A flooded trail in May leads into the forested bottomland, as the Trinity Forest Trail series continues. Photos by Amy Martin.
May 20, 2020
The Trinity Forest and AT&T Trail (TFT) consists of over eight miles of paved trails linking Trinity River Audubon Center, Texas Horse Park, Trinity Forest Golf Club, and Joppa Preserve. Located in the Great Trinity Forest between Simpson Stuart Road and Elam Road just east of I-45, with Loop 12/Great Trinity Forest Way bisecting the area.
Controversy swirls around the TFT, which like other concrete trails, is loathed by many naturalists for being an ecological disruption to natural terrain. However, increasing its use by nature lovers would go a long way to convincing city officials there is broad public support for the Great Trinity Forest. Let’s continue our explorations of the TFT, focusing on the sections that connect to Loop 12/Great Trinity Forest Way.
We're providing a preview of the trail in three installments:
This Trinity Forest and AT&T Trail 2015 map still shows Lemmon Lake, which has since drained due to a dam breach. Courtesy of City of Dallas. See larger version of map.
TRINITY FOREST & AT&T TRAIL SERIES
Part 1: Joppa Preserve to Trinity River Audubon Center. (READ HERE)
Part 2: Trinity River Audubon Center & Joppa Preserve to Loop 12/Great Trinity Forest Way (SEE BELOW)
Part 3: Loop 12/Great Trinity Forest Way to Elam Road (READ HERE)
TRINITY RIVER AUDUBON CENTER TO LOOP 12/GREAT TRINITY FOREST WAY
Hiking companion: Claudia Beltran
Season: Late winter
Distance: 4.5 miles
Time: 2.5 hours.
This section of the TFT emerges from the trailhead parking lot on the road to Trinity River Audubon Center. It first traces the eastern edge of the Trinity Forest Golf Club. With the high fence and no-entry signs, it feels harsh and rejecting. I hurry down the trail past it with my rambunctious bluetick coonhound Sally, followed by Claudia, a fellow naturalist, and her energetic border collie Pascual.
Mustang grape spotted on the trail in spring. Photo by Amy Martin.
Once past the golf course, the TFT slices a concrete chasm for three miles through a lush bottomland forest. The trail quickly dives down into the trees. It’s a surreal experience to be so promptly into deep shade and pervasive silence.
Powerful floodwaters course through bottomland forests. Only the most persistent understory plants survive and downed wood gets swept away to forge a spacious beauty. Sunlight filters through the canopy and fills the space with a luminous green glow.
It’s easy to dismiss cedar elms that often grow in crowded brushy thickets. The ones here are isolated flood survivors that soar to immense heights and project massive strength. A variety of moisture-loving oaks flourish, including chinquapin and water oaks, along with plentiful green ash. Privet seems confined to areas close to the river.
Yellow star grass is one of wildflowers blooming in May. Photo by Amy Martin.
We often stop to take in the trees’ architectural beauty in winter against an overcast sky. Can’t help but appreciate the pale golden seedheads of Virginia wildrye and inland sea oats shimmying in a mild breeze. Evidence remains of plentiful fall asters, and giant ragweed, alas. A closer look reveals the low rosettes of spring wildflowers already emerging amid the leaf litter.
The Trinity River is a constant, yet invisible presence, many yards from the trail. We notice floodwaters debris, at times over our heads, draping branches in the trees. The decaying aroma of the wet woods enthralls the dogs.
The quiet is glorious. Then we hear a low hum getting louder and turn around to see and two park employees in an electric utility task vehicle — another surreal experience. We saw only one other person in our seven miles of walking: a bicyclist with tire trouble.
The beauty evaporates after crossing north of Loop 12. No longer a forest immersion, TFT traces a power corridor. The forest lies 10 to 20 remote yards to the west separated by a mowed slope, at times quite steep. Trinity Forest Golf Course maintenance buildings loom to the east. The industrial glumness repels us and we turn around. The forest soon embraces us again.
JOPPA PRESERVE TO LOOP 12/GREAT TRINITY FOREST WAY
Hiking companion: Ella St. Clair
Season: Late winter
Distance: 1.5 miles
Time: 1.5 hours.
It isn’t much of a hike, just three-quarters of a mile from the Joppa Preserve north to Loop 12/Great Trinity Forest Way. But my bluetick coonhound Sally is up for it as are Ella’s two pointers Ginger and Maryanne, aka the Pointer Sisters, so we strike north.
The TFT starts promisingly enough, with forest to its right and a large pond to the left. It goes over a picturesque metal bridge used for a Texas Rangers scene in Bonnie and Clyde. But the forest seems a little ravaged and we stay on the trail.
The trail takes a hard right and traces a large powerline along a sunbaked earthen levee. Many yards below, the forest to the south looks tantalizing, mysterious and very wet. As the TFT takes a hard left to the north, we spy below what might be a dirt trail but see no way of reaching it safely.
A sign points out wildlife in the area. Photo by Amy Martin.
Suddenly we are in pastoral parkland as the TFT traces the east edge of Little Lemmon Lake, which has plenty of water unlike dry Lemmon Lake. There are plentiful benches and picnic tables. Not a soul in sight except a few shorebirds hunting in the water. The dogs yearn for a swim, but we are unsure of water quality.
The roar of Loop 12/Great Trinity Forest Way is deafening as we draw closer. Vehicles clatter over the elevated section that spans the Trinity. We reach a small, dirt-coated trailhead parking lot in the thoroughfare shadow. Ella notices a sign cautioning hikers about the presence of wildlife. The images used include tiger, wolf and cobra. We are amused.
We slog through the muddy area beneath Loop 12/Great Trinity Forest Way to reach the river. Fisherman work from the bank and boat ramp, but the Trinity’s strong current today is thwarting their catches. I try to explore the riverside, but steep slick banks change my mind.
We deem this section of the TFT to be ho-hum. Even the dogs were bored. Most of the path is noisy to the extreme. Plentiful invasives like chinaberry, privet and honeysuckle, and the trash-strewn lakes and ponds, disappoint us.
Trinity Forest and AT&T Trail
About: Trail featuring more than eight miles of paved trails linking Trinity River Audubon Center, Texas Horse Park, Trinity Forest Golf Club, and Joppa Preserve. Located in the Great Trinity Forest between Simpson Stuart Road and Elam Road just east of I-45, with Loop 12/Great Trinity Forest Way bisecting the area. See map.
AT&T Trail Trailhead: Located on the road to Trinity River Audubon Center. Illuminated clean parking lot, lightly patrolled on nights and weekends.
EcoPark Trailhead: Clean parking lot, but in area of little oversight on nights and weekends.
Joppa Preserve Trailhead: Access is off TX 310, also known as S. Central Expy., which parallels US 175 for a while. Turn on River Oaks; look for WW Roland Trucking. Go 3/10 of a mile. Only trailhead with bathrooms.
Trinity Forest Way (Loop 12) Trailhead: Odd parking lot below Loop 12 in area of little oversight. Very close to the river; parking lot floods occasionally. Look for the wildlife-warning sign with images of tigers and cobras.
Great Trinity Forest Features:
TRINITY FOREST & AT&T TRAIL SERIES
Part 1: Joppa Preserve to Trinity River Audubon Center.
Part 2: Trinity River Audubon Center & Joppa Preserve to Loop 12/Great Trinity Forest Way (SEE INSTALLMENT ABOVE)
Part 3: Loop 12/Great Trinity Forest Way to Elam Road
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