Alright, I am super excited today because I’m going to be talking about one of my favorite places. I have a lot of favorite places, but this one is pretty awesome. It has become my family’s go-to place when the weather is nice. Are you ready?
Arbor Hills Nature Preserve in Plano, TX!!!
Those of you that follow me on social media have probably seen me share a ton of pictures from there the past couple of years. It’s one of those places I’ve heard about, but it took me a while to actually go. The first time I went, it was a warm spring morning. And wet. But as I had never been there before, I didn’t expect the wetness to be a problem. After dropping my son off at school, my daughter and I headed out.
As soon as we got out and started exploring, I immediately fell in love. I could tell there were many many places to explore. My daughter and I really did go exploring. We went off the trail to cross the creek and promptly became lost. But, finding a way out was part of the fun! It was super muddy that day, so we took off our shoes when we got back to the car.
I was so excited about this place that when we went to pick up my son from school, we had to go back! We saw a couple turtles and a lizard then. I couldn’t wait to show this place to my husband. We had been in the DFW area for a couple years, but we were kind of lamenting the fact that there wasn’t really much to do that was outdoorsy. No where to go hike and explore.
I guess now is a good time to pause and explain exactly what Arbor Hills is. Arbor Hills is a nature preserve located on the far west side of Plano. There are several trails through-out the preserve, and according to the City of Plano’s website, there are 3 distinct ecoregions. This means some fun diversity to explore!!
Here it is!
Because I could go on and on about this place, I decided to break it up into two parts. Since I’m focusing on trails, I decided that this week I will talk about the bike trails, and next week I will talk about the other trails that you can hike and run.
So, the bike paths. Truth be told, I haven’t actually been on a real bike in years. Sad, I know. If anyone in the area is getting rid of one, let me know, because I would love to take it off your hands! In the mean time, I have to base some of this stuff what what I know and what I can imagine.
First off, the trail isn’t always open. Sometimes it is closed due to weather. There are a few areas where there isn’t much trail between the trees and the side of the creek, so if conditions are bad, they want to keep people safe.
It may be hard to read here, but the sign says that the trail is rated as intermediate. If you are new to mountain biking, or haven’t been on a bike in a long time (ahem), you may want to wait a little while before going on these trails. I’ve walked and run these trails a few times and it quickly goes from nice and smooth like this:
To narrow and going downhill like this:
With sharp turns and rocks at the bottom of the hill like this:
So, as you can see, if you don’t have experience riding in those types of conditions, you may want to practice somewhere else.
This trail system here is the only area of the nature preserve where off-road biking is allowed. There is a main concrete trail, and you can ride your bike there, but you’re not allowed to take it on the other natural trails. You can walk/run these trails, but just keep an eye out for people riding. I would say they have the right of way, so if you see someone coming, step out of the way.
Even though the trail is about 2 miles long (give or take, depending on if you follow it the right way), it’s in a very compact space. There are a lot of switchbacks and tight turns. If you don’t have a copy of the map to go by, it was get kind of confusing, and you can easily get lost, or at least end up going farther than you planned. Want to know my secret?
Yes, I still play this game. It’s not as popular as it was this past summer, but it does have it’s uses, like navigating the bike trails at Arbor Hills.
I took this screenshot of the bike trails last time I went. As you can see, it’s almost a maze. The great thing about the map on Pokemon Go is that you can turn it to face whichever direction you want. Sometimes a traditional map can be confusing. If you hit a point where the trail crosses itself, you might be confused as to which way to go. With Pokemon Go, you can more easily see which way you need to go. You have a more clear picture of if you need to go straight, left, or right. Honestly, even if you don’t play, sometimes just the map system is worth it. I have used it to navigate through neighborhoods when I’ve been lost and wasn’t sure how to get out. The app doesn’t quite show all the trails in Arbor Hills though, but that will be covered in Part 2!
As beautiful as Arbor Hills can be, there is a problem with GPS interference. If you’re trying to get an accurate measure of how far you have biked/hiked/run, you may want to try using a couple different GPS devices.
As you can see here, the trail marker (which they have ever .1 miles on the bike trail) says I had walked .7 miles, but the GPS on my watch only recorded.35 miles. This wasn’t the first time my watch had been off. It’s probably just all the trees interfering with the signal. The GPS on my phone recorded my distance more accurately.
An important thing to remember is to watch out for wildlife! There are snakes and creepy crawlies out there, but there is also poison ivy. We haven’t seen any snakes out there (yet) but we have seen turtles and lizards! Last time I went there, I was hoping some little creature would come to me while I was sitting quietly, like a Disney princess. I got a bee that came buzzing around me. It was a very tense and stressful minute, sitting there with it behind me, wondering if it would land on me or not! Luckily it decided to move on!
We have only taken our kids on a portion of the bike trails, but they seemed to enjoy it. Younger kids probably wouldn’t be able to walk the whole thing, but older kids shouldn’t have a problem. Unless you kids are used to riding bikes on rough terrain, I wouldn’t have them ride a bike out there.
I hope this gives some of you some ideas! Tune in next week and I’ll discuss more about the natural trails, and a bit more about Arbor Hills in general!