Roughin’ It For Beginners At Cedar Hill State Park

Credit: Cedar Hill State Park

Cedar Hill State Park & Campground
1570 FM 1382
Cedar Hill, TX 75104
Daily 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Ticket office closes at 8 p.m.)
Admission: Varies depending on what amenities are required. See website for details.

For “city-folk,” camping seems like a really romantic way to get away from their cell phones and car pools and really get back to nature. So, why don’t you do it more often? I’ll tell you the most common excuses I’ve heard. “What if I forget something? What will I eat? What if I get out there only to discover I’m just meant to be surrounded by concrete and flashing lights?” If you’ve never been camping before, it can be a pretty scary proposition. But the DFW Metroplex is home to the perfect place for newbies to learn to rough it!

Cedar Hill State Park is located just 10 miles from downtown Dallas, not that you’d know it from the serenely rustic surroundings. With activities like fishing, boating, hiking, and bird watching, you’ll get the full outdoors experience.

Cedar Hill State Park is a real 1,826-acre park visited by thousands of outdoors enthusiasts each year. But unlike many campgrounds, it’s close to civilization (meaning you can pop into town in around 10 minutes if you need to), making it a great place for less experienced campers to hear the ‘call of the wild.’

 Roughin’ It For Beginners At Cedar Hill State Park

Credit: Cedar Hill State Park

Camping for Newbies

You know you need a sleeping bag and a tent, but if you’re not used to camping, Cedar Hill has you covered. You can bring an RV, camper or truck if you’re concerned about sleeping on the ground. There are 355 campsites equipped with running water, a fire ring, electricity, a lantern pole and a dinner table. They even have bathrooms a short walk away from each site. (There are also 30 primitive campsites for the more adventurous.)

Don’t expect too much privacy, especially during the busy season. You’ll probably be very close to other campers, which is probably for the best if you’ve never done this before. If you’re on a romantic campout, you’re always allowed to make special requests to stay further away from other campers, though they can’t guarantee you’ll get what you want if they’re busy.

 Roughin’ It For Beginners At Cedar Hill State Park

Credit: Cedar Hill State Park

Fishing & Boating on Joe Pool Lake

Joe Pool Lake is one of the main attractions at the park. There’s a marina, two boat ramps and several places to fish. Make sure you know where the lake is whether you’re interested in the lake itself or not. The marina sells bait for those who run out, but it also sells ice, cold drinks, food and other basic supplies. CBS Insiders Tip: if they don’t have what you need, you can run to the Wal-Mart about 3 miles away if you’re desperate.

The lake stocks white crappie, largemouth bass and catfish (and even a few sunfish). You can fish from the shore, bring your boat or pay to access the pay-to-fish barge, which offers shade and benches. If you’re bringing your boat, I recommend staying overnight, as the park doesn’t open until 8 a.m. As always, bring hunting and boning knives if you plan to eat your catch while you’re camping.

thumb 2IMG 8855 Roughin’ It For Beginners At Cedar Hill State Park

Credit: Cedar Hill State Park

Biking & Hiking – Four Trails to Choose From

Cedar Hill Park is one of the top mountain-biking trails in the state, making it a popular destination for bikers from across the nation. The largest, Dorba, is anywhere between 2.5 and 10 miles, depending on which route you take, and is packed with twists and turns to keep it biking-friendly.

Talala Trail, on the other hand, is more of a hiker’s trail. In addition to being a challenging walk, it passes through open fields, wooded areas and small gullies. It can be a bit confusing, so this is more for experienced hikers.

If you’re not a hiker, but you’re looking for a good workout and a nice view of Joe Pool Lake, check out Overlook Trail. Also, Duck Pond Trail is a great option for less athletic hikers who want to experience the beauty of nature without the huffing and puffing associated with a hardcore hiking experience.

 Roughin’ It For Beginners At Cedar Hill State Park

Credit: Cedar Hill State Park

Ready to Brave the Wilderness?

Still not convinced? That’s OK. Cedar Hill State Park doesn’t require you to stay overnight, so if you just want to take an afternoon one weekend for a barbecue or some fishing, that’s a good start. You can always work your way up (or is that down?) to the primitive campground.

Heather Barnett is a freelance writer in Fort Worth, Texas. You can read more of her work in the Dallas City Guide or at


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