Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine   


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Park Pick: Metroplex Getaway

Cedar Hill State Park offers a wilderness experience, just minutes from DFW.

By Bryan Frazier

During the past two decades, perhaps no place has come to epitomize the importance of urban green space more than Cedar Hill State Park. Surrounded by more than 6 million people in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, Cedar Hill has endured as a convenient, relaxing getaway among the juniper- and oak-lined hills of Dallas and Tarrant counties, in stark contrast to the nearby bustling highways and crowded neighborhoods.

Despite being only a 30-minute drive away from the Dallas skyline and within veritable earshot of Cowboys Stadium, the park’s 300-plus campsites and more than 10 miles of hike-and-bike trails give visitors a feeling of wilderness. The park is home to five invaluable remnants of native tallgrass prairie — a vanishing ecosystem in North Texas — and habitat for dozens of bird species, including painted buntings, indigo buntings and eastern bluebirds.

Cedar Hill has long been a popular Metroplex fishing destination, with a marina and access to the 7,500 surface acres of Joe Pool Reservoir. And it has become known as one of the area’s top mountain biking destinations.

Cedar Hill State Park is, quite simply, a 1,800-acre island of nature, outdoor recreation and peaceful retreat in the ocean of human development that encircles it.

“I see this place as kind of like what Central Park is to New York City,” said Cedar Hill State Park Superintendent Mike Spradling, a 35-year veteran of the Texas state park system. “Before long we all know this metro area is going to expand to fully surround the park, and we’ll represent some of the only green space for miles around. That’s why this park is so important.”

Penn Farm, an original homestead established in 1854, is located within the park’s boundary. Numerous historical structures and replicas depict the region’s rural farm life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Interpretive farm tours are offered bimonthly for the public or on request for organized tours, ensuring that founder John Penn’s legacy lives on.

The park’s recent 20th anniversary celebration also marked the completion of more than $6 million in renovations and upgrades. As part of a larger $40 million capital repair and improvement campaign statewide (using funds appropriated in previous years), Cedar Hill transformed 150 campsites by adding full water, electric and sewer utility hookups to accommodate increasing demand by recreational vehicle customers. The park also boasts some of the largest, widest RV pads anywhere in the state park system, increasing accessibility for today’s larger motorhomes and trailers.

In addition, the park added a new public restroom complex near the entrance gate, expanded the park’s headquarters building, resurfaced interior park roads and repaired the solar water heating system for all campground showers.

Today, much of the landscape around the nation’s fourth-most-populated metropolitan area looks a lot different than it did 20 years ago. Thanks to local visionaries and state leaders, the scenic tree-covered outcroppings outside the once-small town of Cedar Hill don’t.

For more information about Cedar Hill State Park, call (972) 291-3900, or visit www.texasstateparks.org.

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