Less than 20 miles from downtown Dallas, Cedar Hill State Park is a quick getaway for city dwellers known for its mountain biking trails and access to Joe Pool Lake for swimming, picnicking, fishing, paddle sports and boating. The park features hundreds of spots for “urban-friendly” camping, all with easy access to hot showers and bathrooms. Some additional primitive hike-in camping spots are available, but Cedar Hill’s primary draw is for visitors looking for a daytime outing to enjoy lake or conquer the trails. For an educational addition to a state park outing, visit the Penn Farm Agricultural History Center.
Cedar Hill State Park is located southwest of Dallas via US 67 S, and is open daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. During peak season, particularly over holiday weekends and Spring Break, the main campsite areas are crowded, with individual sites in close proximity to one another. Call ahead to ensure adequate space and make reservations.
Camping at Cedar Hill features 355 wooded campsites that boast amenities such as nearby restrooms, running water, shower facilities, parking, individual fire pits, picnic tables, and electric and water hookup. Many facilities are also handicap accessible. For those who prefer primitive, hike-in camping, there are two main primitive camping areas, located off of two trailheads. Hike-in camping areas can hold up to 30 primitive sites. Primitive sites cannot be reserved and campfires are not permitted.
Cedar Hill has four hiking trails, one of which is shared with mountain bikers while the rest are exclusively for hikers. All of the trails are easy to moderate, with the multiuse trail being the longest and most challenging. Leashed dogs are allowed on all trails.
Perhaps best known for its mountain biking, Cedar Hill boasts several trail loops that are considered among the best in Texas. Named the DORBA Trail after the Dallas Off Road Bicycle Association who helped design and build it, the trail’s loops range in length from 2.5 to 10 miles. Hikers are also allowed on the DORBA Trail, and the park requires them to hike counter-clockwise, while bikers travel clockwise. Hikers are expected to be on the lookout for bikers and to move off of the trail at the approach of a rider. Mountain bike rentals are available.
Joe Pool Lake is a popular kayaking location, with single and two-person kayaks are available for rent from a third-party company. The rental location is next to the main swimming access point, allowing easy entry to the water for paddle enthusiasts who are spending the day on the lake.
Swimming in Joe Pool Lake is the main draw for most of Cedar Hill’s daily visitors. A wide gravel “swimming beach” offers plenty of space for hanging out near the water, complete with plenty of picnic tables and grills for cookouts and picnic lunches. The swimming beach is family-friendly, but all water activities are unmonitored by lifeguards.
Know Before You Go
Whenever it rains, the hiking/biking trails close to prevent erosion. In rainier seasons, this means that the trails are closed quite frequently. Call ahead to be sure of trail conditions before heading to the park.
Some visitors report issues with both chiggers and ants (of the non-biting but food-stealing variety) at campsites.