Top 4 Nature Escapes in Dallas

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I haven’t been up to much besides a relaxing yet fun weekend in Texas Hill Country and an afternoon of kayaking on the Trinity River. The latter is what brings me to today’s post.

I love the diversity of activities Dallas offers, but there are times when I need to escape the city for an afternoon. Here are my four favorite spots (at least so far) where you can enjoy some nature without straying far from the Big D:

1. Trinity River
I’ve kayaked down Trinity River twice now, and it’s such a relaxing day trip that you forget you’re in Dallas. The first time I went with a guided tour group hosted by the Trinity River Audubon Center. This was great because the staff pointed out birds and other wildlife – we saw a beaver among other creatures. It was pricier than going on your own, but well worth having the short instructional session beforehand and hearing the knowledge of our guides during the trip. Then a friend and I went on our own after renting two single kayaks for $40 each from Trinity River Kayak Co. The trip was about 2.5 hours long and the staff was very friendly and helpful.

kayak trinity river

Guided river adventure with the Trinity River Audubon Center

2. Cedar Ridge Nature Preserve
I’ve only been once, but Cedar Ridge is probably my favorite nearby escape. It has the best trails from what I’ve experienced in the area. I mean, there are actual climbs and descents on the trail! If I’m remembering the names correctly, I took the Fossil Valley trail and Cattail Pond trail. There was definitely a crowd there, but I didn’t mind at all. It was about a 30 minute drive from my home in the center of Dallas and well worth it. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photographs.

3. Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve
To be honest, this park in Plano is what started my quest for finding the green parts of Dallas which in turn inspired Road and Air. There are great trails for both biking and hiking – I mostly stuck to the Caddo Trail. It was just at the beginning of spring so the scattered wildflowers  and butterflies were the most colorful sight against gray sky and leafless trees.


4. Oak Cliff Nature Preserve
I hiked the trails here once after a late and delicious lunch at one of my favorite places, The Foundry in Oak Cliff. The nature preserve was a bit out of my way, but I was so glad I went. I MUST come back with a mountain bike though. My friend and I were the only ones exploring on foot and the trails just looked like so much fun on a bicycle. There are miles and miles of trail, but we just took Loop 1 which brought us to the shrine of bicycles, signs and other objects you see below. It was a fun surprise in the middle of wooded Oak Cliff.

I must stress that this is my “at least so far” list. I’ve lived in Dallas for a year and only recently started to embrace what the city has to offer. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some other gems out there I’m missing. So, please, share any in the comments below.

Road Trip to Mustang Island (Galveston, Texas)

“No matter how far a person can go the horizon is still way beyond you.” – Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

The greatness of the world is never more obvious to me than when the ocean is in sight. I took a three-day weekend to see the beach for the first time in a few years. I wanted to camp on the beach and I wanted to go alone – both first-times for me. While I didn’t mind the solo trip, I don’t think I would go camping by myself without at least a furry four-legged friend to tag along.

So I left Dallas around 8 a.m. with a car full of camping gear and a hungry stomach because every Texan knows to swing by the Czech Stop and Little Czech Bakery on any travels through West. After chowing down on both a savory and a sweet kolache, it was just me, the open road and my iTunes library.

I was ready to stretch my legs again in San Antonio and stopped at the Japanese Tea Garden. It was nice, but much of the park was under construction and the waterfall was not running. You shouldn’t go out of your way to visit here until the construction is complete.

Japanese Tea Garden in San Antonio

Path through the Japanese Tea Garden in San Antonio

Then, about two and half hours later, I was driving on a freeway over the ocean on my way to Mustang Island State Park to set up camp! I paid for primitive camping right on the beach and drove my little sedan down to pick out a spot. I saw a soft sand sign and knew I had to turn around and settle on a spot among the crowd. In my efforts, I was stuck in the sand. Fortunately, after a frantic call to the office just before it closed, a park ranger helped tow my car back to more compacted sand. I was so embarrassed, but he was not at all disapproving like I expected. In fact, he was very kind and came back to check on me a couple times after finding out I was camping alone.

DSC_0004Finally back to business, I pitched my tent and headed straight for the water. It was then, playing in the waves and watching the pelicans, that I knew this was all worth it. Getting stuck in the sand, driving more than six hours, getting sand all inside my car and tent – none of it mattered. The ocean was a refreshing temperature in contrast to the hot Texas sun and despite the crowd of campers, there weren’t many people in the water. I definitely prefer Mustang Island over some other coastal areas I’ve visited.

After sunset, I cooked myself a DELICIOUS Ahi Tuna steak and some fresh shrimp I picked up from Port A Seafood Co. They have a great variety of fresh seafood at decent prices and it’s only a 15 minute drive from the state park.

Then I went to sleep to the sound of waves and scent of salty sea air. The next day, I didn’t have much food left in the cooler and I wasn’t sure if I could spend another night alone with the sand and the wind so I packed up camp a day early.

Before heading back to Dallas, I booked a tour with Kohootz Dolphin Encounters and it was very much worth the $25. The small two-deck boat cruised around for a couple hours, providing wonderful views of jumping dolphins and the Lydia Ann Lighthouse. My favorite was watching the dolphins surf and play on the waves a large ship made. If you’re ever in the Port Aransas area, you have to do this! It was my favorite part of the trip.

While I have no desire to go camping alone again, this trip was very worthwhile. I had both some much needed relaxation and fun adventures along the way.