12 Nature Preserves to Explore in DFW (Before It Gets Too Hot)

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When it comes to outdoor activities in North Texas, spring and fall are the best time to explore. And, with our famous wildflowers, spring is especially nice after a long winter. So it’s time to get out there and enjoy the natural beauty DFW has to offer before the sweltering summer months set in. From the Trinity Audubon Center to the Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge, we’ve rounded up 12 of our favorite nature preserves to explore before it gets too hot. Keep reading to see them all.

Gabby Cullen

Trinity Audubon Center - Dallas

From the impressive visitors center to the marshlands and the river trails, the Trinity Audubon is a hidden gem on the outskirts of downtown Dallas. 

6500 Great Trinity Forest Way or 6500 S. Loop 12.
Dallas, TX 75217

Online: trinityriver.audubon.org

Cedar Ridge Preserve - Dallas 

One of the best places for real hiking in DFW (imagine that on the prairie!), there is a nice mix of flat trails and elevated trails that come with stunning views. Leashed dogs are welcome, and there are plenty of opportunities for bird watching as well. 

7171 Mountain Creek Pkwy.
Dallas, TX 75249

Online: audubondallas.org/cedar-ridge-preserve

John F. Burke Nature Preserve - Farmers Branch 

This 104-acre retreat is only 10 miles away from DFW but feels like a different world! Wander along the Elm fork of the Trinity River to explore wetlands and upland forests, look for birds or plan an overnight camping trip! 

1111 Valley View Ln. 
Farmers Branch, TX 75234

Online: farmersbranchtx.gov/John-F-Burke-Nature-Preserve

Gabby Cullen

Arbor Hills Nature Preserve - Plano

Nestled on the edge of western Plano, the Arbor Hills Nature Preserve is popular with families. Follow the trails along the creek, ride bikes, wander through the wildflower pasture or stop for lunch at one of the picnic tables located in the 200-acre park. 

6701 W Parker Rd.
Plano, TX 75093

Online: plano.gov/Arbor-Hills-Nature-Preserve

Spring Creek Forest - Garland

There have been over 650 species identified in Spring Creek Forest. This bottomland forest has been protected from development and offers paved trails that are perfect for families. And, if you have a fossil enthusiast in your group, be sure to check out the cliffs to see if you can spot any! 

1770 Holford Rd.
Garland, TX 75044

Online: springcreekforest.org 

Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge - Fort Worth

One of the best nature preserves in DFW, it’s easy to spend a whole day at the Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge. There are over 20 miles of trails in the 3000+-acre open space, making it one of the biggest city-owned nature centers in the country.  You’ll have fun spotting wildlife (including alligators, so keep littles close), exploring the beautifully maintained trails and even meeting some bison! 

9601 Fossil Ridge Rd,
Fort Worth, TX 76135 

Online: fwnaturecenter.org

Gabby Cullen

Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center - Cedar Hill 

Another great place for an uphill hike, the Dogwood Canyon Audubon also has a fun natural play space for kids and an interesting visitors center. Both are still closed due to COVID, but be sure to set aside time to explore when they open back up. They also usually have kayak tours, summer camps, guided tours and Birds of Prey encounters!

1206 FM1382 
Cedar Hill, TX 75104

Online: dogwood.audubon.org 

Trinity Forest Gateway and Horse Trails - Dallas 

This is a smaller open space on the edge of the Trinity River Corridor Project, but it still offers plenty to do! There’s a fishing pier, ½ mile of paved trail around the pond, open prairie space, pavilions for picnics, and for those with horses, there’s access to four miles of soft trail.

21611 Dowdy Ferry Rd.
Dallas, TX 75217

Online: trinityrivercorridor.com/recreation/forest-gateway-horse-trail

Clear Creek Natural Heritage Center - Denton

This nature center acts as a gateway to over 2,000 acres of bottomland hardwood forest, water habitats and upland prairie—things North Texas is known for! There are five miles of family-friendly hiking trails, some of which will give kids a chance to look for beavers, herons and other aquatic species. 

3310 Collins Rd. 
Denton, TX 76208

Online: cityofdenton.com/parks-trails/clear-creek 


Gabby Cullen

Pettinger Nature Preserve & The Trails at Squabble Creek - Rockwall

If you live on the southeast side of the metroplex, cross Lake Ray Hubbard and spend a day in Rockwall. Pettinger Nature Preserve, a 26-acre space with a one-mile loop opened in the spring of 2020, boarders Squabble Creek and has a beautiful meadow with a butterfly garden and two outdoor picnic areas. Across the creek is the Trails at Squabble Creek. With a combination of a mountain bike and hiking trails, there are six loops to choose from, and they vary from an open meadow walk to more dense trails along the creek.

450 W. Quail Run Rd.
Rockwall, TX 75087

1401 Dickson Ln.
Rockwall, TX 75087


Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary - McKinney 

One of the best places to learn about nature and wildlife in DFW, the Heard Museum is a curious kiddo’s wonderland! Wander through 6.5 miles of trails, explore the butterfly house, play in the pioneer museum, dig for fossils and more! 

1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX 75069

Online: heardmuseum.org 

—Gabby Cullen

Feature image: Julie Liebermann via Unsplash


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