The Trinity River and Its Trail System

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About the Trinity River

The Trinity River rises up near the Red River in far northern Texas.  It travels 710 miles to Lake Livingston, making it the longest river in a single state.  Lake Livingston’s waters drain into Galveston Bay, an inlet to the Gulf of Mexico.

During its travels, the Trinity River converges from three branches to one near Dallas, Texas.  Growing up in Texas, as kid we only knew two things about the Trinity River.  First, during intense rainstorms in the spring, the stinky river flooded.  Second, upon hearing the words “Trinity River,” the likely question was “how many dead bodies were found,” as it passed through a very rough part of Dallas.

Consequently, you can imagine, walkers, cyclists, and nature lovers didn’t exactly spend much time in the River’s flood plain.  Fortunately, in the last fifteen years, through a few bond issues and with many partners, the City of Dallas has spent substantial resources improving the area with a few parks and a vast trail system. While it’s nothing like Colorado where I lived for the last ten years, at least it is green space without all paved sidewalks.

Margaret hunt hill bridge over the trinity river

Access to the Trinity River

The Trinity River may be accessed via a variety of locations including, but not limited to Trammel Crow Park, Dallas Bridge, and the DART station at Santa Fe Trestle Trail.

Of these three spots, I recommend the first two as the latter is located near a sketchy part of town.  And of the first two, I prefer Trammel Crow Park as it is centrally located and in the flood basin.  There is plenty of parking available unless a cricket match is being played or if it is flooded.

During the winter, I walked the Trinity River Basin about four times a week, and the parking was full only once.  Generally, I share the parking lot with one or two other cars, broken glass, trash, and an occasional bullet shell. 

Winter Morning Solitude

Yes, I know, I am probably not selling this area as a safe place to walk, but on weekday, winter mornings it is very quiet.  In fact, the opportunity for solitude in a city of millions is one of the Trinity River’s biggest draws for me.  I can let my dog, Annie, run free for miles without bothering a soul! 

Annie on the Trinity River Trails

Neither the Dallas Water Utility trucks which patrol the area nor the bicycle cop I saw on a Saturday enforce the leash law.  And why would they when the 20 acres is virtually empty, at least on weekdays.  While warm weekends fetch more cyclists and Cricket players, in all the Trinity River Basin is relatively unused. 

That said, I would not seek such solitude at dark.  I also would likely skip the Trinity River Trails after continuous spring rains or on a hot, summer day due to flooding and limited shade, respectively.

The Trail System

Another draw to the Trinity River for me is the selection of trails.  There are three wide paths which are big enough for a car on each side of the Trinity River.  Two follow atop the levee, while two run parallel to each other on both sides of the river within the flood basin.  Occasionally, connectors paths cross the basin to join the wide trails, some paved and some made of gravel.

As a result, Trinity River walkers can make up all sorts of hikes and distances, always with the view of the Dallas skyline as well as many of the bridges!  Below are just a few of the walks I recorded on AllTrails.  Given I walk about 3mph, most of the options are approximately three miles, but some are longer.

West From Trammel Crow Park

Beginning west from Trammel Crow park was my “go to” 3.2 mile route as I found it to be the quietest option. Most walkers start to the east in order to take the paved sidewalks through Trammel Crow Park and to go by the river. Cyclist tend to take the path closest to the river as well because it is paved. As a result, I got the gravel trail to myself.

I follow the path in the flood plain to the first bridge and then return atop the levee. Heading west first keeps the east sun out of your eyes until it climbs higher in the sky for the return. The return provides a lovely view of downtown Dallas.

For a slight variation, I sometimes throw in this small loop which begins closer to the river on a paved track and then turns across a make shift road to the gravel path. It only adds a tenth of a mile for a 3.3 mile jaunt.

If I’m up for a longer walk, I do this 5.4 mile loop. I start on the paved trail closer to the river, as the cyclist appear a little bit later on winter days. As a result, I can finish this side before the one or two I might see.

East From Trammel Crow Park

The benefit of heading east from Tramell Crow Park is additional variety. The paved path weaves through the park, along the Trinity River and cuts back to the gravel trail and the levee on the north side. On quiet, cloudy days, I ventured this way and usually crossed paths with somebody fishing or someone else taking advantage of the wide open space with their dog. As usual, I walked to an overhead bridge, just to have a destination. This route clocks 2.8 miles, but can easily be extended.

Trammel Crow Park

Extending takes you beneath multiple bridges for both cars and trains. Some feature street art. Additionally, on the other side of the levee near the turn around point, you will find some longhorns! This 6.2 mile route is more interesting than the others, and if I want a long walk, I will head this way.

street art at the Trinity River

South From Trammel Crow Park

Occasionally from Trammel Crow Park, I cross the Trinity River to the south side and then head west. While this side is busier, most people don’t make it west of Trammel Crow Park as they begin at the Dallas Bridge access (more on this later).

Trinity River Trail

As a result, this 4.1 mile route which mostly follows gravel paths, is still very quiet as it passes through a more natural setting. If the area to the south were safer, I would love to build a house on this side of the Trinity to overlook the greenspace and have a view of downtown Dallas. For a slightly longer stroll and to do some reconnaissance, I ventured this way occasionally.

From Dallas Bridge

As a I mentioned above, the Trinity River may also be accessed from Dallas Bridge. The Dallas Bridge Parking area is across from Trinity Groves which features several restaurants. This is a good starting point for anyone who wishes to grab lunch before or after their walk. I generally only came to this side when the gate to Trammell Crow Park was closed, which happened around some holidays.

downtown dallas

This side of the Trinity is definitely busier with all the condos and apartments going up. That said, it is a far cry from the hundreds who frequent the Katy Trail, White Rock Lake, and the streets of Highland Park which attract most walkers.

I could still let Annie off leash without her bothering anyone though the birds in the “No Mow Zone” of wildlife area sure peaked her interest. This 2.8 mile route is almost completely paved and may also be taken from Trammel Crow Park by crossing the Trinity River.

Believe it or not, these six walks hardly scratch the surface of the Trinity River Trails which extend miles in both directions. I plan on exploring more on my bike one day, but until then happy hiking! ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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