I like urban hiking — which I thought was a term I made up, but evidently not. What I mean is that I like walking in my neighborhood, downtown areas, and pedestrian-friendly city streets. Surprisingly, those areas are often less crowded than city parks. Urban hiking is fun, but there’s nothing like a park as a way to escape the city.
Arlington has more than 80 parks. They range from pocket parks, community parks, and city parks, depending on the size and amenities. Then there’s River Legacy Park. Not only is it the largest park in the city, but it’s also one of my favorite places to visit in the city.
River Legacy Park – about
Located in North Arlington along the Trinity River, this 1,300-acre woodsy oasis is the highlight (for me) of Arlington’s Park and Rec system. Enjoyed for its scenic beauty, an abundance of nature, and size, there isn’t another place in the city like it.
Amenities and activities include:
- 8 miles of paved hiking and biking trails
- 10 miles of mountain-biking trails
- large grassy meadows
- picnic tables
- covered pavilions
- river overlooks
- canoe launch
River Legacy is different from other parks in Arlington because it mainly focuses on nature. There aren’t baseball diamonds or basketball courts here — it’s all about nature. Even the playground is nature-themed.
Adjacent to the park is the River Legacy Living Science Center. It features a small museum, interactive exhibits, and an outdoor nature area with walking trails.
River Legacy is a place where nature thrives, undoubtedly due to their conservation efforts. “The Park’s ecological diversity of bottomland forest, wetlands, and prairie provides abundant habitat for countless birds, fish, mammals, and native plants.” 1 “The natural, urban, hardwood forest includes 400 species of wildlife, 193 species of birds and 28 species of trees.” 2
[sources: (1)www.riverlegacy.org and (2)www.arlingtontx.gov]
This park feels miles away from everything. Part of that may be because it’s 10 miles from my house by car. That isn’t very far, but for me, the trek involves traveling up one of the biggest and busiest streets in the city. Ten miles up Cooper Street takes 20 minutes — on a good day — and you’ll undoubtedly want some time alone with nature after dealing with the traffic.
My first visit of the year
I visited last week for the first time this year. With the temperature hitting 70 degrees, spring was in the air. This park can get crowded, even with its size, so I prefer to visit during non-peak times.
There are several places to enter the trails. I went to my usual spot and began my walk. As I went deeper into the trees, I found myself nearly alone with nature. Not only that, but I could no longer hear the murmur of the nearby city traffic. The quiet serenity of nature can vividly be felt and heard. At times, the only noise is birds chirping and a breeze blowing through the trees. The trees tower overhead in an awe-inspiring way. It’s one of the few places to really get away from the city and enjoy some solitude. The quiet, introspective environment demands your attention and deserves your respect.
I walked for about an hour along the trail. That’s 30 minutes in and 30 minutes back out, as it isn’t a loop — the trail goes in a relatively straight direction while winding through the woods. It was a refreshing walk, not too challenging, but a welcome escape from it all. One of these days I’ll walk or bike the whole trail.
This park is a perfect place to recharge your batteries, feel alive, think, contemplate, and be one with nature. Man, what a place! River Legacy is a gift for the senses. You’re surrounded by nature, the air is fresh and clean, it’s relatively quiet, and the park feels so far away from daily life.
A special place in Arlington
River Legacy Park is a treat any time of year. It’s a bonus if you go there when the weather is pleasant AND it’s not too crowded. The whole excursion for me takes about 2 hours — driving there, spending an hour or so at the park, and driving back. It’s more of a time commitment than most other parks in the city, but it’s worth it. It feels special because I don’t go there too often. It is special and a place that shows some of the natural beauty of Arlington. I’d call it the city’s “best-kept secret,” but locals surely know about this place. It’s one of the best places in Arlington to enjoy nature at its finest.
River Legacy Park, “About Us,” River Legacy Park official website. Accessed March 18, 2021.
City of Arlington, Texas, “River Legacy Park,” City of Arlington, Texas official website. Accessed March 18, 2021.
Post and photos by Jason S. Sullivan, 03-19-21