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.

Definitely Out There

Joppa Preserve: The Serengeti

Score: 10 (Civilized 4, Wild 10, Skeezy 4)


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

Named for one of the state's longest enduring Freedman's Towns (pronounced "Joppy" by the old guard), Joppa Preserve offers miles and miles of paved walking and bike trail looping around small lakes and ponds. During migratory season, it's crazy with birds, like a scene from Wild Planet. If you're on a bike, your biggest hazard may be people stopping to take pictures. Off the paved trails, Joppa Preserve is wild — an entryway into the Great Trinity Forest and who knows what.

Coordinates: N32 42.375 W96 44.275. Take I-45 for 5.6 miles south from downtown to the Loop 12/Ledbetter/Great Trinity Forest Boulevard exit. Go left (east) on Great Trinity Forest about 0.9 mile. You will see signs on the right-hand service drive saying "Dead End" and "No Outlet." That's your welcome. Turn onto the service road. You have to keep going on the service road past where you think you can go. You will see a neat new parking lot on your right with a trail entrance. You can also park just ahead under the bridge at the Loop 12 Boat Ramp.

Definitely Out There

California Crossing Bike Trail: Whack a Mole, and Guess Who's the Mole

Score: 8 (Civilized 4, Wild 7, Skeezy 3)

Trail around old gravel borrow pits, now wild ponds and lakes, on nice trails improved and used by bikers. Walk against traffic, listen hard around blind corners, don't even think about it on a Saturday. Otherwise, these are very nice trails not terribly far from downtown.

Coordinates: N32 51.995 W96 55.367. Take U.S. Highway 114 John Carpenter Freeway toward the airport about 10 miles from downtown, exit at Riverside Drive, turn right, go 0.8 mile to California Crossing Road, turn right again. Two tenths of a mile ahead, California Crossing Park will be on your left. But don't stop there. Go another 300 feet and turn into a parking lot on your right with a big pond on your left.

Trinity River Greenbelt: Deep City Wilderness

Score: 7 (Civilized 0, Wild 10, Skeezy 3)

This area is almost invisible from a fast-moving car on the surrounding highways, and the highways will disappear and go silent the moment you enter this forgotten forest in the heart of the city. Motorized vehicles are illegal. It takes some walking and maybe a little getting lost to find this place.

Coordinates: N32 50.465 W96 52.224. Take I-35E north from downtown to Regal Row, exit right a short hop to Harry Hines Boulevard, turn left, go 0.4 mile. Entrance to Greenbelt is on your left. Just beyond it on the right is Strokers Motorcycles.

You are looking for a dirt parking lot with a sign that says "Reserved Area, NO Unauthorized Entry." That's where you'll enter. Go left of the metal fenced area onto a dirt track. Ahead will be a locked gate. Park there.

You need to walk around the gate (it's city land, open to walkers), go up and over the levee, then north along I-35E to a bridge that will allow you to cross under. Right there you are at the entrance to a vast system of informal trails along the Trinity River.

Gateway Trail: Dallas' Alps

Score: 9 (Civilized 5, Wild 10, Skeezy 6)

Gateway Trail is a loose nomenclature for a series of trails up, down and along the southern White Rock Escarpment in southeast Dallas. You can find yourself on steep inclines and steep descents, wrapped in trees and birdsong, in deep-woods ravines where you could imagine you're hiking somewhere outside of Santa Fe.

Much of this area has never been developed. It's not unusual to find Indian artifacts and wild orchids out here, not to mention plentiful wildlife.

The skeezy score is awarded here because you can also happen upon groups of young dope smokers and occasionally even more sketchy characters, especially where the trails are still close to nearby neighborhoods.

This is a vast area. If you ever do manage to get beyond the DART tracks, you can get seriously lost out there. You can also see some very serious nature, from gators to bobcat.

Baseball diamond entrance. Coordinates: N32 45.434 W96 42.219. Take I-30 east to Jim Miller Road, go south two and half miles; 800 feet beyond Scyene Road look for the Gateway Park baseball diamond and parking on your right. To the right of the diamond, look for a green electrical box on the ground, about three feet high, with wooden bollards just to the right of it. That's the trail entrance.

Gateway Renda Street entrance. Coordinates: N32 45.674 W96 42.270. Take Scyene west from Jim Miller 0.2 mile, turn left or south on Renda Street. Go 0.1 mile to where the street ends at Lacywood Lane. There is a locked and closed parking lot on your right. You will have to park on the shoulder of Renda or Lacywood.

Out beyond the parking lot is a trailhead sign. This trail will take you down to the bottoms, but eventually you will be walled off by a fenced DART right-of-way. If you walk northwest along the tracks you will come to a weird intersection to nowhere, where you can cross. Beyond this point, you are in the really big land, the area where you can get lost. Tell us if you find Big Foot.

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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