Freeways leading into and out of Dallas, Texas, with the skyline of the city in the background against a beautiful sunset

Escape the City: 5 Short Road Trips Outside Dallas

Freeways leading into and out of Dallas, Texas, with the skyline of the city in the background against a beautiful sunset

Escape the City: 5 Short Road Trips Outside Dallas

Just outside Dallas, Texas, are picturesque parks, hiking trails, historical sites, and more. Here are five short road trips leaving from Dallas.

Dallas is known for busy freeways filled with overpasses, so it’s no surprise that Texans love to drive. Just beyond the city, a plethora of short road trip destinations offer many opportunities to transform a free afternoon or evening into an adventure. Consider these five short jaunts that start in Dallas and end at picturesque parks, water recreation spots, historical sites, and even a fossil digging site. Whether you have two hours or a full day, these exciting places are waiting to be explored.

Bluebonnet Trails

Located 35 miles southwest of Dallas on I-45, the Bluebonnet Trails in Ennis provide a beautiful spectacle prepared by Mother Nature herself. The trails got their name from the acres and acres of bluebonnet flowers that carpet the countryside every spring. The Ennis Garden Club provides a map to help you navigate the 40 miles of trails, and Ennis Regional Medical Center offers the Ennis Y’all mobile app with trail maps that are updated weekly during bluebonnet season.

If you have time to make reservations in advance, hire an expert guide from the Garden Club to join you on your tour and regale you with tales of the Texas state flower. Bluebonnets typically appear in March and peak in the third week of April each year.

A large field of bluebonnets and pink wildflowers in Ennis Garden Club just outside of Dallas, Texas
Source: Shutterstock

Cedar Hill State Park

Cedar Hill State Park is a sanctuary for nature enthusiasts who don’t have much time to spare for a road trip. Located a mere 10 miles southwest of Dallas via US-67 S, this 1,800-acre recreation area makes you feel much farther away from the big city. If you like birdwatching, search the skies for approximately 500 bird species that flock to the forest and prairie habitats throughout the year.

Popular Joe Pool Lake is a favorite spot for swimming, boating, and fishing for crappie, catfish, and largemouth black bass. Those who prefer to stay on land can take to the park trails, either by foot or mountain bike. Cedar Hill State Park was originally part of the Penn family farm, and you can tour the park’s Agricultural Heritage Center to see original and reconstructed buildings from the 1800s and 1900s.

Turner Falls Park

If you have more time, hop the border to Davis, Oklahoma, and enjoy a few hours of recreation and relaxation at Turner Falls Park. The drive takes a little more than two hours from Dallas on I-35 N. Once there, splash around under Oklahoma’s largest waterfall, boasting a 77-foot drop. It’s a picturesque setting with streams from Honey Creek flowing over the rocks into the swimming hole below. The view changes by the month. In the fall, the area is dotted with colorful leaves, while the winter months occasionally provide dramatic frozen views. See the falls up close, or hike up trails in the Arbuckle Mountains for a top-down vista.

In addition to the waterfalls, you can do some hiking and possibly spot deer and wild turkeys. Fish for trout, explore caves, or just relax and enjoy a peaceful picnic.

A gorgeous waterfall surrounded by green trees in Turner Falls Park in Oklahoma
Source: Shutterstock

Mineral Wells

An hour and a half west of Dallas along I-30 is the town of Mineral Wells, named for its healing waters. Legend has it that the lithium found in some waters could cure certain mental health issues, and the town boomed as a wellness destination for tourists in the early 20th century. You can still buy locally bottled Crazy Water and try it yourself.

Today, Mineral Wells offers more than water to day-trippers. Try hunting for fossils at Mineral Wells Fossil Park, where diggers routinely find animal and rock artifacts that are more than 300 million years old that they can keep and take home. Look for evidence of sea lilies, urchins, clams, oysters, corals, and primitive sharks. The town also hosts local events like Frontier Days in the summer with doll making, whittling, and tours of the Old Jail Museum complex.

Athens

Less than 90 minutes outside of Dallas via US-175 E lies Athens, a place to pick blueberries in summer and admire the spring flowers. The East Texas Arboretum and Botanical Society offers 100 acres of beauty for nature lovers to explore. If you would rather make a splash, check out sunken wrecks at Athens Scuba Park. The spring-fed lake is 35 feet deep with excellent visibility so divers can get a good look at the staged wrecks, including a jet, sail boats, party barge, and bus. The park offers certification classes for first-time divers.

Appreciate the water another way at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center, a convenient place to go fishing with no license required and bait and tackle included with admission. The staff will help you reel in catfish and sunfish. When you’ve had enough, check out the museum and hatchery, or join a bird or nature walk. If you’re an adrenaline seeker, soar over the foliage on a heart-pounding 940-foot zipline that starts more than 100 feet off the ground with New York Texas Zipline Adventures.

Do you know some other scenic spots that are great for escaping the hectic pace of Dallas? Share your photos with us on Instagram.

Travel