photos of a scrub-choked lot, even if I have a naked woman posing on it, an opinion I base on the willingness of people to pay for copies of such photos. I have an aversion to skinny-dipping with alligators and gars (and copperheads, cottonmouths, snapping turtles, etc.).


As for the reason for Dallas' existence... I'm still waiting for that one. The scrub lots next door aren't the answer. But, thanks for the article. I may yet find a great location, and I love to explore.


Did I miss something; "We've also included a list of valuable websites"?  I swear I didn't miss this when I read the article.  I even came here (online) to see if it was just missing in the print version.


Can a more observant reader or the editor/writer clue me in where these websites are listed?


Jim and the rest of the writers for Dallas Observer: I enjoy your work and thoroughness on many issues I find important even if officials would prefer me to nevermind (e.g. white water park!, fracking, missing 1.1 million in dallas dump, bicycle lanes, trinity river development that isn't a highway, water quality testing... and so forth)  Keep up the good work.  


Rename this article "Where to dump a body in DFW"


Thanks for not mentioning this place near Mountain Creek.  Great for exploring, but I think it's owned by an energy company and set for gas drilling.  32.65242,-96.990272


Oh, as Perry would say: "oops".


Also, thanks for not mentioning this place:  32.685186,-96.978342

Okay, I did that one on purpose.


For both of these, the "wild" and "sketch" levels would be scored in exponential nomenclature.  But they are quite pretty and peaceful.


Neither of these are park land.  It is probably against the law to go on these properties.  Don't do it.


thanks Jim for this great article. I think it's worth mentioning a couple things: People really should be prepared out there. Hat, water and insect . Jim Flood deserves a lot of credit for being such a great resource on this Forest. He's quick to point out he was inspired by the late great Ned Fritz. Tim Dalby is a walking encyclopedia about the history of this area, including bison, mammoths and native america sites. There's much to explore. Ben's blog is the best resource out there on this. Thanks for the article Jim. 



This is a great article. I try to remind people that there are plenty of natural places to walk and explore in Dallas county. They just have to be willing to leave their cars and look for the places that others rarely go to.

California Crossing is a great example. I used to work in Las Colinas. I would often go there during lunch or after work and walk the trails. On weekdays, I usually did not see another soul on my entire walk.


"Some of it is rough going — places where no one should wander alone or unawares. In some, you could get lost or injure yourself in wild and unforgiving terrain. In others you might stumble into criminal activity — never a welcome encounter on a Sunday-morning hike."


This is great article on the natural environs of D/FW. You forgot to add avoid the Mexican Cartels and native Negro population on the trails. Otherwise no complaints.





@TimJordanDFW Explore the big D lol :)


@Dallas_Observer great article. Can't wait until it cools off to head to some of these spots . Less chance of skeezy interaction then.


@kirby_kiefer @Dallas_Observer interesting! and good read... Did you send this to BB?... I hoped it was about werewolves getting bushwacked!

JimSX topcommenter

 @South_Irving_Refugee Good point. I will add it here: Persons who ave lived their entire lives in very small gene pools, especially those who are frightened by people who do not look like their cousins, are advised to stay indoors.


@ClaytonBurris that's what I was thinking


 @JimSX  @South_Irving_Refugee Honestly Jim, I do love your articles and have followed you since I was old enough to read the "Dallas Times Herald". You do slap around the vacant North Dallas clowns with ease.


However, the many beautiful public venues in DFW are not safe. You know this and I know this.


When's the last time you hung around Fair Park?


Fair Park should be a showcase for Dallas. Instead it's a derelict warzone.


When has Deep Ellum been anything substantial prior to 1986-7?


I've live all throughout Dallas County, including Old East Dallas. It's a third-world crap hole. Swiss Avenue on one side, Gaston Avenue on the other.


Gene pools aside, I've traveled the world and seen brutality and violence you wouldn't believe. Our own special variety we brew in Dallas is nothing new.


That the Observer wants to promote parks in DFW is commendable. But be honest. Why are these parks not currently being utilized?
















@TimJordanDFW I have some obscure 2nd cousins there, I may have to visit for the D one day lol


@TimJordanDFW Haha, I am counting on it!


@chris02569 you totally should! That whole "everything is bigger in Texas" thing, pretty much a FACT. :-D