The Arbor Hills Nature Preserve is a great 200 acre park located at Midway and Parker Rd. in west Plano. The park is managed by the City of Plano and offers natural hiking trails, mountain biking trails, and paved trails for walking or cycling. The park has excellent amenities with lots of parking, nice restrooms, and three covered pavilions with picnic tables. This is a very nice park for getting in a relaxing 2-3 mile hike after work.
The natural hiking trails are not the most challenging trails in the Dallas area, but the park is conveniently located, and this is a great place to get in a mid-week hike for conditioning purposes. I recommend taking a printed map with you on your first few visits, as it can be difficult to find the trailheads and continue on your intended path. In addition to the map provided in our Dallas Trails list, REI has also provided a great interpretive trail guide that you can download here. The REI trail guide offers a lot of detail about the animal life and vegetation you will experience throughout the park.
The longest natural hiking trail is the Outer Loop trail at approximately 1.7 miles, and runs right in to the Riparian Loop trail, which is one of our favorites. We regularly walk these trails during the week to get in shape for our more strenuous hikes, and I can tell you from experience to start from the south end of the park and work your way north along the trails. Starting from the southern trailhead of the Outer Loop trail will lead to an uphill walk, and oddly enough, starting at the northern end will primarily have you traveling downhill.
Make sure you come equipped with water during the hotter months, as most of the first mile provides little shade from the sun. Once you hit the one mile mark of the Outer Loop you will primarily be in the shade, but by this point you will be sweating profusely and will need to hydrate. I also want to note that the Outer Loop trail has a detour that is not updated on the park map, so stay alert when you see the detour sign to follow the new trail. Otherwise you will turn off on to the Open Field trail and find yourself on the paved pathways.
In addition to the Outer Loop trail, there is another long trail that is about 2 miles long. This trail is the DORBA mountain biking trail, which can also be used for hiking. Stay alert at the trailhead to make sure you are going in the opposite direction of the mountain bikers. You want to ensure that you are walking towards the bike traffic so you are able to yield to them. We usually do not hike this trail, but recently decided to give it a try to add variety to our hikes; bad mistake.
The trail is actually a really nice trail with good elevations and lots of shade. Unfortunately the constant threat of bike traffic makes the hike rather stressful. If I were a mountain biker I’m sure I would use this trail several times a week, but the constant traffic makes for an uncomfortable hike. The bikers were very polite and did not seem to mind our presence, but it is not the ideal setting for a relaxing after-work hike.
Including the mountain biking trails, Arbor Hills provides over 5 miles of natural hiking trails in the middle of Plano. It is a nice oasis in the middle of all of the strip malls and office buildings, and is very conveniently located near Parker Rd. and the Dallas Tollway. The trails are not extremely challenging, but the park provides a great place to relax and get some exercise to keep in shape for those longer weekend hiking trips.