Nestled on the eastern shore of Joe Pool Lake, Cedar Hill State Park is about twenty miles, and two hundred years away from downtown Dallas, Texas. In addition to numerous outdoor activities, the park has several nice RV campgrounds, making it an ideal place for RVers to go for a day or longer.
Opened in 1991, it is one of the newest parks in the Texas Parks and Wildlife System, after the state spent close to a decade developing the land. Visitors can experience the rich Texas wilderness through activities like hiking, camping, and fishing. The one-of-a-kind Penn Farm Agricultural History Center helps visitors understand the evolution of farming. It's been over 100 years since the Penn family lived and worked there, but the center continues to celebrate the Penn family's farming history.
If you want a break from the tranquil setting of the lake and park, there are numerous shopping and dining opportunities only about five miles away. The Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex is also an appealing place to visit, as it offers sports, museums, music, restaurants, an amusement park, and so much more.
Although Cedar Hill State Park lets you stay close to the big city life, it also allows you to relax in an area surrounded by nature. With hundreds of campsites offering both electric and water, or full hookups, you can park the campervan off the grid without venturing too far off the beaten path.
Just 20 minutes from Dallas and 30 minutes from Fort Worth, Cedar Hill State Park is a quick, easy trip for almost any sized vehicle. Conveniently located in Dallas and Ellis County near US-67 in northeast Texas, the park is most easily accessed off of Farm to Market Road. This paved, four-lane route will lead you into the park, where the smooth paved roads continue. Although some twists and turns are present throughout the park, even those with big rigs should have no problem navigating the roads. The campgrounds are all located near the park entrance, and various extra parking can be found throughout the area. Alternatively, the park can be accessed from Belt Line Road in the south of the park. Visitors will find hiking trails and scenic vistas near this entrance, though the campgrounds are further to the north. This route is also a good way to reach the Cedar Ridge Preserve, which is on the other side of Belt Line Road.
Cedar Hill State Park is sometimes plagued with flooding that causes closures of certain areas within the park, so be sure you are up to date on park conditions before heading out.
Parking is only permitted in designated areas. RV parking is available near Perch Pond at the far end of the park, near the boat launch. There is also ample parking near Penn Farm and the Joe Pool Marina boat launch. A map is available to help you figure out which parking area best suits your needs.
In the heart of the country with awesome attractions like Six Flags, Legoland, museums, and a myriad of natural areas like Cedar Hill State Park, staying at this Arlington KOA is a genuine Texas treat. Head out on foot or rent a bike and enjoy the area’s trails. When you want to stay put, this campground offers Wi-Fi, up to 50-amps of power, cable television, and sites up to 102 feet long for big rigs. Whether you prefer relaxation or adventure, a stay at this KOA has you covered in between your jaunts into the wilds of Texas.
Shady Ridge Camping Area is the northernmost and perhaps the most isolated camping section in the park. Depending on your preference, that could be a major advantage. This 75-site campground offers both water and electrical hookups, picnic tables, and fire rings with grills at each site. Guests will also find restrooms with showers in the nearby area. Site lengths vary immensely, so if you're traveling with a big rig, be sure to read the details carefully before booking your site. The campground is open year-round, with reservations available up to five months in advance. Pets are welcome.
Eagle Ford Camping Area is the most densely-packed camping area in the park and is great for people who want to be close to their neighbors. Eagle Ford has 78 full-hookup sites, some with 50-amp connections, while most offer either 20-amp or 30-amp connections. Guests will also find a picnic table and a fire ring at their site, and restrooms with showers are available nearby. Maximum vehicle allowances vary by site, so be aware of this before booking your site. This pet-friendly campground is open year-round, and reservations can be made up to five months in advance.
Lake View Camping Area is one of the favorite RV camping areas in the park and has 71 full-hookup sites. Some sites have 50-amp connections, while others offer 20- and 30-amps. Guests to this popular campground will find a picnic table and fire ring at their site, along with restrooms and showers nearby. This camping area also has a dump station and a large play area. Nearby amenities include swimming areas, picnic tables, fishing areas, and a boat launch. If you want to snag a spot at this busy campground, reservations can (and should) be made up to five months in advance. Maximum vehicle lengths differ from site to site, so make sure the site you're interested in can accommodate your rig before booking. The campground is pet-friendly and remains open year-round.
If you want to stay centrally at Cedar Hill State Park, the Hog Wallow Camping Area offers 47 RV friendly sites with electric and water hookups. Each site is equipped with a picnic table and fire ring, and a dump station, restroom, and shower facilities are also located nearby. Guests at this convenient campground will be close to Penn Farm Agricultural History Center, additional parking lots, and picnic areas overlooking Joe Pool Lake. Maximum vehicle lengths vary by site, so be sure to double-check length restrictions before booking. This pet-friendly campground is open year-round, with reservations available up to five months in advance.
Coyote Crossing Camping Area is the southernmost RV friendly campground at Cedar Hill, with most of the 75 sites sitting right on the lake. All sites have water and 20-and 30-amp electrical hookups, along with a picnic table and fire ring. There are two large restrooms with shower areas, along with plenty of hiking trails and scenic overlooks nearby. The campground is pet-friendly and remains open year-round, with reservations available up to five months in advance.
