New Dallas group aims to restore neglected hiking spot

Piedmont Ridge overlooks the northernmost section of the Great Trinity Forest and affords views of downtown Dallas. Photo by Stalin SM from Wild DFW.

Feb. 29, 2024

by Amy Martin

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Dallas boasts several significant green corridors, formed along large creeks. Their watersheds span 100 square miles or more, flowing to the Trinity or its reservoirs.

The closest to this writer’s heart is White Rock Creek. As a creek kid, I’d trespass almost a mile through backyards along a tributary to see it.

Last summer, I stood on Scyene Overlook on the Piedmont Ridge, at 2725 N. Jim Miller Road, north of Gateway Park. At nearly 500 feet, the ridge is one of the city’s highest spots. I looked out over an expanse of green trees so thick that I could scarcely discern White Rock Creek coursing deep in its shade, silent as a snake, accompanied by the much smaller Oak Creek.

This once popular hiking spot fell into neglect over the years. Now a new Friends group has formed to help return it to its former glory.


The Great Trinity Forest’s verdant corridors extend like green fingers along creeks — “branch waters,” as Dallas landscape architect Kevin Sloan called them. The green corridor stretching out below Piedmont Ridge is massive. The other bluffs forming its valley to the west are barely visible in the distance. It’s about as far north as the Great Trinity Forest comes.

When Dallas was in the throes of an ecological renaissance during the 1970s and ‘80s — chiefly fomented by lawyer and activist Ned Fritz — Piedmont Ridge and its surrounding forest was a hiker’s hotspot. Boy Scouts lavished projects on it, making trails and trailhead kiosks. In the lowlands, a forest regrowing after decades of cultivation did not have many big trees yet but would someday.

The trails’ popularity waned and privet infestations made the areas less attractive to hikers. ATV and motorcycle incursions wreaked damage on the land. Illegal dumping continued to plague. Homeless encampments became an issue. Meanwhile, Groundwork Dallas (now Greenspace Dallas), led by their first executive director, Cassie Pierce, and hearty unknown individuals kept the trails going.
A Groundwork Dallas trail through a Blackland Prairie remnant on the Piedmont Ridge Trail south of the Grover C. Keeton Golf Course. Photo by Stalin SM from Wild DFW.


Thankfully, the city of Dallas and local nature lovers have rediscovered this hidden gem.

Recently, the Dallas Parks and Recreation and Dallas Police Departments, aided by observant hikers and local residents, have cracked down on illicit activities.

The forest is as restorative as ever. The overlooks continue to enthrall.

The three sections of Piedmont Ridge’s main trails — the Scyene and Lacywood Overlooks; the JJ Beeman Trail; and the Piedmont Ridge Trail — now get more happy feet, thanks to coverage in my book Wild DFW: Explore the Amazing Nature Around Dallas-Fort Worth (Timber Press).

A new Lacywood Overlook trail, created under Dallas Parks and Rec supervision, is underway.

From this interest in the ridge, an informal group, Friends of Piedmont, has arisen.

Working with the Dallas Parks and Recreation Department, volunteers are hosting their first restoration day on Saturday, March 2, from 9:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Dallas Water Utilities pipeline work between the Lacywood and Scyene Overlooks. Photo by Kristi Kerr. 

“We are thrilled to partner with the Parks department to help elevate this remarkable trail system to its former status as one of Dallas’ premier hiking areas,” said Kristi Kerr of FOP.  “The Native American and pioneer history here, unique plants and incredible vistas, there is so much to love about these bluffs.”

Joining Kerr as initiators of the FOP effort are Joe Johnson (known for his work at Goat Island Preserve), myself, Sharon McNutt and anthropologist Linda Pelon.

The group plans to mark the trails with biodegradable marking tape, bag up trash and debris and work out issues with the Lacywood-Scyene connection caused by Dallas Water Utilities pipeline work. Those with iNaturalist knowledge will catalog plants, fungi and animal activity. Tools and support provided by Trinity Coalition.

FOP asks that you please register to be notified about changes due to weather and future quarterly restoration days.

