Get out of Dallas on one of these nature-filled getaways

December 22, 2015                 3m read time
Barbie Carpenter


Say goodbye to the bright lights and big city and hello to the natural wonders that surround Dallas-Forth Worth. Whether you’re playing Indiana Jones among dinosaur ruins, enjoying some extreme hiking, or sipping some locally made wine or beer, the following getaways allow you to explore, relax, and rejuvenate—and make it home in time for that Monday morning commute.

1. Go Natural at Caddo Lake

Caddo Lake near Dallas on the Texas-Louisiana border vahalla

Caddo Lake near Dallas on the Texas-Louisiana border

vahalla

 

Head two and a half hours east toward the Texas-Louisiana border to Caddo Lake, the state’s only naturally occurring body of water. Pitch a tent along the shores of the lake at one of many campsites. If sleeping al fresco isn’t your style, rent a lakeside cabin or get swanky at the Excelsior House Hotel in nearby Jefferson—a hotel that has welcomed such historic figures as Lady Bird Johnson.

Your weekend at Caddo Lake, which is surrounded by a state park, will be jam packed with outdoor adventures. Navigate through the maze of interconnected waterways, including channels, ponds, swamps, and bayous, which you can explore by canoe, kayak, or boat. While you’re in the water, look for alligators, beavers, turtles, and frogs. Or toss a line in and catch one of the 71 species of fish in the lake. Crappie and largemouth and white bass are your best bet. During this weekend getaway, keep an eye out for neighbors of all species. You’ll see snakes, nutria, armadillos, and white-tailed deer roaming the lush vegetation surrounding Caddo Lake.

2. Live the Small Town Life in Granbury

The town of Granbury, southwest of Dallas Dana Smith

The town of Granbury, southwest of Dallas

Dana Smith

 

Seventy miles southwest of Dallas sits Granbury, which serves up small-town living that is big on fun. While this 14-square mile town is markedly different from Dallas, it delivers plenty of activity for a weekend getaway. Rent a private cabin on Windmill Farm, where you’ll sleep alongside 40 preserved windmills—a striking view that competes with any big-city skyline. Stroll to the heart of Granbury, where Granbury Square features local shops as well as regular events, including the Harvest Moon Festival, which brings together local artists to show and sell their masterpieces.

Toast to your weekend away at Barking Rocks Winery in downtown Granbury, where you can sample Texas-made wines including a Fizz ‘n Rose that blends Mourvedre, Roussanne, and Chardonnay. If a pint is more your style, stop by Revolver Brewery on a Saturday where you can sample four 8-ounce tastings of local brew. For a glitzy night on the (small) town, snag reservations at Eighteen Ninety Grill, Lounge, & Marketplace, where you can order up a ribeye or New York strip steak, pan-seared duck breast, or some unforgettable jalapeno mac and cheese.

3. Live Like T-Rex For the Weekend

Dinosaur at Dinosaur Valley State Park southwest of Dallas Dill Tom

Dinosaur at Dinosaur Valley State Park southwest of Dallas

Dill Tom

 

While you might not discover the last living dinosaur in Dinosaur Valley State Park, you’ll get to explore their history. Located about an hour and a half southwest of Dallas, this National Natural Landmark lets you get up close with the enormous fossilized footprints of dinosaurs that once roamed this land. Five track sites are dotted throughout the park, which sits on the bed of the Paluxy River. You can spot sauropod tracks, which look similar to those of an elephant, as well as theropod tracks, which are smaller and feature three distinct toes. For some seriously ancient discoveries, check out the sandstone, mudstone, and limestone deposits that are more than 113 million years old.

Dinosaur Valley State Park is more than an archaeological dig though. Outdoor lovers can wander through 20 miles of trails, perfect for hiking or mountain biking, or rent a campsite for a weekend away.

4. Hike Through Colorado Bend State Park

Colorado Bend State Park southwest of Dallas Randall Chancellor

Colorado Bend State Park southwest of Dallas

Randall Chancellor

 

Colorado Bend State Park, three hours southwest of Dallas, is a nature lover’s paradise, with more than 5,300 acres of wilderness to explore. Get your caveman on with some primitive camping—that’s no water or toilets—available to campsites throughout the park. Get a little crazy on a wild cave tour, where you’ll be forced to crawl, slide, and shimmy through small spaces to reach large chambers (don’t worry—an experienced guide will lead the way). Kayakers and canoers will enjoy the slow-moving waters, which make paddling both upstream and downstream possible.

During your weekend escape to Colorado Bend State Park, set aside time for hiking. This park has 35 miles of trails, perfect for an afternoon hike, backpacking adventure, or mountain bike ride. Slip on your rain gear before trekking along Spicewood Springs, which is surrounded by pools and waterfalls. For an added challenge, try Gorman Trail, a rocky hike that features a steep descent near the falls.

5. Go Wild With the Animals in Oklahoma

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge near Dallas  Zack Frank

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge near Dallas 

Zack Frank

 

Animal lovers flock to Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, a three and a half hour drive northwest of Dallas. Originally created to rescue dying species, including bison, elk, and wild turkey, this expansive site is now home to 50 mammals, 240 birds, 64 reptiles and amphibians, 36 fish, and 806 plant species.

In addition to some seriously stellar animal watching, this refuge offers many educational opportunities, including fall foliage tours and migratory bird talks, where you’ll learn everything you ever wanted to know about the creatures that inhabit this refuge. While you’re there, fish for largemouth bass and sunfish in one of the 13 public use lakes, or try mountain climbing along the refuge’s multi-pitch routes on high-quality granite walls.

Barbie Carpenter

Barbie Carpenter is a freelance writer and editor and self-proclaimed grammar enthusiast based in Lexington, Kentucky. When she’s not polishing prose, she’s spending time with her husband and two young children, exploring the Bluegrass region, and planning her next trip to the beach.

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