Take the Road Less Traveled in Dallas' Great Outdoors

1 / 10
Trinity Forest Dallas Audubon
Exploring the Great Trinity Forest

A young raccoon blends in with the scenery at the Trinity River Audubon Center.

2 / 10
A butterfly on purple thistle
Exploring the Great Trinity Forest

An Eastern swallowtail butterfly on purple thistle at Big Spring Nature Preserve 

3 / 10
Dallas Trinity River Audubon Center
Exploring the Great Trinity Forest

The shallow waters surrounding the Trinity River Audubon Center play host to wildlife including insects, native plants and a resident egret. 

4 / 10
Tour guide leading the way
Exploring the Great Trinity Forest

Guided birding tours and nature hikes teach, entertain and inspire visitors, locals and outdoor enthusiasts of all ages. 

5 / 10
Egret flying
Exploring the Great Trinity Forest

A great egret flies over cattails at Big Spring Nature Preserve, now a historic landmark. 

6 / 10
Turtle in hands
Exploring the Great Trinity Forest

A young Trinity River Audubon Center guest learns proper turtle-handling technique. 

7 / 10
Ladybug in grass
Exploring the Great Trinity Forest

Speckled water droplets add extra spots to a ladybug lounging in native grass. 

8 / 10
Texas Buckeye Trail Trinity Forest
Exploring the Great Trinity Forest

Despite its location just a few miles from downtown Dallas, the Texas Buckeye Trail feels worlds away from the bustling city. 

9 / 10
Egrets at Lemon Lake
Exploring the Great Trinity Forest

Two egrets bask in the sunset at Lemon Lake.

10 / 10
Bird with food in beak
Exploring the Great Trinity Forest

It's feeding time for a bird at the Trinity River Audubon Center. 

By Jaimie Siegle

Lush greenery, tranquil waterways and untouched forest areas are phrases rarely used to describe the Dallas landscape. And yet, the city was built on the Trinity River, which flows from North Texas to the Gulf of Mexico, and gave life to the Great Trinity Forest.

Just south of downtown Dallas and sprawling across 6,000 acres, the Great Trinity Forest is the largest urban hardwood bottomland forest in the country. 

Over the years, hundreds of acres were gradually reduced to a manmade wasteland, including the area now known as the Trinity River Audubon Center, Dallas’ “gateway” to the Trinity River Corridor. Located on what was once an illegal landfill site, the ambitious Audubon Center project restored 130 acres of natural habitat in the forest where life could flourish again. Ten years later, a stroll through the center offers proof of revived ecosystems where bobcats, birds, tree-dwelling critters and native plants thrive.

The Great Trinity Forest’s evolution continues with more horseback riding trails, a ziplining park, a golf club that'll host the 2018 AT&T Byron Nelson PGA tournament and more. Still, from Big Spring Preserve to hidden ponds and the Texas Buckeye Trail, those who seek solace in the quietness of nature will certainly find it here.

All photos ©Sean Fitzgerald