Ready to step outside? Here’s where to go this summer.
So you’ve been cooped up in the house for about three months and are in dire need of fresh air. We’ve got you covered. We rounded up seven nature areas across North Texas where you and the family can enjoy a bit of the great outdoors while continuing to follow health guidelines. Most locations encourage visitors to wear masks, and some require it. We break down all the coronavirus-related changes for each destination, plus what kinds of fun you can expect when you visit.
Arbor Hills Nature Preserve
Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and roam through 200 acres of the great outdoors at Arbor Hills Nature Preserve. It features hike and bike trails and a playground. And in case you didn’t know, the preserve is divided into three nature regions: the Blackland Prairie, Riparian Forest and Upland Forest, each consisting of its own unique wildlife. Speaking of wildlife, the city of Plano reminds guests to watch out for the preserve’s natural inhabitants such as snakes and insects, as well as poison ivy. Safety measures that the city is taking during this time include limiting parking spaces; if the lot is full, guests are encouraged to visit another park instead. The city also reminds parkgoers to practice social distancing. Additionally, pavilions can’t be reserved until after July 24. Though they are still available to the public, the city advises caution if guests decide to use them as they are not regularly sanitized.
Open daily from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., except Wednesdays, when it is closed for maintenance from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. Free admission. 6701 W. Parker Road, Plano.
Lakeside Park in Highland Park
The park is open daily from dawn till dusk. Free admission. 4601 Lakeside Drive, University Park.If you’re in the mood for a socially distant picnic, brisk walk or jog along a lake, Lakeside Park’s 14 acres of greenery are for you. Situated between Beverly Drive and Armstrong Parkway, Lakeside is home to loopy trails and scenic oases. Look for a stone mini waterfall behind the bridge on top of the Turtle Creek Dam and a similar one closer to Armstrong Parkway. Benches throughout the park make for excellent reading or meditation spots amid the bright blooming flowers. Lakeside is probably best known for its larger-than-life teddy bear statues located at the end of the bridge, but they’re currently closed to the public. Water fountains are not available for use, either. And signs are posted throughout the park to remind guests to keep 6 feet of distance between one another. Parking is available along the lake.
Texas Discovery Gardens
Bask in all things nature at the beloved Texas Discovery Gardens. Located at Fair Park, the gardens reopened to the public June 22. Masks are required to enter. The location is probably best known for its butterfly house, which has been compared to a tropical rainforest and is home to species from all over the world. There’s also a 7.5-acre garden featuring native and adapted plants. If you and your children are not quite ready to visit the gardens in person, a digital experience on the gardens’ website offers videos of some of the butterflies and critters you’d see in person, plus a virtual tour of the space.
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors 60 and up, $5 for children 3-11, free for children 2 and under. 3601 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Dallas.
Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge
For wide open space in Fort Worth, visit the Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge. It’s made up of prairies, wetlands and forests and includes more than 3,641 acres and 20 miles of hiking trails. The nature center reopened to the public on June 16. And a little-known fact: The center was named a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior in 1980. There are 12 trails to explore, ranging from 0.21 miles to 3.25 miles long. For a small fee, you can join staff-guided events through the end of June, such as nature walks, plant walks and bird-watching. Each event is limited to nine people, and the center asks that everyone wear masks and maintain social distance. Register for the events online. Parking lots are available throughout the park at trailheads.
Open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Currently closed on the weekends. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors, $2 for children 3-12, free for children under 3. 9601 Fossil Ridge Road, Fort Worth.
Oak Point Park & Nature Preserve
Oak Point Park & Nature Preserve is Plano’s largest park, with 800 acres to roam. It’s an ideal spot for walking, jogging or just trotting along with your dog on a leash. There are 3.5 miles of concrete trails and 5 miles of soft-surface trails along Rowlett Creek. The park also features a pavilion, amphitheater and retreat center. The pavilion is typically available for reservations; however, all pavilion reservations have been canceled through July 24.
Open daily from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. Free admission. 5901 Los Rios Blvd., Plano.
Cedar Ridge Preserve
For an escape from city life that’s only about 20 minutes from downtown Dallas, head to Cedar Ridge Preserve. The preserve, also dubbed a wildlife sanctuary, is spread over 600 acres and boasts 9 miles of walking trails. The 13 walking trails are color-coded on the preserve’s online map, with names such as the Cedar Brake Trail and Trout Lily Trail. Trails vary in length, and some include significant elevation changes. Dogs are welcome on trails, but the preserve asks that owners keep them leashed at all times. The preserve also reminds guests to maintain social distance, bring their own water bottles and skip visiting if they’re feeling ill. There is a gravel parking lot on-site and another lot available across the street at Park in the Woods Recreation Center.
Open Tuesday-Sunday from 6:30 a.m. to dusk; closed Mondays. Free admission, but $3 donations encouraged.7171 Mountain Creek Parkway, Dallas.
Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area
The Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area is home to a considerable variety of wildlife. For starters, ecosystems such as prairies, gardens, forests and wetlands can be found at LLELA, with more than 360 vertebrate species and 500 plant species, according to the park’s website. You might spot bobcats and white-tailed deer, along with smaller critters such as butterflies and insects. Pets are not allowed, but there’s plenty of hiking, picnicking, birding, kayaking, canoeing and fishing to enjoy. Visit LLELA’s website for trail, kayak and canoeing conditions. Guests are advised to maintain 6 feet of social distance from one another, and groups can include no more than nine people. Visitors older than 2 are encouraged to wear masks.
Open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The daily entry fee is $5 per vehicle. 201 E. Jones St. (at Kealy Street), Lewisville.