Kerr stresses that some top-notch botanists are on tap later in spring to check the trail to ensure the trail route does not pass through any pivotal plant communities. She cautions that volunteers must be careful of some trout lily colonies on the ridge in the waning stages of their blooming season and emerging native orchids.

Viewing the northern Great Trinity Forest from the Piedmont Ridge Trail vista point. Photo by Daniel Koglin from ‘Wild DFW.’ 

At the event, anthropologist Pelon will share the latest update on efforts to get the ridge (under the name White Rock Bluffs) included in the National Register of Historic Places for its Comanche history and importance to other tribes.

Afterward, for those not too tuckered out, there will be a short hike on the JJ Beeman Trail that connects to Scyene Overlook.


Ned Fritz was intensely interested in Piedmont Ridge. During his 1970s and ’80s heyday, it was a focus of his statewide group, Texas Committee on Natural Resources and his local group Save Open Space. TCONR encouraged exploration of the area, as historical documents show. He led walks on the ridge — which he called the White Rock Bluffs — and its adjacent bottomland forest, cautioning participants on its wildness.

Fritz carefully documented the plant life and ecology of the Piedmont Ridge, which he called the White Rock Bluffs. Hercules club bark. Photo by Stalin SM.​


Pelon, who lives nearby, was one of his hiking partners.

“He’d see that forest and was so excited that you’d be, too,” she recalled. “He’d look back at me with a smile as if to say, ‘What’s taking you so long?’ I’d follow him anywhere.”

Ned would be extremely pleased that the Piedmont trails are undergoing a renaissance and that Pelon is part of the movement. The area’s Native American history, especially Comanche history, enthralled him. He was among the first to bring to light the Comanche marker tree that thrived in Gateway Park on Jim Miller Road before perishing in a storm.

The Comanche Storytelling Place and its ancient tree were also on his radar, saved by an effort led by Pelon from being destroyed by DART construction. Both trees are commemorated in Pelon and Steve Houser’s Comanche Marker Trees of Texas, co-written with Comanche tribal historian Jimmy W. Arterberry.

Ned Fritz made this map to encourage nature lovers to drive the lower White Rock Creek corridor and Piedmont Ridge. Provided by Linda Pelon. Photoshop work by Scooter Smith.


Piedmont Ridge is renowned for its bright fall foliage, with Buckley’s oaks being exceptionally bright red. Hikers benefit from experiencing the color up close to the short-statured trees. But Ned knew not everyone could hike, so he designed a driving tour.


One of the themes in Wild DFW’s Piedmont chapter is its problematic trail sections — some paths go straight up the rocky bluff faces. Sections that were once flat have eroded into channels that rush water away from the plants that need it. Those hiking these sections exacerbate the erosion.

Trail construction has come a long way in the past decades, aided by the knowledge derived from off-road-bike trail making, with its mastery of erosion and hydrology. Groups like American Trails offer vital webinars on trail construction techniques. A trail that benefits hikers as well as the land will ease you up slopes with minimal erosion.

Hikers from First Unitarian Church of Dallas explore Piedmont Ridge in the fall. Photo by Sally King.


As I stated in Wild DFW, “A sustainable nature trail requires geology, geometry and hydrology to create inclines, dips and curves that slow stormwater yet drain effectively. Avoiding sensitive plants and wildlife nesting areas takes botany and wildlife biology.”

Read more about Piedmont Trail in my book Wild DFW: Explore the Amazing Nature Around Dallas-Fort Worth (Timber Press).

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” – John Muir

Inaugural Piedmont Restoration Day

About: The Laceywood Overlook Trail on Piedmont Ridge has been re-routed and is open again! Volunteers needed to pick up trash and homeless encampment remnants; finish marking the trail with biodegrable marking tape; and drag cut brush and fallen timber to block eroding trails sections.

Hosted by: Newly formed Friends of Piedmont

When: Saturday, March 2, from 9:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Where: 2725 N Jim Miller Road, Dallas. Gather beneath the large pecan trees.

Please RSVP



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