If you're looking for a real change of pace, park the RV and head out on foot. Cedar Hill State Park offers 30 hike-in primitive sites for those looking to rough it for a night or two. The Duck Pond and Talala Trails each have access to tent-only primitive campsites. The sites offer little in terms of amenities, so be sure to pack everything you need along with you for your night of backcountry camping. Drop toilets, Duck Pond, and a scenic overlook are all located nearby.
When you park the motorhome at Cedar Hill State Park, you may notice something unique. Eleven strings of twelve solar panels produce thirty kilowatts of power and eliminate the CO2 equivalent of 3,500 gallons of gasoline. The panels are slightly elevated, so visitors get a good view of them. Altogether, twenty-five Texas state parks have solar panels, and the Cedar Hill array is one of the largest parks with the alternative energy source. Someday soon, the Parks and Wildlife Department hopes to rely mostly on solar power, as it helps keep the parks pristine for all visitors.
Those looking to extend their trek through the park can check out the moderately challenging Plum Valley Trail. Hikers may begin this one-mile route at the Duck Pond Primitive Camping Area or the developed Coyote Crossing RV Camping Area. The trail can also be accessed by both Duck Pond Trail and Talala Trail. The path ends at the Plum Valley Overlook, which offers a very nice view of the valley, but not a great view of the lake.
The shortest trail in the park, at just 0.68-miles long, is a loop that runs from a parking area to the Duck Pond and back. The trail is quite wide and there are small bridges that carry hikers over the rough parts. Duck Pond is on the edge of the park, so if your kids stay quiet (and that’s a big “if”), you might see deer and other wildlife come to the pond for a drink. There is also a primitive camping area near Duck Pond Trail.
Anglers in Texas State Parks do not need fishing licenses if they use a pier or a boat to fish. At Cedar Hill State Park, there are several well-lit shoreline fishing areas. One is near Perch Pond, one is near Penn Farm, and one is near the Lake View Camping Area. The lake is well-stocked with bass, catfish, and perch. Catfish are typically found in the shallow waters, while the bass fish are usually in the deeper waters. Joe Pool Lake also has some timber remaining behind as the lake filled, and bass like to congregate there as well. Crappies bite well under the bridges, and the lake’s channels are good for catfish as well.
Cedar Hill State Park is filled with history to explore. John Anderson Penn and his family settled in this area in 1854. That was just about the time that farm machinery replaced horses and mules. The Penns raised horses and cattle on this land as well. So, the farmhouse and other buildings offer excellent insight into what life was like between about 1850 and 1950. Self-guided tours are available seven days a week, and guided tours are available by reservation. A half-mile loop trail goes around the complex and offers views of the remaining buildings from days past.
One of the highest points in the park is accessible via a 1.5-mile, hiking-only loop trail. There is a parking area at the trailhead, making it easy to park the Sprinter nearby while you hike. There is also a primitive campsite near the overlook. There are some significant ups and downs, as well as some overgrown sections, so this trail is moderately difficult, meaning hikers should come prepared with hiking boots and some experience. The terrain is very diverse, and the overlook offers an excellent view of the lake and surroundings. Ranger-guided hikes are available as well. Nearby facilities include showers, restrooms, and a compost toilet. For the curious, the word Talala is a Cherokee word meaning woodpecker, which you may likely see on your way to the overlook.
Mountain bikers and hikers alike share this mixed-use trail. However, the Dallas Off-Road Bike Association designed these trails, so they are primarily for bikers. Many people consider the DORBA trails to be the best mountain bike trails in the state, so don't hesitate to pack your mountain bikes in the Airstream. Always remember that bikers travel clockwise and hikers travel counter-clockwise. That arrangement significantly reduces the number of accidents, because the trails are very windy. There is little cover, so during the summer, the trail gets rather hot. The short loop covers 2.5 miles, the middle loop is seven miles, and the outer loop is 10 miles. There is a parking, picnic, and play area at the head of the short loop trail.
Perhaps the best fishing pond in the park for kids is also a very relaxing place for grown-ups. The pond is well-stocked with small bass, catfish, and of course, perch. There are also swimming fish and turtles for your viewing pleasure. There is no parking directly adjacent to Perch Pond, but the aforementioned DORBA parking lot is only a short walk away along a paved road. A restroom and day-use area are also located near the pond.
Those looking to get the most out of their RV vacation should consider participating in one of the many ranger programs that Cedar Hill State Park has to offer. Campers of all ages will enjoy the wide variety of activities available, including birding basics programs, kid's wilderness survival courses, programs that teach about the local trees, self and ranger-guided hikes, and junior ranger programs, to name a few. Check-in at the park office or with one of the park rangers to learn about which programs are available during your stay.
Don't forget to pack your bathing suits along in the campervan when you visit Cedar Hill State Park. Visiting the beach with a designated swimming area on the north side of Joe Pool Lake is the best way to cool off during the hot summer months. Okay, so maybe it’s more like a sand belt made primarily from gravel. But in North Texas, it qualifies as a beach. Nearby facilities include restrooms, barbecue grills, picnic areas, and a playground. Those looking to spend a day out on the water rather than on the shores will find two boat launches in the park, one on the north end and one on the south.