I recently moved to Fort Worth (at the beginning of January), and have already been compiling my adventure bucket list for Texas. Some of these items include (but are not limited to) stargazing at Copper Breaks, exploring Colorado Bend, hiking Palo Duro Canyon, and camping at Enchanted Rock. My first state park visit however was a trip just 90 minutes to the southwest, to Dinosaur Valley State Park.
About the Park: Dinosaur Valley State Park is located near Glen Rose in Somervell County, about 90 minutes outside of Fort Worth (probably about two hours from Dallas). The park gets its name from actual dinosaur tracks that have been preserved for millions of years in the bed of the Paluxy River.
Trails: My group hiked on sections of four different trails, for a total of about 4.5 miles (7.25 km). We started at the Cedar Brake Outer Loop trailhead (near the campgrounds). You will hike an easy tenth of a mile or so before you come upon the Paluxy River. To continue this hike, you must ford the Paluxy River. Prepare to get your feet wet! I highly recommend good, waterproof hiking boots, and a walking stick or trekking poles for this crossing. If it’s summer (which in North Texas, is not a fun time to hike), take your socks and shoes off and wade across. I hiked in January however, which made things a bit more interesting. After getting across the river, you will follow the trail up a series of switchbacks for about half a mile until you reach an intersection with the Cedar Ridge Trail (there’s also a nice view around here). The Cedar Ridge Trail goes on for about three quarters of a mile until it reaches the Denio Creek Warbler Trail. Our group decided to take the Denio Creek Warbler Trail, which tracks along (and through) a creek bed for about one mile. Be warned that if there are any heavy thunderstorms nearby, this area is very prone to flash flooding (as is the Paluxy River). The Denio Creek Warbler Trail ties into the Paluxy River trail which offers fantastic views of the Paluxy River. Immediately onto this trail, you will come to a split where you can take an “upper” or “lower” route. My group only did the lower section, but this section had fantastic views of the river, and I highly recommend it. This trail goes on for another mile, and probably had the best views of the trails we hiked. You will eventually come to the Blue Hole where you can view the dinosaur tracks. To get back to parking lot, you will once again have to cross the Paluxy River. At this crossing, the crossing was easier and shorter, but the water was also a little deeper. My group walked down the paved park roads to get back to the car.
- Prepare to get your feet wet! I cannot stress this enough. I could tell from maps before my visit that there would be some water crossing involved, but it was a lot trickier than expected. It is not particularly difficult, but probably not recommended for a complete and total beginner. Good waterproof hiking boots and a sturdy walking stick (my preference) or trekking poles are recommended. In warm weather, just wade across. Obviously, make sure to keep your pack dry. It probably does not hurt to bring a change of socks just in case you get a little wetter than expected.
- Flash flooding: Like most areas in North and West Texas, flash flooding can be a serious concern if there are thunderstorms in the area. Check weather forecasts before your visit, and if there is a decent chance of a heavy rain or thunderstorm, I would not risk it. There are no bridges back across the Paluxy River, so even if you are on the high ground north of the river, you could get trapped if there were a significant flash flooding event.
- Trail conditions: On a related note, the park will close the trails if heavy rains lead to poor conditions. Always call before your visit (especially if there has been recent rainfall) and confirm that the trails are open.
- Cedars: This goes without saying in Texas, but there are cedars everywhere. If you are hiking in the winter, and have allergies, I would suggest taking something for your allergies prior to your hike (non-drowsy of course!). Do not let Cedar Fever ruin a great hike!
- Items to bring:
- Trail map: trails are also in Openstreetmap as well as available for download from the Texas Parks website, but I like having a hard copy as well.
- Admission fee: $7 for an adult
- Day pack (easy day trip from the Metroplex)
- Camping gear if staying overnight
- Waterproof hiking boots (I’m mentioning it a third time…it’s that important!)
- Whatever else you need on a day hike, or more if you plan to backpack and camp at the primitive camping sites along the trails, or camp at the car camping sites outside the trail system.
- Afterwards, treat yourself to the Loco Coyote Grill just a few miles away. Note that they are only open Thursday through Sunday. I highly recommend the ribs, but you cannot go wrong with anything on the menu, just be prepared to wait, but your patience will be rewarded.